Agents are being advised on what course of action they should take to safeguard their right to fees should they be dis-instructed by a vendor.
The Guild of Property Professionals says that in a competitive market like today's it is not uncommon for an agent to be dis-instructed by a vendor and - with fresh marketing and possibly a revised asking price - for the property to sell relatively rapidly via a second agent.
The Guild says that in this situation, it is likely that the seller would then receive communication from their original agent claiming the buyer was first introduced by them, and therefore they will seek a fee in accordance with the terms they had in place at the time.
The second agent would also be looking to claim a fee, putting the vendor in a position of having to pay two fees - a circumstance about which they may complain, says the Guild.
Now the Guild’s compliance officer, Paul Offley, is reminding agents of a clarification of the issue some 18 months ago when both The Property Ombudsman and the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agent Team gave guidance on what an ‘introduction’ was. This defined the introduction as the agent who arranges the first viewing, confirms the viewing in writing and where the viewing has taken place.
Offley says this offers the template for action by the disinstructed agent.
So he advises that if a property is withdrawn from an agent, it is important for that agent to write to the seller at that time and list every person who has viewed the property through their agency. The agent should also clarify any future fee liability, should one of these people go on to purchase the property within an agreed time period.
“What are the agreed time periods? If another agent is used then the time period is six months, starting from the date the agreement with the first agent terminated. If no other agent is instructed then the period extends to two years. This is clearly documented in the TPO Code of Practice” says Offley.
He adds that the second agent winning the instruction should ask the vendor whether they have received a letter from the previous agent, or whether they have a list of people who have viewed.
He continues: “It doesn’t matter if agent one put the property on the market for £200,000 more than it’s worth and agent two put it on the market for a more realistic price, which ultimately resulted in the buyer returning. In accordance with TPO guidance it remains the agent who arranged the first viewing that would be defined as the introducing agent.”