The controversial demands of Trading Standards for more “material information” to be provided upfront in property details have been criticised by housing campaigners.
A consultation with estate agents over the issue, organised by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team, ends today.
NTSELAT initiated the survey after saying that by providing more information on property listings and on portals – the starting point for the vast majority of property searches and transactions – “agents will be able to meet their legal requirements at the very beginning of the consumer journey.”
Under current legislation, as set out in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, estate agents and letting agents have a legal obligation not to omit material information from consumers on property listings. But NTSELAT claims “current practices around disclosure are not consistent across the industry.”
However, now NTSELAT itself has come in for criticism from housing campaigners who say the team has failed to consult with leaseholders and shared ownership property owners.
Sue Phillips, founder of affordable property platform Shared Ownership resources, says not including owners and leaseholders in the consultation is difficult to understand.
“Long-term owners are often the people with the most in-depth understanding of what constitutes relevant, essential information in property listings” she says.
“Many shared owners are shocked to discover, for example, that they’ve taken out a mortgage for what they later discover is simply an assured tenancy. This must stop” she says.
An open letter on the subject says agents and developers must be more transparent in their details in future, and at an earlier stage - this would include details of the assured tenancy nature of the tenure, lease length and number of years remaining, the freeholder’s policy on lease extension premiums, and liability for charges, including fire safety remediation costs.
A number of campaigning leasehold and social housing groups have signed the open letter.
Last week the National Leasehold Campaign wrote to Rightmove, accusing it of not complying with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations when it comes to transparent on listings information.
NTSELAT says it’s currently working with input from property portals and industry bodies to explore how it can be made easier for agents to provide more material information in property listings.
Agents currently have a legal obligation under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 not to omit material information when marketing property to consumers, but there are grey areas around what constitutes ‘material information’.