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Trading Standards to recommend changes to ‘material info’ on listings

The Trading Standards agency team has outlined to Estate Agent Today the process it will follow to improve what it calls “material information” on listings.

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 the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team claims “current practices around disclosure are not consistent across the industry.”

NTSELAT closed its first consultation on the subject yesterday - and now it has revealed that this is just the start of a lengthy process in which agents and other industry figures can have a say in eventual changes.

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James Munro, head of the NTSELAT, suggests recent criticism that some campaigners’ views have not been taken into account are premature and their comments will be taken on board in the next stages of the process.

Munro says: “I would like to thank everyone who has responded to the agent survey on the provision of material information on property listings. We know this is an important topic and I’m delighted that the programme is generating significant traction and seems to be galvanising the case for change across the industry and related sectors, sparking a range of related initiatives to help improve the home buying and renting process.

“Today we received an open letter signed by a number of organisations that underlines the importance of this initiative. The letter highlights why change is needed and agrees with the aims we share with a number of stakeholders: that access to accurate and essential information to make the decision to buy or rent is vital. The letter also included suggestions on what constitutes material information, which we will consider alongside responses to the agent survey and other feedback we have received.

“The correspondence also expresses disappointment at a perceived lack of consultation, which I am keen to address. For background, the initiative is at a very early stage. We are currently undertaking initial research with estate and letting agency businesses to identify some of the opportunities and barriers to providing material information and the extent to which that information is already being provided.

“Our engagement with agents follows research we carried out with people who have recently moved to a property or plan to do so in the future. At this formative stage of the project where we are learning about opportunities and barriers facing the industry, this was designed to highlight some of the issues facing consumers and the need for change.

“We will review the responses from agents to the survey and will use these insights to help us develop recommendations. We look forward to publishing these recommendations once they’re drafted and would be grateful for views from a wide range of stakeholders on these. This will provide an opportunity to engage meaningfully on proposals that will bring about genuine change to how material information is provided on property listings. We will confirm timings for this part of the process in due course.”

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