The controversial proposal by a PropTech start up to charge potential viewers of properties to let or for sale has been given a qualified green light by Trading Standards.
The ViewRabbit platform proposes charging prospective tenants and purchasers £30 - or possibly even more - for so-called ‘guaranteed’ viewings. It says the same properties could be viewed without a charge, but the viewings could be cancelled by the agent or owner.
Now Trading Standards - in response to a query from Estate Agent Today - says that this policy is permissible for sales and even, under some circumstances, avoids contravening the Tenant Fees Act.
A spokesperson tells EAT: “In principle, it is fine for sales viewings as long as agents and traders are transparent and upfront about any terms and conditions or charges applicable to payments and refunds. The business must not make any misleading statements or omissions as these are criminal offences.”
They continue: “Requiring a person to make a payment to view a property to rent is prohibited … Giving no option but to pay the fee is prohibited, but optional fees, like in this instance, are not prohibited.”
EAT originally approached the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agent Team; however this was passed to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.
The CTSI tells EAT: “If the matter is covered by the Estate Agents Act 1979 or Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, then local trading standards will take responsibility for enforcement. If it is covered by the Tenant Fees Act 2019, then the matter could be enforced by Trading Standards, Housing or Environmental Health.”
What remains unknown, however, is whether agents will actually support the idea - ViewRabbit has declined to say which agencies, if any, have signed up.
There has been substantial scepticism about the idea.
TV property expert Phil Spencer wrote yesterday on EAT: “I’m a keen fan of innovation in the property industry, especially if it modernises and simplifies our way-too-complicated system of buying and selling. But charging £30 to view a home? The potential for bad publicity, and the confusion of agents acting for sellers yet receiving income from buyers for a viewing, smacks of complication and possible pitfalls.”
Polls and surveys on social media suggest a majority of agents will not be charging buyers and tenants for viewing properties.