“While we don't want to move from our country home, we would have appreciated being warned about hunt crime - in the same way estate agents tell buyers about other 'fair' information affecting home buyers and sellers. The list already includes making 'material information' about a property clear, unambiguous and not deliberately misleading or withholding information from buyers. But all over the UK people are being misled about hunt crime, and have been since 2004.”
She said she moved to the country six years ago and, ever since, like thousands of people across the rest of rural UK and Ireland, ‘we have suffered terribly’ from illegal fox hunting and the associated hound and hunter trespass. She says this has included ‘pets being threatened, us being threatened, our garden being damaged, and more’.
“While we love our country life, hunt crime is having a profound negative effect on our lives. Wildlife crime by hunts - including fox hunts, hare coursing, mink hunts and deer hunting - all illegal - is rife, but estate agents never mention it to buyers. It's about time you added it to your list of ‘material information’,” she added.
Speaking directly to agents, she said: “I think your industry needs to act. Life in the country is not all fluffy lambs and rose covered cottages. It can be raw, violent, and very frightening.”
She called on estate agents to let potential rural buyers know whether hunts operate in the area. If that was the case, ‘people would be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to buy in that area’, she said.
“Because hunts operate illegally all over the UK, it’s very difficult to avoid, but I feel buyers should be told anyway, so they know what to expect.”
She said it could go further than that, too. “Vendors will know if the house they’re selling suffers from hunt invasions, trespass and the rest. It's impossible not to know. Our garden, for example, is regularly invaded by hounds without any warning. If we decided to sell, I’d have to tell potential buyers about it. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn’t.”
She concluded: “Sadly our vendors and estate agent didn't tell us. We had no idea we'd be plagued by illegal hunting before we moved here - because it's been illegal since 2004 there was no reason to expect it.”
According to gov.uk, it is illegal to hunt foxes with a pack of dogs, but people can use dogs to simulate hunting, for example ‘drag’ or ‘trail’ hunting.
Landowners can also use up to two dogs to chase (‘flush’ or ‘stalk’) foxes out of hiding if the fox is causing damage to a property or the environment.
The practice of fox hunting and hunting other mammals is highly controversial, and question marks have been raised over whether the Hunting Act 2004 – which makes it illegal to hunt wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales - is robust enough.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron had a desire to reverse the ban – he backed a repeal of the ban on hunting with dogs ahead of the 2015 general election and once hunted himself – but this was doomed by strong opposition from Tory MPs.
Public opposition against legalising fox hunting is significant, with all recent surveys suggesting well over 80% of Britons are against it.
The debate over upfront information – and what should be included in it – is a hot one at the moment as the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) and other stakeholders continue to drive forward changes to the amount of material information on property listings as part of a three-phase plan.
“Our work on material information is aiming to give agents some clarity, but to be clear, we cannot cover every scenario,” James Munro, head of NTSELAT, which operates out of Powys County Council, commented.
“There are always going to be features and information which are unique to a certain area or individual properties, and any information that an agent is made aware of, which could affect the average consumer’s decision, should be disclosed. What we are trying to do with our material information work is to provide a basic list as a starting point for agents. Any other information that an agent declares will be in addition to our basic list.”