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Trading Standards reminds agents to update SSTC listings amid legal debate

Trading Standards has advised agents to update listings once they reach the "sold subject to contract" (SSTC) stage.

It comes after legal property expert David Smith suggested yesterday that keeping SSTC properties listed on portals could breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) as it risks misleading consumers.

James Munro, senior manager of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Teams, has waded into the debate.


He told Estate Agent Today: “A property remains for sale and open to offers until exchange of contracts - unless the seller agrees, or has previously agreed, that the marketing should cease and the property be withdrawn from sale.

"Agents are under a duty to continue passing on offers until they have instructions in writing from the seller to the contrary.

"In an ideal world the agent should update the listing when a property goes to SSTC and instructions are received from their client to state that no further offers are being accepted on the property.

“Being open and transparent about the process is essential for agents to maintain the trust of their clients and customers.

"A failure to update property listings can lead to frustration on both sides, wastes time through unnecessary enquiries, and can put agents at risk of ombudsman complaints or enforcement action.”

National Trading Standards has published guidance on the use of terms in property listings that you can download from its website.

Smith warned yesterday that the practice of leaving SSTC properties on portals could go against regulations that warn against misleading actions and those that distort consumer behaviour. 

He says: “Advertising a property as being available but then telling callers that they cannot view it because it is SSTC is a classic example of bait and switch.

“I hope that this is not something that is happening. The CPRs are created for a reason and are abused by some of the very worst traders in the property sector and the marketplace generally.

"This is the nicer end of the some of the appalling scams perpetrated during lockdown where tenants were told they had to pay holding deposits before viewing properties which turned out to be total fakes. They are legally-speaking on the same continuum and, morally-speaking, not so very far removed either.”

  • Dee Quealy

    There is a second point to this discussion that has not been raised and that is the practice of estate agents leaving properties on portals after exchange/completion. Once a property has exchanged an agent can still put forward an offer but the vendor's ability to transact has changed completely, the vendor would have to buy their way out of the current contract in order to deal with the new buyer and that is likely to be a significant cost. Should an agent warn buyers that a property has exchanged contracts and therefore the vendor's ability to transact has changed significantly?
    I am constantly battling with the portals about agents who leave properties on the portals after completion. The agent's instructions cease on completion, the client for whom they have been working is no longer the owner and therefore to continue advertising after completion suggests to buyers that an offer could be considered. Agents simply do this to misrepresent their market share. It is misleading to the consumer and does nothing for the professionalism of our industry.

  • icon

    One other problem is that numerous small third party portal websites dont appear to be able to update their systems and consequently we're constantly getting asked by buyers who go on these other "spurious" websites (who effectively just "steal" our content) that if they looked on "proper" portals ie Z, OTM and R/M they'd see which properties were U/O or SSTC and so stop us/and them wasting their time :((

  • icon

    So, basically, promote gazumping??!


    or get a client the best price?


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