The head of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) has suggested the material listings rules should be self-regulated by the portals.
The comments by James Munro were revealed in a discussion published with The Guild of Property Professionals’ compliance officer Paul Offley.
Agency listings from this month have been required to show material information such as leasehold terms, council tax information and price.
There will eventually be requirements to include information such as restrictive covenants and utilities.
Asked by Offley how these upfront information rules would be regulated, Munro said: “To a large degree it will be self-regulated by the portals.
“The hope is that in time, portals will refuse to add properties to their sites if they do not contain the required material information.
“It will take some time, as this is a huge culture shift and asking people to change their systems this quickly will be challenging. We are hoping, in the short term, where there a listing that does not have the required information there will be a warning highlighting the fact that the information is missing and needs to be added. In the long-term, the hope is that the portals will not host the listings at all if it doesn’t meet the information requirements.
“Also, we are encouraging agents to report listings without the required information to either us or the portal so that action can be taken. The portals have a responsibility to display accurate information, and where something is brought to their attention, they are expected to take action.”
Offley asked Munro where the decision came from to make the changes and why now, he responded: “The Consumer Protection from unfair trading regulations came in during 2008 and these transformed the whole regulation of business within the UK.
“They replaced the Trade Descriptions Act, and shortly after they replaced the Property Misdescriptions Act.
“While these Regulations are wide ranging, the biggest challenge with them is that they don’t specifically mandate disclosure of information.
“They do introduce the concept of material information, which is the information an average person needs to make a transactional decision. This involves doing anything to do with that transaction, from picking up the phone or emailing, right through down the line prior to the contract and after the contract. It is the prior to the contract element that is important here, where the regulations say that if you fail to disclose material information you commit an offence.”
Munro adds that where this caused issues is property agents do not know what material information they were required to provide because there was no list.
He said: “It is no good finding out information after you have had a survey commissioned or have your mortgage in place, especially if that information would have been detrimental to your decision.
“The changes are about avoiding that, and about shifting the culture within the property sector.”