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ULEZ is going to change estate agency as well as traffic

Just because you don’t live in London - and of course the vast majority of people don’t - doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the hot air being generated for and against ULEZ.

In case you’ve missed it, ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emissions Zone and is a scheme to charge people driving the most heavily polluting vehicles. It already operates in the centre of the capital but is being extended throughout London this summer.

It’s become a Marmite issue, cutting across party political lines, and I’m not going to waste this article arguing one way or the other. But whether ULEZ is a solution or just a money-raising gimmick, the serious subject of air quality is becoming a major concern and deserves the attention of agents as well as the climate-conscious


It’s now over two and a half years since a coroner made legal history in 2020 by ruling that air pollution was a cause of death for a nine-year-old girl, Ella Kissi-Debrah, some seven years earlier. Ella lived off the Lewisham stretch of London’s South Circular Road and she suffered acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure.

The coroner’s comments triggered growing interest in the issue amongst home buyers, tenants and agents alike in 2020 but Covid - ironically an airborne problem, of course - drowned out the debate about air quality.

Air quality report

Now with ULEZ in the headlines, the issue is potentially a winner for agents if they use the information responsibly.

Strutt & Parker’s annual Housing Futures survey has highlighted how important air quality is to younger buyers, and a year ago a study by AirRated - a pollution-measuring consultancy - suggested that 70 per cent of buyers would be willing to pay more for a property with good indoor air quality. 

Yet little else has been done by our industry to keep across the subject. Zoopla carries a tool for users to check air quality and a few individual agencies tell clients about the addresspollution.org website that provides a free air-quality report for an address.

So there’s a series of questions for our industry now.

Should air quality be ‘material information’ which agents must include on property details for buyers and tenants? And for that matter, will self-managing landlords have to do the same? (Propertymark, by the way, highlighted it as material information four years ago, but didn’t follow through with pressure on individual agencies to include the information on details).

Should agents show the information gathered by each local authority on air quality in different parts of their patches?

Should air pollution data be moulded into an easily understandable system in the way that energy efficiency measures were gathered into EPCs (albeit in the hope of greater accuracy than EPCs have)?

Should air quality be a factor in determining property value - and how are agents going to judge whether, say, a rat run road which is quiet for most of the day could influence an asking price?

The arguments will rage but one thing seems indisputable - concern about air quality will increase and probably quickly. Agents should be prepared for change.


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