False or misleading descriptions about properties are an offence under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991. The PMA and the Order make it an offence to make false or misleading statements about ‘specified’ aspects of land (including buildings) offered for sale by those in an estate agency or property development business. This Act ensures that estate agents act in their clients’ best interests and that both buyers and sellers are treated fairly, honestly and promptly.
As a seller you have rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 to services carried out with reasonable care and skill, but there are no legal regulations about what estate agents have to do to find you a buyer. So do your research to find the best estate agent for you depending on the services that they provide and their costs.
The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act, 2007 requires all estate agents in the UK to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme which can investigate complaints from members of the public. (From the 1st October 2014 all letting agents in England have also been obliged to join a scheme under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013).
If you believe that an estate agent has not been acting in your best interests, has not been contacting buyers, provides inaccurate information or is discriminating against you etc., complain first to the manager or owner of the agency. If a chain you can then write to the head office. You can of course take your business elsewhere or withhold some of the agent’s fee. If you do the latter take legal advice first – you may be sued by the estate agent so you need to be very clear on your position. You can find the contact details for the CEO of the agency/chain by using www.ceoemail.com.
If you cannot agree the fee with an estate agent for any reason, such as finding your own buyer, seek legal advice.
Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 and Estate Agents Act 1979
Anyone with a complaint about an estate agent relating to residential property now has access to a free redress scheme.
Estate agents are required to have commissioned a Home Information Pack (HIP) prior to marketing any property.
Landlords and agents can choose to register with The National Approved Lettings Scheme which sets certain standards.
Under The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (parts which come into force 27th May 2015):
- lettings agents are required to include a description of each fee which explains the service that is covered by the cost or the purpose for which it is imposed.
- as the list of fees covers charges to both landlords and tenants this improved transparency will highlight where agents are charging both parties for the same service.
- these requirements will prevent an agent drip feeding fees to tenants meaning consumers will be more confident about the charges they will be expected to pay when renting a property and it should also encourage more competitive letting agents’ fees.
The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents (includes lettings) is voluntarily followed by many estate agents. Estate agents who follow the Code of Practice are required to provide additional consumer protection that goes beyond that required by law. They can be recognised by the blue TPO logo which they will display on their literature, websites and office windows.
An estate agent may be a member of an ombudsman service which you can use. Check with which ombudsman service your estate agent is a member: