The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPRs) regulate estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and lettings. The CPRs prohibit all traders from using unfair commercial practices in their dealings with individual consumers. Estate agents are prohibited from engaging in commercial practices that are unfair to sellers, buyers, potential sellers or potential buyers of residential property.
Those agents found to have breached either the CPRs could be at risk of
prosecution by their local authority trading standards services who are responsible for enforcement by bringing criminal prosecutions. On conviction, agents can face substantial fines or in more serious cases imprisonment. Those classic descriptions of “Stunning” and “Highly sought after” now have to have evidence to back them up!
As a seller you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 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.
If you cannot agree the fee with an estate agent for any reason, such as finding your own buyer, seek legal advice.
The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents 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.
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