New programme launched to improve material information on property listings

National Trading Standards is launching a new programme with input from property portals and industry groups to make it as easy as possible for estate and letting agents to provide basic essential material information.

By providing essential information on property listings and on portals – the starting point for the vast majority of property searches and transactions – agents will be able to meet their legal requirements at the very beginning of the consumer journey.

Under current legislation, as set out in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, estate agents and letting agents have a legal obligation not to omit material information from consumers on property listings. But current practices around disclosure are not consistent across the industry.

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team is developing guidance for agents to clarify what should be considered as material information. To inform this guidance, the team is encouraging estate and letting agents to share their thoughts about what constitutes material information in a new survey launched todayThe deadline for responses is Monday 17 May.

The survey covers a range of questions for agents about what should be defined as ‘material information’, including information on building safety, utilities and property tenure.

Alongside the survey – which is open for four weeks – National Trading Standards has published The Case for Change: improving the provision of material information in property sales and lettings. This includes new data from people who have moved in the last three years or are looking to move in the next three years, which shows that:

  • 90% of respondents who use property portals would prefer to find detailed or key information about a property when they’re searching for a property on a portal
  • 87% of respondents agree (1) that property portals should include all key information about a home in their property listing
  • More than half of respondents (54%) said that they would be less (2) likely to buy or rent a property where information was missing on the property listing
  • 41% of respondents assume that missing information means something must be wrong with the property.

James Munro, Senior Manager of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said:

“Buying or renting a home is one of the biggest purchasing decisions that a consumer will make in their lifetime. We want to make it easier for agents to provide basic material information to consumers by ensuring more of this information is published on property listings. By participating in the survey, agents will help us provide clarity to the industry and ensure consumers can access relevant, essential information when they start their property search.”

To support agents across the industry and help them meet the legal requirements, the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team is working with property portals and industry groups to help improve how material information is provided on property listings. This work is being developed in conjunction with:

  • OnTheMarket
  • Propertymark (NAEA/ARLA)
  • PropertyPal
  • Rightmove
  • The Lettings Industry Council
  • The Property Ombudsman
  • The Property Redress Scheme
  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
  • The UK Association of Letting Agents
  • Zoopla

Rightmove’s Legal & Compliance Director David Cox said:

“The information that agents need to find out before marketing a property varies so much depending on the type of home, and so we support the drive to provide clear industry-wide guidance on basic material information. Unlike price and number of bedrooms which is already available on all listings, there are some features that aren’t displayed in every case, such as tenure, and so we’d like to hear from agents about what challenges they face in collecting this type of information. Once a list is finalised we can help by explaining to prospective sellers and landlords what information they should already be starting to gather when they are thinking of coming to market, and help buyers and tenants understand what’s in the list and why.”

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, said:

“It is essential for property agents to understand their obligations in terms of disclosure so this is why this guidance is so vital. The shop window for most agents are now the portals so they are the perfect place for consumer to gather the facts they need to help them make their decision about what is such an important matter – the roof over their head. The survey is your chance to help shape what will need to be part of this information pack available at the fingertips of your customers.”

Errol Maxwell, Managing Director at PropertyPal, said:

“At PropertyPal, our aim is to make the home moving journey as easy, informative and enjoyable as possible and exposing material information from the outset helps us achieve this. Not only does it provide greater transparency but it’s ultimately time-saving for everyone involved. Consumers will be able to find properties that completely suit their needs and estate agents will be aligned with stronger leads. At a time when the vast majority of property transactions begin online, this initiative could not be more important.”

Richard Price, Director of the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA), said:

“UKALA’s mission is to support letting agents to succeed by improving standards and to promote best practice in the Private Rental Sector and we work closely with a number of bodies, such as National Trading Standards, to do this. We are keen to be involved in initiatives like this that enable UKALA members to operate on a level playing field.”