National Trading Standards (NTS) has encouraged sellers and estate agents to engage conveyancers earlier than now after it made clear all the information that needs to be included in property listings.
Part A required the inclusion on all listings of a property’s council tax band or rate and its price and tenure information, and parts B and C went live together yesterday.
Part B is information that should be covered for all properties – such as the type of property, the building materials used, the number of rooms and information about utilities and parking.
Part C is information that only needs to be established if the property is affected by the issue, such as flood risk or restrictive covenants.
NTS has been working with the UK’s major property portals, including Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and Property Pal, to progress the project. Buyers or renters will see new data fields appearing on portals and any left empty will be flagged, with a link explaining what’s missing.
Agents are already obliged under the Consumer Protection Regulations not to omit any material information on property listings.
NTS said: “Although material information is any information that is important in helping an average consumer make a decision about a property, until now there hasn’t been a defined list of the basic information required.
“This has left agents vulnerable to enforcement action, and the aim of this guidance is to help them meet their obligations and reduce this risk.
“By engaging conveyancers to help them prepare the relevant details at the start of the sales or letting process, agents will reap the benefits, with shorter transaction times and fewer fall-throughs that result from important information coming to light.”
Sellers will also be advised to bring a conveyancer on board at an early stage “to help ensure validated information is available to the agent for marketing and that issues like restrictive covenants or boundaries are addressed at an early stage”.
NTS said it would monitor take-up on the portals over the next 12 months.
James Munro, the team’s senior manager, said: “For years, property agents have grappled with what information they should be providing and how, and when it should be disclosed. Their call for help was clear. And too many consumers suffer emotionally and financially because important information crops up late in the process and the transaction falls through.
“That’s why I’m delighted to publish this guidance today, as the culmination of nearly three years’ work in collaboration with our partners to define and clarify what constitutes material information and to ensure that agents can access that information promptly and with the support they need.
“This industry-wide effort will create consistency and raise standards across the board.”
Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association, said that where the information has been gathered and reviewed by the seller’s conveyancer, it would “only reduce transaction times, as it will all be available to buyers and their conveyancers on sale agreed, avoiding the post code lottery of delays for searches in some areas”.
She added: “Plus, with 90% of transactions going through while the search is up-to-date, the buyer will be able to rely on the searches obtained to check for material information, thus reducing fall throughs and transaction delays.”
Paul Offley, group compliance officer and director of The Guild of Property Professionals, forecast that the requirements would reduce the time between sale agreed and exchange, as well as the number of ‘fall throughs’.
Rob Hailstone, chief executive of the Bold Legal Group, urged law firm to talk to their estate agent contacts about how they could work together, for each other’s benefit and the benefit of the home buying and selling public, “because, as sure as eggs are eggs, you can be certain that some commercially minded third-party suppliers will be offering their services to estate agents, and not all will be conveyancer friendly.”
Both the Conveyancing Association and the Law Society were members of the steering group that helped develop the guidance.