Property listing rules “will encourage earlier lawyer involvement”

Munro: Important milestone

New rules on the information that must be included in property listings will encourage sellers to instruct conveyancers earlier in the process, National Trading Standards (NTS) has said.

The first of a three-stage process will see, from the end of May, the inclusion on all listings of a property’s council tax band or rate and its price and tenure information.

The next two phases will require the upfront disclosure of further material information, such as restrictive covenants, flood risk and other specific factors that may impact certain properties.

NTS’s estate and letting agency team has worked with a series of industry bodies and property portals in developing the rules: OnTheMarket, Propertymark, 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 and Zoopla.

These new data fields will start to appear on portals over the coming weeks. If they are left empty by an agent, this will be flagged on the listing so consumers can see what information is missing. This will link to advice on why that information is important and how it may be obtained.

By the time the project ended, NTS said, it wanted all material information to be mandatory on property listings. At that stage, agents will need to include all the required information before it is listed on a property portal.

James Munro, senior manager of the estate and letting agency team, said: “This represents an important milestone in the journey to improve material information on property listings…

“These technical changes will prompt all players in the property market to do things a bit differently. Vendors and agents may find that bringing conveyancers on board at the outset helps ensure all information is available for marketing, and issues with things like restrictive covenants or boundaries can be addressed earlier.”

Mr Munro welcomed the involvement of the conveyancers “who are already on board with the process and are putting support in place for agents”.

The government’s levelling-up white paper, published in February, contained a commitment “to ensure the critical material information buyers need to know… are available digitally wherever possible from trusted and authenticated sources, and provided only once”.

The second phase of the NTS project will focus on information that must be established for all properties, such as utilities, where “non-standard features would affect someone’s decision to look any further at that property”. The third phase will be property-specific information of the same nature.

David Cox, Rightmove’s legal and compliance director, said: “It’s been really encouraging to see that more than 80% of all property listings on Rightmove now include the tenure of a property; up from 70% last year before we started to encourage more agents to add this information to help with National Trading Standard’s initiative.

“We hope that having an industry-agreed official list of material information will better help agents know exactly all the info they need to add when they’re advertising properties.”

Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, predicted that the move would reduce fall-through rates and allow estate agents and conveyancers to be “more proactive and efficient”.

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