On 13 September, the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs at the Department for Business, Jo Swinson MP, made a Written Ministerial Statment to parliament on the amendment of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and repeal of the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991. Click here to view the full Statement.
ESTATE AGENTS ACT 1979
In response to its recent consultation on amending the Estate Agents Act 1979 (EEA) to encourage new business models, the Government’s Statement confirms plans to exempt intermediary agents which help homeowners privately advertise and sell their houses from the EAA.
A particular type of intermediary covered by the exemption from the EEA will be private sale portals which merely enable private sellers to advertise their properties and provide a means for sellers and buyers to contact and communicate with each other. If, however, an intermediary provides any personal advice to a seller or buyer it will remain within the scope of the EEA and bound by its obligations.
The next step will be for the proposed amendment of the EEA to be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny and the Government says it intends to bring forward the amendment as soon as the Parliamentary timetable allows.
THE PROPERTY MISDESCRIPTIONS ACT 1991
The Government’s Statement also announced its intention to repeal the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 (PMA).
In an earlier consultation the Government had sought views on whether to repeal the PMA in view of similar general protections for consumers being available under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). Although some bodies, including HBF, argued for retention of the PMA in view of its specific and clear application to property transactions, the Government has decided that it would remove dual regulatory requirements and not impair consumer protection to repeal the PMA.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills will lay an order under the European Communities Act 1972 to repeal the PMA. The current intention is that this will come into force not before October 2013.
Revised guidance for businesses and consumers will be produced to cover these changes.
NEW OFT GUIDANCE ON PROPERTY SALES
Also on 13 September, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published new guidance to help all property sales businesses understand their obligations under the CPRs and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (BPRs).
The full guidance can be downloaded via the following link:
In its press release announcing the guidance, the OFT says it identifies examples of trading practices that could breach the regulations and includes practical steps that property sales businesses can take to comply with the law, for example:
Ensuring that any information provided, whether in writing, in pictures or given verbally, is accurate when advertising for new business or when marketing property. Breaches of the regulations might include falsely claiming to be a member of a professional body, misdescribing a property for sale or making unfair comparisons with competitors.
Not leaving out important information that consumers need to make informed decisions. For example, throughout the buying and selling process, businesses must provide the necessary information to enable informed choices to be made on viewing a property, making an offer or instructing conveyancers or surveyors.
Not putting undue pressure on consumers to act quickly, for example to put in an offer, raise their price, skip the survey or exchange contracts.
Having an effective customer complaints procedure that is understood and followed by all staff who come into contact with the public.
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