Beware – Trading Standards and TPO are alert to ‘new on the market’ re-listings following lockdown

The National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team is calling on estate and letting agents to check the status of their property listings as the housing market re-starts in England.

Descriptions such as ‘new on the market’ or ‘new instruction’ prior to lockdown will no longer be valid for properties that have been relisted, or because the marketing was suspended.

It is a legal requirement that the status of a property listing is accurately described and updated in a timely manner, as this is material information for prospective purchasers.

It is the responsibility of the agent to ensure that this information is clear, unambiguous and up to date while any advertising is still live.

The team has published guidance on terms used by estate and letting agents in their property advertisements and listings – relevant extracts are as follows:

‘New on the market’ – a property which has not been marketed in (at least) the last six months; the description should only be used for a short period of time. This term should not be used if the property has been previously offered for sale or let by another agent and remained unsold in the last six months. ‘Refreshing’ a listing to make a property appear new on the market is misleading, especially where there has been no significant marketing break.

‘New instruction’ – a property which an agent has recently been instructed to sell or let (and which may have been offered by another agent without being sold or let); the description should again only be used for a short period of time.

‘New listing’ (on a property portal) – a property which has recently been listed on that portal; commonly used in conjunction with ‘New on the market’ or ‘New instruction’ – the description should only be used for a short period of time.

‘Recently added / Just added’ (on a property portal) – a property which has recently been listed on that portal; commonly used in conjunction with ‘New on the market’ or ‘New instruction’- the description should again only be used for a short period of time.

‘New and Exclusive’ – either a new instruction or new on the market which is exclusive to that agent or portal (depending on the context). The description ‘new’ should only be used for a short period of time, although the term ‘exclusive’ can be used for as long as it is applicable.

NTSEALT has given EYE  further guidance about the term ‘short period of time’ referred to above:

Any guidance on the length of time for which the above descriptions is used can only be very general.

Material considerations such as the advertising medium, the buoyancy (or otherwise) of the market and perhaps even the nature of the ‘average consumer’ at whom the marketing in question is targeted will vary greatly and only the courts will be able to decide based on all the individual circumstances.

Use of the above terms [New on the market etc] for a period not exceeding one calendar month is unlikely, in the general course of events, to be considered misleading.

The Property Ombudsman joined in the reminder to all agents.

Katrine Sporle said:

“We appreciate that agents will have had instances where properties were temporarily removed during the lockdown.

“However, this should not be used as an opportunity to mislead consumers.

“Point 7n of the Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents applies, which states that agents must not manipulate internet portals (and other channels of marketing) to give the impression a property is new to the market, when it is not.”

 

EYE has seen several very recent instances of agents clearly re-listing properties that have long been on the market and either explicitly making the misleading statement ‘New on the market’ or, in cases of ‘juggling’, using the portal systems to make an old listing appear as new.

We will be following up on this in future reports and if readers see cases of blatant and repeated disregard for the rules we would be interested to be sent them.

news@propertyindustryeye.com

 

 

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15 Comments

  1. Property Poke In The Eye

    They don’t have the time or resources to enforce.

    I have seen new instructions and marked as sold on many listings.  So agents are trying to get the “Market Going” in their own way.

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  2. Robert_May

    It would help massively if the redress schemes would entertain reports of #portaljuggling from other agents.

    Business protection regulations are there to protect  businesses from those giving themselves an unfair advantage. At present the redress schemes will not consider reports of portaljuggling by those most affected- other agents.

     

    It is not and SHOULD NOT be considered “agents’ gripes” that  an agent is able to alert the organisations who are easily and effectively able to sanction agents who are doing this.

     

    Dear….

     

     Your listing/s ————- are in breach of the terms of your redress cover. 

    Please  be advised that if you do not  stop we will withdraw redress and notify the other redress providers the reason for  your expulsion from our scheme.

     

    yours faithfully

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    1. chris

      Robert (and Chris Wood). I actually think many agents think this is part of clever marketing and that said, those that don’t agree don’t have the time or inclination or even know how to report to RM. I would imagine there are literally 1,000s of properties re-marketed this week with a date of coming on the market in the last couple of days whereas they were were on portals a couple of weeks or so ago. As you have had hands on experience of dealing with the portals on this matter I suggest could you provide and make public a simple template of what to say and who to email it to (at say RM or TS) reporting either the agent or the property.

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      1. PeeBee

        chris
         
        “I actually think many agents think this is part of clever marketing…”
         
        Agents are required to know, understand – and adhere – to the legislation governing their industry.
         
        This “clever marketing” breaches EAA1979… CPRs… BPRs… Trading Standards/OFT Guidance, RICS and propertymark regulations, and Redress Scheme Codes of Practice.  
         
        What part of ‘know, understand and adhere’ to the legal requirements of the business is that?
         
        Sorry and all that – but Agents who engage in this “clever marketing” should therefore be deemed unfit to trade.

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      2. Robert_May

        Chris Wood is very aware  how this should be tackled and by whom. I’ve alerted him to the  suggestion.

         

        The portals benefit from the additional traffic so they aren’t motivated to do anything about the problem, they take the view it’s not harming anyone.  I have to be honest I think a few rogue agent spoiling the user experience of the portals  for consumers works against the portals .. If the duopoly don’t realise people get fed up seeing the same overpriced property being bumped  time and time again, that’s their look out. The worse the UX, the fewer genuine leads, the more disgruntled agents become and the harder it is for them to charge what they do.

         

        Rightmove apparently employed 12 people to monitor gaming last time this was an issue. I’d question what they’re doing with their time

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        1. Chris Wood

          Dear
          I write to formally complain that your listings appear to be in breach of a number of areas of legislation and codes of conduct:
          (insert and specify listing/s reference No’s, address and price and date/s of listing here)

          Address

          Price

          Property Ref No

          Original listing

          Notes/ alleged infringement

          Knowingly or unknowingly advertising property for sale or rental with incorrect or misleading information (including its status such as for sale, under offer, available to let, let, new-in etc) is a breach of Consumer Protection Regulations. That in itself, is a criminal offence and a breach of Ombudsman and ASA codes of conduct.
          Further, any agent using an advertisement* to obtain business/ income/ customers by purporting to show that they are more successful at selling, letting or listing property than in fact they are risks
          ·         Criminal charges of fraud/ obtaining money or goods by deception.
          ·         A breach of the 1979 Estate Agents Act
          ·         A breach of Business Protection Regulations
          ·         Being barred from estate agency practice
          Please be advised that if you do not withdraw this and any other such current, past or future advertisements we may contact local Trading Standards Officers, NTSLEAT, The ASA, any professional or trade body you may belong to and, the police.
          Any such complaint may also be copied to the offending publisher/s (e.g. portal or social media channels) for a potential breach of advertising rules and being accessories to an offence.
          Yours

          *The ASA regards communication by social media including blogs as an advertisement when published by a business or employee of a business in certain circumstances.

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          1. Woodentop

            This also applies to manipulation of business performance on the stock market and influence its share value and investor involvement.

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            1. Chris Wood

              Absolutely. 

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          2. Robert_May

            Thank you for this Chris but without a more enlightened view that an agent complaint is  as valid as a consumer complaint it is unlikely  this will be filed anywhere other than  the ‘Agents’ Gripe’ file

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  3. Hillofwad71

    Who are they trying to kid? They play lip service to complaints  
    This appeared yesterday on Zoopla by Bricks
      3 bed end terrace house for sale Minehead Way, Stevenage SG1
    Just added £310,000
     
    However “Open day Saturday 15th February 11AM-12PM strictly by appointment only.”    
     
    The LPE too lazy to even  be bothered to alter the text to conceal 
     
    Further on in the listing it goes on to say in a typical finding £10k down the back of the sofa style supposedly  on the same day  to add insult to injury 
     
       19th May 2020 Price Increased by £10,000
       19th May 2020  First listed  £300,000

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    1. Bertie

      Lol!!!

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    2. PeeBee

      “This appeared yesterday on Zoopla by Bricks”

      That was only one of the #RElistings to appear on Zoopla yesterday marked “Just added” – one of over eighty that I spotted – equating to 43% of their total showing yesterday at the time of checking.

      Today, the figure is just under 100 #RElistings – 48% of the total properties Zoopla say have been “Just added” in the last 24 hours by ‘bricks.  Ten of those are over a year old and obviously still unsold… but the more worrying number is that at least three dozen of them were first listed in 2020 – and the most recent of them (a £250k flat in Edenbridge) was originally “Just added” on 14 March!

      But, unfortunately, this is far from a Purplebricks-only issue.  Whether lockdown has actually escalated the problem or whether I just had more time to observe the wider market I’ll never know – but I have seen a horrifying number of blatant #portaljuggles taking place over the last couple of months; the worst offender (a two-branch “investment” company) having rinse’n’repeat listed literally HUNDREDS of properties until Zoopla finally extracted a firmly-lodged digit from where the sun didn’t shine and called an end to it a staggering nine days after they finally responded to daily Tweets drawing their attention to the activities of this and other companies and advised

      “Many thanks for flagging information about new properties that have just been added. Our compliance team is looking into this matter”

      Nine days that saw the best part of another EIGHT HUNDRED #RElistings “Just added” to the portal by that company – but who have NOT LISTED ONE  property since.

      Apparent #portaljuggling can be accidental, or unintentional on the part of the Agent – but there is mounting evidence that the main portals are simply becoming the bun-fight to be top of the pops for listings that resulted in the original group of individuals combining their efforts to level the playing field and bring about an end to this unfair and illegal practice over four years ago.

      The fight goes on – and a big THANK YOU to EYE for the valued column inches it gives to the subject.

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      1. Woodentop

        I thought an investigation by NTSEAT now NTSELAT over PB operations was going to stop this. Hasn’t it been over 12 months?  
         
        Noticeable by their absence is the web portals who said they would stop it and they have said that many times over the years.

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  4. PeeBee

    Harping back to last week’s news…

    Anyone looking for an irony overload, I suggest you have a look at any of the Mark Ashley listings on Zoopla – there has been a warning paragraph added in the last 24 hours.

    I’d tell you what it says but then I could be in breach of their copyright as I don’t have their express permission to do so.

    Just don’t be drinking when you read it – I somehow doubt Mark Ashley Estates will accept liability for coffee-sodden keyboards!!

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  5. PeeBee

    Just skipping back to this article almost a week after publication.

    The above warning is being totally disregarded by many Agents and property companies.

    The toothless tigers will do nothing – so nothing will change.

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