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.