‘Explosive’ legal opinion says agents may be negligent if they do not disclose air pollution levels

A campaign group is urging people to sign an online petition demanding that estate agents – and property websites like Rightmove and Zoopla – disclose air quality information to buyers and renters at the earliest opportunity.

COPI, the Central Office of Public Interest, is backing up its call with what it calls an ‘explosive’ twenty-page QC’s legal opinion which says there is a ‘strong legal argument’ that estate agents not doing so would be ‘negligent’.

addresspollution.org  gives free air-quality reports for every address in the United Kingdom using annualised data, accurate to 20 meters squared, to reveal the levels of three toxic pollutants – PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 – at each address.

PM (Particulate Matter) are particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause haze. NO2 is nitrous oxide that chemically contributes to the creation of PM and of itself can cause irritation in human lungs.

The data, from Imperial College London, is displayed in an Air Quality Report (AQR). The AQR gives each address a Low, Medium, Significant, High or Very High rating.

The ratings are based around the World Health Organisation limits – a ‘Significant’ rating means the address exceeds the limit for one pollutant. The health implications for living at the address are also given.

Commenting on the data and legal findings – and the potential effect on agents’ responsibilities – the Property Ombudsman, Rebecca Marsh, said:

“Air pollution is information all consumers should be aware of, before they make a decision on a specific property. Arguably, this is material information that all sellers or landlords should be providing to potential buyers or tenants.”

The new national rating system also reveals the best and worst UK addresses for air pollution.

On London’s famous Harley Street 100% of addresses have a ‘Very High’ rating. Properties in this area cost over £2.3 million on average. At the other end of the scale, in HU7 4, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, homes are worth just under £150,000 on average. Yet every address has a ‘Low’ rating.

With such detailed data now publicly available, and increased understanding of the health impacts of living with toxic air, UK mortgage lenders are also keen to understand the potential impact on property prices in high pollution areas.

Mark Cunningham, CEO and co-founder of Whenfresh, which supplies property data to lenders, said:

“Air pollution has a major impact on human health and as public awareness of this issue grows, and the problem isn’t dealt with, it will clearly have an impact on the saleability and value of properties in high pollution areas.

“So like asbestos, radon, flood risk and Japanese knotweed, if data is available the mortgage lenders will want to understand it. Lenders take any environmental issues that might impact the value of the properties they effectively co-own very seriously.”

The site, and the addresspollution.org campaign, is the initiative of the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI), a ‘non profit creative industry alliance’ founded in 2018, ‘to make and run awareness campaigns to deepen public understanding on issues that matter to people, but which government prefers to ignore.’

Humphrey Milles, founder of the Central Office of Public Interest, said: “Air pollution affects everyone. It is a dangerous, invisible killer. With this national roll out, it would be shameful for the property industry to not start acting in an honest, transparent way. Lives depend on it. Everyone has a right to know what they’re breathing. ”

 

EYE had a look to see what the report has to say about our own address. Although it has a relatively unsophisticated front end, the site is extremely simple to use and the information displayed is easily understood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Comments

  1. cjhhhh51

    Why do we have to tell them?  There’s a free site – if they care they can look it up!  Everyone wants to blame someone else and make no effort themselves.  Its not like EPCs where it needs surveying, or even getting a search, or electrical check.   Just use the free site yourself, buyers. Mental.

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    1. RosBeck73

      Even with the EPCs the potential tenants can look up the ratings on the EPC site. That would save a lot of wasted paper and ink in cases where this is printed out. Ditto, DPS information. The same with the How to Rent booklet.  The environmental footprint from all this unnecessary printing out must be horrendous.

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  2. AlwaysAnAgent

    All the more reason for an online centralised property database where buyers can look at an address online and find all of this information at the touch of their fingertips.

    I suppose that would be too easy.

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  3. Woodentop

    If they are that concerned it can be done in the conveyancing process just like they do with Radon and Asbestos. Nuts and looney leftish idea for agents to do it. Next they will be asking for agents to clean a property before someone moves in, legionella, vermin and criminal records of who lives next door.

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  4. mio-Nick

    It’s still caveat emptor, right? I do favour having as much upfront information as possible but as long as the responsibility sits with the buyer, then this is not the portals or the agents responsibility.

    Air pollution is including in some environmental reports obtained for the buyer via their conveyancer too.

    https://futureclimateinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/FCI-Premium-Plus-Planning-TP278-1.pdf

     

     

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    1. Chris Wood

      No! Caveat emptor died with the introduction of The Consumer Protection Regulations Act. Agents have a legal duty in (criminal and civil) law to market a property honestly, accurately and with the level of professionalism and knowledge that a reasonable person might expect.

      It still staggers me, the lack of basic knowledge in agency from people and firms claiming to be professionals who are intimately involved in one of life’s largest and most stressful costly events.

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      1. Robert_May

        In fairness, you dig back and find  the David Perkins of CPR.  that one man did more to make  the industry as a whole aware of  PMA than the trade associations, redress schemes and trade press have covered  CPR material information.

        NTSELAT have been asleep at the wheel since the big hoorah in September 2015 when James Munro  stated he was going to police  both CPR and BPR, nothing much else has happened to educate and then reinforce legislation  from 2008

         

        https://propertyindustryeye.com/new-guidance-for-estate-agents-published-by-regulator/

        That article is  about all you’ll find

         

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        1. Chris Wood

          “stated he was going to police  both CPR and BPR” and we’re still waiting for his office to start that process…

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      2. mio-Nick

        Thanks for your reply Chris, I understand the legal duties of agents under CPR, but in the context of the article, what are your views on providing upfront information like this?

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        1. Chris Wood

          Hi Nick My view is that whilst untested in the UK courts as yet (in the case of estate agency), as air-quality is a hot topic both socially and legally at present (see recent court cases). As such, it may well be deemed as reasonable information expected to be provided by an agent as the information can be readily accessed for any given postcode and may well affect a consumer when making an informed purchasing decision. My view was always to provide as much information as possible to buyers in any case as it saves time, effort and money in the long run, as well as helping to reduce tyre kickers.  

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          1. mio-Nick

            Thank you Chris, much appreciated.

            Can we connect on LinkedIn?

            https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-ball-6813a49/

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            1. Chris Wood

              Done.

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      3. singing agent

        When questioned at a NAEA conference whether a property on a Trunk Road should have that information displayed on the brochure, Mr Munroe suggested that they buyer could “look on Street View”, even though this location reduces prices by 10%.

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        1. Chris Wood

          My experience of Mr Munroe and his NTSEAT colleagues knowledge and competency in these matters has not been an entuirely positive one.
          My view is that most properties now come with a printed and digital map which, as long as the location of the property is correctly marked, should be sufficient. Many agents appear to forget to ensure the marked location of the property is accurate on these maps as they are often hudreds of metres out on some mapping sites, which would be misleading in my opinion. A a court may well decide that an agent should have reasonably been expected to check this. Far better to spend a few extra pounds and download the title plan (buyers love it too) either directly from HMLR or, using some of the excellent proptech tools out there.

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  5. Will2

    It’s time people took responsibility for themselves as most responsible people do on matters that interest them.

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  6. DHS75

    This is just a publicity stunt, but fair play to them, it is a good tool to make people aware of the air pollution we are all experiencing.

    I have looked up various addresses i know around North London and out of town (Gloucestershire). All those in London are level 3 or 4. and out town in more rural areas they are level 2. Well you can imagine how shocked i was – London air quality isn’t as good as the countryside, who’d have thought it!

     

     

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  7. A W

    1. It is not negligent to provide this information.

    2. It is not a failure of due diligence to not advertise this information.

    3. The above may change in the future but it is not relevant now.

    4. The information (website) is useless for multi level properties (i.e. a flat on the 12th floor will not have the same air pollution as a ground floor flat – although the website shows the same).

    There is a lot of work for it to be done before this becomes relevant information to consumers and currently a reasonable person would not expect an agent to advertise details on air pollution for a property (maybe to provide it upon request but even that is a stretch currently).

    Needless scaremongering. 

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  8. KByfield04

    Whole of London is a 4 or 5- utter waste of time. All for making the data available- but it needs to be benchmarked. So it should give a report that says- your Band 4 but so is every property within a 1-mile radius. We experimented a while back with crime ratings & statistics- in London (again) this is generally high everywhere but gave no context. Being in Shoreditch our properties would rank very high/poor for crime- but the crime stats were about the local night culture and NOT per see around break-ins and violent crime (primary concerns of homeowners). It made all of our properties look like you were taking your life in your hands every time you set foot outdoors- so we had to drop it. Results and ratings without context are meaningless.

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  9. Gangsta Agent

    What a load of **** this is and the fact that people are taking it seriously just shows the number of numpties around today, save it for April 1st. What next putting the local bus timetable as bullet points 

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  10. Steve_1989

    Good idea but like much of this type of data so broad as to be meaningless

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  11. Chris Wood

    Agree with some of the comments above (especially context etc) however, as the original article makes clear, this is about a matter of law and not what necessarily makes sense/ is ‘just’. Classic quote from the head of law of Cambridge Uni’ when he was teaching us for our CertREA exams at Whiteknights, Reading: “The law has nothing to do with common-sense, fairness or justice. It has everything to do with The Law and how The Law is interpreted. Once you understand that, you will be able to navigate the law with ease!”

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