New material information rules a major step towards mandatory disclosure in listings

James Munro
James Munro

Most estate and letting agents already provide the key information included in the new announcement by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) that means more ‘material information’ about sales and lettings properties within their portal listings will be required.

The vast majority offer information about council tax bands and rates as standard. Prices are usually included (although this announcement will mean changes to listings with ‘Price on Application’). In terms of tenure information, our survey of estate agents last year suggested that almost all (94%) already provide this in their property sale listings – and a similar number agreed that tenure information should be considered material.

But yesterday’s announcement is a significant first step to defining what constitutes basic material information. It is also a major milestone on the road to mandatory disclosure of all basic material information, including factors that are specific – but significant – to individual properties.

Developing a defined list of basic material information

Agents regularly ask us to publish a list of what constitutes basic material information. It’s a request we hear time and again – but it’s notoriously challenging to develop. For instance, material information for a bungalow on the Atlantic coast may not be material for a studio apartment in a high-rise block in Lewisham. There are fundamental differences that need to be worked through.

That’s why this announcement is important: Part A is the first tranche of a three-part list that finally clarifies what should be considered as material information. It’s a starting point – and most agents are already meeting it.

Part B will follow in the coming months. It will include information that must be established for all properties. It applies mainly to utilities (and similar), where non-standard features would affect someone’s decision to look any further at that property. Part C will be additional material information that may or may not need to be established, depending on whether the property is affected or impacted by the information.

Moving towards mandatory disclosure

We have deliberately chosen not to make Part A information mandatory just yet. It’s important that the full list of material information – including Part B and Part C – has been confirmed before any changes become mandatory. This also provides more time for the software developers to update the infrastructure that sits behind property listings, which will help ensure a smooth transition for agents.

In the meantime, listings that don’t include the required information defined in Part A will be flagged. Over the coming weeks, you will start seeing the data fields relating to Part A material information appearing on property listings. By the end of May 2022, if the required information for tenure, price and council tax is not provided in these fields, the listing will be flagged and the missing information will be highlighted. This will include listings that offer ‘Price on Application’.

Longer-term, our aspiration is for mandatory disclosure. The aim is that all data fields relating to Parts A, B or C will need to be completed to ensure the property can be successfully listed.

Alongside this, some readers will have noticed references to material information in the government’s recent White Paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom, which said:

‘The home buying and selling process which can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful will be improved. Around a third of all housing transactions fall through, costing people hundreds of millions of pounds each year. The UK Government and the industry will work together to ensure the critical material information buyers need to know – like tenure type, lease length and any service charges – are available digitally wherever possible from trusted and authenticated sources, and provided only once. If necessary, the UK Government will legislate.’

We fully support the need to improve the process and agree that material information is central to this. Our aim is for property listings to provide all basic material information through new mandatory data fields, which should avoid the need for any new laws or regulations. Completing these data fields for listings will provide consumers with the critical information they need, reduce the number of deals that fall through, shorten transaction times and help agents meet the existing legal requirements.

Widespread industry support

It’s been heartening to see the support from agents and industry – and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who responded to our industry survey last year. An overwhelming majority agree that a defined list of material information is needed – and the findings reinforced the Case for Change.

It’s also been encouraging to see conveyancers, lawyers and other organisations joining the movement towards greater disclosure. The Home Buying and Selling Group’s BASPI form. The Property Information Questionnaire from Propertymark. The Law Society’s revisions to the TA6 form. All of these highlight the importance of the issues and why change is so important.

James Munro is head of National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.

 

Housing industry reacts to new required information rules on listings

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10 Comments

  1. Rob Hailstone

    After offer and acceptance, a chain sheet for conveyancers to see would also be useful. They may be in the chain themselves more than once, and not be aware of that. Knowing which other firms are in the chain, and where they are, can very helpful.

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  2. Residential Logbook Association (RLBA)

    The Residential Logbook Association is a big supporter of the work of NTS in this work. There is a necessary administrative burden on the Seller, but new tools like Property Logbooks can support homeowners as they prepare to sell.  We also urge all players in the ecosystem to encourage buyers to keep better digital records at the END of a transaction, because having an organised record of a previous transaction simplifies future sales.

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  3. PeeBee

    CPRs and BPRs became Law in 2008.  They became the primary Law affecting Estate Agency practices as of 1 October 2013 when they replaced the Property Misdescriptions Act.

    The backbone of the Legislation is that “hiding or failing to provide material information to consumers” is a criminal offence. (NTSELAT Guidance on Property Sales and Lettings 2015)

    Yet here we are, in February 2022, being told that the people who have supposedly been enforcing that Law since day 1 are still working on putting together a list of that ‘material information’.

    You couldn’t make it up.  Oh, wait…

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  4. mjacagent87

    Unbelievable

     

    Already, conveyancers pass the buck and tell there clients to ring us to speak to the other solicitor. Now, we are told to do part of their job! Why not just get rid of them and we’ll do it all! it’ll be certainly quicker and won’t be losing money for doing nothing

     

    How do we find a flood risk? How do we get the tenure? That is without spending even m ore time before putting a property on the market and of course, costing more money

     

    Why can’t we access land registry data for free? why?

     

    I’ve been in the industry 20 years and the job gets more and more ridiculous

     

    Drop an alien into this country and they wouldn’t believe how we do it

     

    ‘ You can view a house with no money? you can offer with no money? you can have it accepted with no money ( MIP not worth the paper it’s written on and if the deposit is coming from a sale you can’t prove that either) Then it takes 4 months? what are the solicitors doing for 4 months?’

     

    There are more exceptionally urgent procedures to sort of and correct rather than putting all the extra pressure on estate agents

     

    There are laws already not being adhered to with no recourse. Every single day I see properties with no EPCs, agency agreements without the full fee on inc vat, misleading write ups, misleading photos

     

    this will just be something else not done

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  5. Rob Hailstone

    Already, conveyancers pass the buck and tell there clients to ring us to speak to the other solicitor. Now, we are told to do part of their job! Why not just get rid of them and we’ll do it all! 

    Let’s get the public to instruct a conveyancer first then. The conveyancer could then reccomend an estate agent, and not charge them a referral fee:)

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  6. Chris Wood

    I met Mr Munroe a few years ago. He struck me as a generally decent, polite man at the time. Sadly, I also gained the impression that he was in a position that he was unsuited to and whose department was woefully under resourced for the role they had bid for from National Government.

    Those who have followed me on here and social media will also know that Mr Munro and I, along with Powys Council for whom he works, have what might be described as ‘history’ and may view what follows accordingly.

    Whilst I welcome more information being made available to the public as a statutory requirement, there seems little point in an organisation that has singularly failed to police the industry it is paid to serve by adding further bureaucracy to law-abiding agents to follow where they have spectacularly failed to impose any penalties on those agents who have wilfully or through ignorance continuously broken  the law on, in some cases, an industrial scale.

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    1. PeeBee

      ^^ THIS ^^

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  7. Rhino

    I have been in this ‘industry’ which was a ‘profession’ when I started over 50 years ago and with over 40 years in estate agency in the same town, have decided that the time has arrived to retire. Upon reading all these, presumably, well intentioned proposals it is perhaps not too soon.

    I have been a Chartered Surveyor and a long-time member of the NAEA and both organisations have tried to emphasise the need for qualifications and regulations but as we all know there are still a very high percentage of people within the game who have very little knowledge understanding or experience of the whole legal process of transferring property in this country and some with little wish to find out.
     I shall miss Chris Woods comments and insight over the years and his excellent understanding of the business and totally agree that without fair and efficient enforcement of the non-compliant members of the industry, it will remain a haphazardly run mess, self-policed by those with the knowledge and conscience to try and ensure some semblance of respect for their business.

     We should all embrace the opportunity to market property correctly and fairly and ensure that eventual sales will proceed with as few potential time-consuming issues as possible. It will mean doing the job properly and giving as much information on the property we are selling, as possible so that there are hopefully, fewer unforeseen problems that have to be answered later on. Sadly, for some, who are looking for a fast ‘stack-em high’turnover based on cheap or no fees, will realise it can’t be done (properly) on the ‘cheap’ and eventually fees will have to increase. However, with the regulatory bodies appearing not to take the appropriate action on the wrong doers the ‘good guys and gals’ will end up doing all the work without the proper rewards.

     As an aside to helping the existing situation, as Rob Hailstone touched upon, if everyone in the “chain” of transactions was aware of all the relevant parties, it might be easier to find where any potential hold-ups might be. Good agents do chain checks but there are sometimes holes in the system with missing information, where a less efficient agent has not completed their part of the chain. What about if we HAD to complete a sales progression form with all the relevant principals and property details (agents and conveyancers) but not perhaps all the clients details to avoid/minimise any GDPR issues. Who knows some conveyancers may even be tempted to bend the rules a bit and go beyond their immediate fellow conveyancers to clarify an issue – without the agent being asked to speak on a legal matter they may not fully understand!

     As I disappear over the hill, good luck to you all.

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    1. PeeBee

      Rhino

      When you shut the door on your career, the estate agency world will be a far worse place without your effort and input.

      Enjoy your retirement – may it be long and happy.

      Your colleague in industry,

      Paul B.

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    2. Chris Wood

      Thank you Rhino. Much appreciated. I’ll still pop up from time to time on here (just to annoy everyone if nothing else).

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