Purplebricks backtracks as EYE questions disclaimer exempting agent from liability for virtual viewings

Purplebricks appears to have been defying advice from The Property Ombudsman on virtual viewings.

EYE has discovered a disclaimer on the agent’s listings that appears to exempt itself from Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) if a property is purchased based on a virtual viewing.

The disclaimer, which features on Zoopla and Rightmove listings, said:

“If you choose to make an offer based solely on a virtual viewing, then Purplebricks does not accept any liability for errors in the information provided, including but not limited to, measurements, photography and video content in the event that a physical valuation has not been carried out.

“Should you decide to make an offer on a property, you accept that any representations made in relation to the property may be based on virtual information provided by the vendor.

“In the event that the valuation was carried out virtually, Purplebricks is not responsible for this information or its accuracy. If in any doubt, you should make additional enquiries before completion.”

TPO issued guidance on agent consumer responsibilities after seeking primary authority advice from Warwick Trading Standards in May.

The advice stated:

“Representations made during any video footage would be subject to the same legal requirements of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – this would include video footage, audio and any representations given by any person on the video (or voiceover).

“An agent is required to take all reasonable precautions and exercise all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence by himself or any person under his control.”

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, told EYE:

“As stated in the primary authority advice from Warwick Trading Standards, which TPO and Propertymark agents must follow, representations made during any video footage would be subject to the same legal requirements of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

“TPO always looks at the evidence and what is fair and reasonable in the actual circumstances – we would advise all agents to have regard to the Codes of Practice and to the Primary Authority Advice.”

A Zoopla spokesperson said: “Agents are responsible for ensuring their listings comply with relevant laws.

“We would always recommend that a prospective buyer/tenant follows the guidance of the Property Ombudsman and undertakes a physical viewing of property and does not rely solely on virtual information when making their decision.”

A Rightmove spokesperson said: “It is best practice to view a property in person before making an offer.

“In the current climate, the Government’s guidance is that virtual viewings are used before visiting a property in person to cut down on the number of physical viewings required.

“CPRs apply to all content within property details, including video, whether they are user-generated or not, and agents validate the accuracy of these details.

“Any agent who has used disclaimers like this when physical inspections were impossible due to coronavirus restrictions, should be removing them now that the market is open and properties can be visited in person.”

Trading Standards have been asked for comment.

Purplebricks said in a statement:

“Purplebricks complies with all consumer legislation and this statement doesn’t exclude any consumer rights.

“During the lockdown of the housing market, customers had to provide their own details for virtual viewings.

“While we took all reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of any details, because we weren’t able to verify descriptions or measurements, we wanted to highlight that purchasers should confirm all information is correct.”

Following sending us this statement a Purplebricks spokesperson contacted  EYE to say that the company is in the process of removing these disclaimers and said they were happy that it complied with TPO guidance.

 

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17 Comments

  1. JustPlainSavage04

    Just do a physical viewing anyway!

    all this virtual viewing business is a waste of time!!

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  2. Property Pundit

    Purplebricks backtracks

     

    We need to see a lot more of this…..

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  3. padymagic

    I’ve got two problems with this:

    A: ” measurements, photography and video content in the event that a physical valuation has not been carried out.”  Question: Does rightmove allow advertising of property by an agent who has never actually visited the property, thereby allowing vendors to in effect advertise direct on this platform?

    B: Do Purplebricks “Value” property? Are they qualified to value property? I thought only qualified surveyors could value a property and estate agents could only advise on a marketing price.  I’ve never “valued” a property just advised the client where I thought the asking price should be.  Is it me? Did I misunderstand the role of an agent (that’s not a qualified surveyor)?

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    1. Woodentop

      You are perfectly correct on both counts. Unqualified agents can only do a market appraisal of a guide price for marketing. Not what the property is worth.

       

      This is basic estate agency and requirement for decades. Many agents also undertake ‘valuations’ for probate, etc but unless you are “Qualified valuer” you could find yourself in big trouble.

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  4. Not Surprised

    I do agree that PB were wise to disclaim about listings they had no control over. If they hadn’t visited the property, hadn’t measured it, didn’t photograph it and didn’t list the features or do the write up then they shouldn’t be on the hook for any errors created by the vendor.

    That said, given that they don’t have any applicant management, wouldn’t be doing viewings and B & V can negotiate a sale without PB involvement, and given that they don’t progress sales either you have to wonder how they can even be called estate agents……

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    1. PeeBee

      “If they hadn’t visited the property, hadn’t measured it, didn’t photograph it and didn’t list the features or do the write up then they shouldn’t be on the hook for any errors created by the vendor.”

      B0110CKS. They are the Marketing Agent.  Under every regulation written that covers our industry is their LEGAL responsibility to check all details prior to publication to avoid misleading potential purchasers with incorrect information – all of which you list above.

      Suggest you read this:

      propertymark.co.uk/media/1043356/ntseat-guidance-on-property-sales.pdf

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      1. Not Surprised

        Don’t misunderstand me, I said they were wise to given that they couldn’t vouch for the accuracy under the circumstances. I’m not saying it’s right, just wise!

         

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        1. PeeBee

          “Don’t misunderstand me”
           
          No mistunderstanding made.  I simply responded to what you posted.
           
          Maybe you misunderstood yourself?
           
          “I said they were wise to given that they couldn’t vouch for the accuracy under the circumstances.”
           
          Matters not. This form of disclaimer is as much use in Law as udders on a bull.
           
          “I’m not saying it’s right…”
           
          You said that “they shouldn’t be on the hook for any errors created by the vendor” 
           
          If it is published on their website – then yes – they should.
           
          If they want to play at being Estate Agents – then they are bound by the rules.  Or at least they should be – but thereby lies the problem.
           
          They never have been bound by any of those rules yet.

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  5. smile please

    Despite all the people online crowing about how a shaky mobile phone video has sold oodles of properties over the last couple of months. I am actually yet to speak to an agent that backs this up.

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  6. SLF

    I wouldn’t recommend an offer from a virtual viewing so there’s no point in doing one.

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  7. Woodentop

    The agent is always liable for all material facts, whether known or not, period.

     

    Many agents have been successfully sued over the years for failing due diligence. Remember the ‘garden well’ high court case a couple of years back. If you cut corners, you have only yourself to blame and a poor reflection on the industry with the public.

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    1. LetItGo

      The well incident has absolutely nothing to do with material facts.

      The purpose of virtual tours is to limit the number of viewing and hence potential infection of you, your client or any potential viewers, but I guess you can’t educate mince! If you continue with this attitude you’ll end up like Leicester.

      No-one is suggesting accepting offers based solely on VT but is does limit tyre-kickers, and yes we use them because they are a great idea. You will get left behind if you don’t embrace new tech.

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      1. PeeBee

        “The well incident has absolutely nothing to do with material facts.”

        It has EVERYTHING “to do with material facts”.

        You clearly don’t understand “due diligence”.  A perfect ’employee’ for a company such as the subject of this article.

        In the Strakers case, the Agent was aware of the presence of the well prior to the incident. They took no steps – EXTREMELY EASY STEPS – to avoid incident.  As a result, the avoidable incident occurred; someone suffered – and the Agent was fined £200k for failing to avoid that suffering.

        “Suffering” doesn’t have to involve falling down a well.  It is a word used in Legal terms to encompass many things – and if you believe that the idiotic disclaimer above will keep you out of court – or the papers – then you should be sitting at home watching Jackanory and not in the business of selling homes to people – some of which will have a go at you if they find a screw loose in the loft a year after buying the property.

        As it is – Purplebricks appear to be backtracking yet again.

        If… or when… it happens – they deserve everything that gets thrown at them – and more.

         

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        1. Woodentop

          Nicely put.

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          1. PeeBee

            Thank you, Woodentop.  I do try…

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  8. PeeBee

    Okay – above in my response to ‘LetItGo’ I made reference to Purplebricks backtracking again.  Here’s the meat on the bone:

    Above it was reported that PB were “in the process of removing these disclaimers”.
    Well – more than 24 hours later – here, in descending order, are the three most recent listings** on Zoopla as at 0800 today.

    zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/55361927

    zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/55361921

    zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/55361868

    ALL of which still contain the “Disclaimer For Virtual Viewings” in the listing advert.

    And of course it’s not just the last three.  It’s ALL of them. I tested thirty yesterday and the same number today.  EVERY ONE carries the disclaimer.

    ** The three properties above are actually three of four “Most recent” listings in order.  The third on the list –

    zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/54605276

    is actually a #RElisting – first listed by PB in March so I guess you’ll have to work on the basis that this is one they are “in the process of…”

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    1. Woodentop

      Disclaimers ‘in law’ are practically worthless, so many are used but most fail on unreasonable grounds in a contract, let alone business or cumsumer protection regulations.

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