Estate and letting agents will have to add more information to property listings, following new Material Information guidance from the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.
Last year, NTSELAT published Part A of their updated guidance, which requires agents to include the rent value and that of any necessary deposit, as well as the council tax or domestic rates band when advertising the property. Last month, they finalised Parts B and C (see further down).
Agents (and other businesses) have long been required to disclose all Material Information under Consumer Protection Regulations, but until now there has been no master list of what that entails for the property sector specifically.
What is in the guidance?
Information in Part B (details immediately below) should be established for all properties and disclosed on the advert “where the information may involve some cost of maintenance or repair, [or may] knowingly impact a tenant’s enjoyment of the property, or affect the availability of relevant insurance products”.
Under Part B, all listings must include the type of property (for example, semi-detached, flat, or bungalow), as well as the number and measurements of each room. For blocks of flats, listings should additionally include which floor the flat is on. The construction and materials of the home and its access to utilities must also be disclosed if they could impose costs on the buyer or tenant – for example, if the home has a septic tank instead of mains sewage, or if the building’s construction would make insurance more expensive. Issues with mobile phone coverage or broadband availability may also be Material Information.
Part C information only needs to be included in the listing if the property is affected. This includes any known building safety issues (for example, unsafe cladding or the presence of asbestos), lease restrictions such as a ban on pets, or flood risk.
How will the new guidance affect agents?
The guidance has been welcomed by some senior industry professionals on the grounds that it protects consumers while also giving agents a clearer picture of their obligations.
But it may also create more administrative work for estate and letting agents who did not previously include this information. Several agents have compared the new Material Information guidance to Home Information Packs, which were scrapped in 2010 for adding extra admin and costs to the selling process.
Some information required in the guidance may also be difficult to establish. In fact, NTSELAT recognises this and says that agents should seek expert advice where relevant – potentially further increasing costs.
Even so, some in the industry see the new guidance as an opportunity. Gemma Young, co-founder of Moverly, argues that providing more material information upfront could save time on conveyancing later while also reducing fall-through rates.
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