first_imgHome » News » Redress boss: Agents must take ‘material information’ seriously or face problems previous nextRegulation & LawRedress boss: Agents must take ‘material information’ seriously or face problemsSean Hooker of the PRS says inconsistent information uploaded to portals could increasingly expose agents to legal and regulatory action.Nigel Lewis29th April 20210564 Views Our view on National Trading Standards’ initiative around material information on the portals is that the more details that are available the more it will prevent consumer detriment and agents being exposed to complaints and legal action.In the past the objective of advertising property, as far as an agent was concerned, was to entice as many potential buyers or renters through the doors as possible.And it was also in the interest of the agent to avoid timewasters, however the view was that onus was on the customer to do the research and due diligence.The portals have changed this environment significantly as have the strengthening of consumer protection regulations and the introduction of redress.But the playing field is still inconsistent and whilst the portals have been proactive in developing the tools for agents to provide comprehensive and detailed information, the onus is still on agents to be upfront and take responsibility for the content they provide.Prescribed disclosureThere is no prescribed disclosure or format that is consistently required for agents to comply with and this is why detailed guidance is needed from NTS.Agents also need to understand the ground rules and the consequences of not providing the correct information.Too many are also tempted to use other mediums to advertise property, especially in the rental market, where the transactional turnover is quicker and the perception is that the level of detail required is less.The established portals do require a good level of details to advertise rentals, such as floor plans and utility details, but other platforms are not as diligent including the one that remains nameless (but just think of where kookaburras nest and you will know what I mean).Too often the consumer is left to find out the information themselves.Agents are also frustrated by the process as knowing the amount of material information to provide is tricky business when marketing properties.In a competitive market, the agent wants to get the property on market as quickly as possible and then sold or rented out as quickly as possible.There is the added incentive for a sales agent to get as much information as possible to avoid the transaction failing at later stage.But they rely on the information provided by the seller or landlord and in the case of selling a leasehold property, information from the freeholder.This is a challenge and one that various solutions have been tried by Government to resolve.HIPsWe all remember the Home Information Pack and those on the leasehold side are aware of the attempts to speed up the provision of information necessary for upfront disclosure.Legal requirements for gas safety and more recently electrical safety as well as minimum EPC ratings for rental property has helped clarify things and building safety is now also top of the agenda although what will need to be disclosed is a burning question.Agents are not conveyancers or surveyors but too often rely on the buyer to do the leg work on the due diligence which ends up costing them money but also the seller suffers detriment in delay and transactions falling through.Progress is being made with the roll out of the voluntary Buyers and Sellers Property Information form put together by the Home Buyers and Sellers Group ably chaired by Kate Faulkner.But no such initiative exists for the rental market and the updating of the guidance by National Trading Standards will be paramount in sorting this out.Material complaintsAs a redress scheme we increasingly see complaints across the board on material disclosure and whilst the majority are honest omissions by agents for which modest amounts of compensation are appropriate, increasingly the liability of the agent for the detriment of the consumer is falling on them.Agents should also be aware that consumers also have legal recourse under the consumer protection regulations to the level of serious breaches being criminal offences.As a Government-approved redress scheme we are also obliged to report such serious breaches to National Trading Standards, when the come across our desk.This is not a stick we yield lightly as we are aware of the challenges faced by agents in providing this information, but we are not regulators and therefore cannot enforce the law but only compensate the consumer.Sean Hooker is Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme.material information Sean Hooker PRS April 29, 2021Nigel LewisWhat’s your opinion? Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Please note: This is a site for professional discussion. Comments will carry your full name and company.This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.Related articles BREAKING: Evictions paperwork must now include ‘breathing space’ scheme details30th April 2021 City dwellers most satisfied with where they live30th April 2021 Hong Kong remains most expensive city to rent with London in 4th place30th April 2021last_img read more