UK property sales: buyers to benefit from new transparency rules

 

All property sales listings will soon be required to include a set of compulsory details, and most in the industry are welcoming the increase in openness. 

From the end of May this year, there will be a rollout of a new set of rules governing property sales advertisements and listings in the UK. The change is being brought about by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team in a bid to improve transparency.

Anyone listing property will need to include certain “material information” about it for buyers, including the council tax band or rate, house price and tenure information. Property portals, such as Rightmove and Zoopla, will be adding these fields in the coming weeks.

This constitutes the first of three phases of the rollout. Ultimately, there will be further material information incorporated as a requirement for all property sales. This will include things like restrictive covenants and flood risk information – much of which wouldn’t be discovered until later by the buyer.

How could new measures help property sales?

The idea behind the changes is to offer prospective buyers more information on properties from the outset. This will allow them to make a more informed decision, as well as reduce time wasted by minimising fall-throughs.

James Munro, senior manager of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, says: “These technical changes will prompt all players in the property market to do things a bit differently.

“Vendors and agents may find that bringing conveyancers on board at the outset helps ensure all information is available for marketing, and issues with things like restrictive covenants or boundaries can be addressed earlier.

“For consumers, a better understanding of why certain information such as a property’s tenure is important will enable them to make informed decisions when they embark on a property search.”

Many believe the new measures will allow both agents and conveyancers to be more efficient. This should decrease the time it takes to get from sale agreed through to completion.

Theresa Wallace, chair of The Lettings Industry Council, adds: “The material information project is a crucial piece of work to ensure that consumers looking at buying or renting property can make an informed decision earlier in the process.”

“The objective is to provide consumers with more information prior to viewing a property. This will be a big change for the industry who have come together to support this initiative and The Lettings Industry Council felt it was important to be a part of a project that can have a real benefit for consumers.”

What information to include in your listing

As mentioned above, there will be three stages of information disclosure, with the first coming into effect from May 2022.

Part A includes “information that, regardless of outcome, is always considered material for all properties regardless
of location. This information generally involves unavoidable costs that will be incurred by the occupier regardless of the use of the property.”

This would include things like freehold and leasehold status. If leasehold, additional information to assist property sales would include things like ground rent, length of lease and shared ownership status.

Council tax also falls under this bracket, as does monthly rent if the property is for let, as well as deposit payable.

At a later date, Parts B and C will come into play. Part B will be information that will apply to all properties, such as utilities, as well as where non-standard features would affect someone’s decision to view a property.

Part C will bring in additional information that may or may not need to be established. It applies to properties affected by the issue itself, such as the location of the property.

Support from the industry

Once the measures are established, they will be mandatory. If an agent misses a compulsory piece of information, this will be flagged up in the property sales listing.

David Cox, legal and compliance director at Rightmove, says that 80% of listings on the property portal already include the current tenure. This is up from 70% last year.

“We hope that having an industry-agreed official list of material information will better help agents know exactly all the info they need to add when they’re advertising properties,” he adds.

Sean Hooker, head of redress at The Property Redress Scheme, is another advocate of the new guidelines. He says: “This is great news for the consumer and will lead to a much more transparent and consistent way of introducing properties to the market.

“It will also give clarity and assurance to agents that they are doing the right thing, will set the ground rules on what is expected and avoid the consequences of not providing a good level of information. Fewer complaints, faster transactions, happier customers, what is not to like?”

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UK property sales: buyers to benefit from new transparency rules

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