Industry ramps up awareness of new ‘material information’ guidance for agents
The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) has published new guidance to help agents meet their requirements under Part A of the process to improve material information in property listings.
The guidance, which is not compulsory, has been developed in partnership with industry leaders and the UK’s major property portals, including Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and PropertyPal.
The guidance can be found on a new, dedicated webpage on the National Trading Standards (NTS) website, which will include all key documents published by NTSELAT as part of its material information work.
Part A of this three-phase process covers information considered material for all properties, including:
the property price/rental price
the council tax band (or property rates information in Northern Ireland)
tenure information (for sales).
The property portals have been working to include new data fields on their sites, many of which are now in place. If these new fields are left empty by an agent, this is flagged on the listing so consumers can see what information is missing. In many cases, the fields also include a link to advice for consumers as to why that information is important and how to find it.
James Munro, senior manager of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said: “For years, agents have been calling for clarity around the disclosure of material information and it’s brilliant to see the property industry coming together to deliver a better service for consumers looking to buy or rent a home. I’m particularly grateful to the portals for their commitment and efforts to get Part A off the ground and I hope the new guidance will help them as they support agents to make the required information available.”
David Cox, Rightmove’s Legal and Compliance Director, commented: “Our new fields for property listings will help agents to comply with the new material information guidelines from NTSELAT. We’ve also introduced a new glossary of terms on listings, to help home-hunters understand each of the material information terms and why they are important. Where information is not provided by the agent, a message will display on the listing telling home-hunters to get in touch with the agent for the missing information.”
Richard Donnell, executive director at Zoopla, said: “We’re supportive of any proposals that will improve transparency for consumers when it comes to buying or renting a home. The Part A requirements for property listings are a very important step towards this. To ensure this transition to more transparency is as seamless as possible, we’ve been collaborating closely with both our customers and NTS to implement these new changes. We look forward to working closely together on the next milestone in this journey to improve consumer awareness.”
Mairéad Carroll, RICS senior specialist, Land and Property Standards, remarked: “The guidance should provide greater clarity to agents when publishing property listings and aid prospective buyers looking through property portals. Upfront information will support buyers with initial decisions in inquiring about a property or arranging a viewing, but should be supported with professional advice such as that provided by a solicitor or a surveyor. The new guidance is a welcome step and is backed by RICS, but more can be done to support both buyers and sellers in understanding material information and we will continue to work with NTSELAT and the steering group to improve the homebuying process for consumers.”
Lesley Horton, deputy ombudsman at The Property Ombudsman, said: “This is very positive progress towards full disclosure of material information being embedded in property listings on the portals. By providing more material information at the point a consumer first becomes aware of a property, the less likely transactions are to fail, leading to higher consumer trust and confidence in the sector. We therefore welcome NTSELAT’s new ‘Part A’ material information guidance.”
Sean Hooker, head of redress at The Property Redress Scheme, added: “This has been an excellent example of collaboration across the industry. Agents now have both the tools as provided by the portals and the guidance clearly laid down in this document. This will help eliminate ambiguity on what should be disclosed upfront to consumers, increase trust and reduce complaints to the redress schemes. This demonstrates a responsible industry, supporting and protecting its customers and providers in a positive way.”
In its White Paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom, published earlier this year, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities reiterated the importance of this process and signalled that the case for legislation would be kept under review.
A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to working with the property sector to improve the home buying and selling process; supporting our mission to level up the country and create a fair housing system that works for everyone. We intend to set out our plans for the future of home buying and selling in due course, including improving the quality of upfront information available to buyers, and driving digitalisation of the residential property sector. We see this work led by NTSELAT as key to helping us drive this agenda.”
The list of material information required for Part A was announced in February this year and a further two phases are being developed. Part B will include information which must be established for all properties, such as 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 which may nor may not need to be established, depending on whether the property is affected or impacted by the information.
The updated list of required Part A information can be found here. All important information about the phased changes being introduced on property portals is now available on the NTS website.