Date Published 14 September 2012
So, what do the new changes actually mean? This story refers to the repeal of the Property Misdescriptions Act, and the next to the amendment of the Estate Agents Act.
Following its decision to ditch the PMA – a move strongly criticised by the NAEA – the OFT has published new guidance to help estate agents and ‘others involved in property sales’ understand their responsibilities under consumer and business protection regulations.
The OFT’s new guidance is ‘aimed at all property sales businesses, from estate agents and property developers to intermediate websites that facilitate contact between buyers and sellers’.
The guidance identifies examples of trading practices that could breach the regulations and includes practical steps that property sales businesses can take to comply with the law.
The guidance spells out that property descriptions must be accurate, whether written or oral. Pictures must also be accurate. Vitally, ‘important information’ must not be left out.
The guidance specifically covers two pieces of existing legislation: Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (BPRs).
The OFT warns that non-compliance with the CPRs and BPRs may lead to enforcement action which could in turn lead to criminal action, an unlimited fine and up to two years’ imprisonment for a conviction.
Mark Hayward, NAEA president, said: `We are concerned and disappointed that the Government has pushed forth with its plan to repeal the Property Misdescriptions Act.
`It is a decision we feel will lead to reduced levels of consumer protection for home buyers as they make what may be one of the biggest transactions of their life.
`This legislation is key in the unregulated world of estate agency, and there is little to be gained from its repeal. Instead, Government is effectively giving rogue, unprofessional agents an opportunity to mislead consumers.
`Many potential home buyers are already struggling to buy a home, and it would be remiss for them to be further penalised due to lack of protection.
`We welcome the guidance document on compliance with Consumer Protection Regulation but we believe that the unique and important nature of property purchase means consumers deserve further, stronger protection.
`We have long advised that both pieces of legislation could exist concurrently to the benefit of the consumer.`