In February 2022, Trading Standards and the Government made a joint announcement regarding the provision of material information.
The deadline of the end of May for the first phase of the changes has now passed.
So, what’s been introduced, and how will agents be affected?
What was announced?
The changes, led by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT), mean that a property’s council tax band or rate (for lettings and sales), the rent (lettings only) and the property price and tenure information (for sales) must be included on all property listings by the end of May.
Some portals began including data fields for these particulars in the lead-up to the deadline.
This forms the first phase of a three-phase project by NTSELAT, collaborating with industry leaders and the country’s largest property portals to clarify what amounts to ‘material information’ for property listings.
For several years now, there has been a push to include more upfront information on property listings to give buyers and tenants a better idea of the home they are purchasing or letting.
NTSELAT says Part A of the three-phase project includes information that is considered material for all properties, while two further phases are in development. These additional phases will consist of further material information – for instance, restrictive covenants, flood risk and other specific factors that could impact certain homes.
If new data fields for tenure, price and council tax are left empty by an agent, these will be flagged on the listing so customers can be fully aware of what information is not there. Additionally, this will link to advice on why that information is vital and how to find it.
The body insists it wants all material information to be mandatory on property listings once all three project phases are complete.
NTSELAT argues that it has evidence highlighting ‘overwhelming support’ within the industry for the compulsory disclosure of material information.
James Munro, senior manager at NTSELAT and a Trading Standards officer of many years standing, said the announcement was an ‘important milestone’ in the journey to improve material information on property listings.
As a result of the changes, Munro claimed that consumers would better understand why certain information such as a property’s tenure is crucial, enabling them to make informed decisions when they start a property search.
The National Trading Standards website offers a complete list of the Part A material information. It also summarises the type of information included in Parts B and C.
Complete guidance for the industry is also being produced alongside industry partners to cover all three phases, while advice will be available to support consumers looking to buy, sell or rent a property.
Largely welcomed by the industry since they were announced, the changes were supported by a steering group with members from redress schemes and professional bodies representing agents, while the three leading portals – Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket – also played their part, in conjunction with software companies.
How are agents and landlords affected?
When listing a home, letting agents now need to include their property’s council tax band or rate to provide would-be tenants with this crucial information.
The monthly rent and any deposit payable also must be made apparent on all property listings for lettings.
Equally, landlords looking to sell properties will need to include the tenure information (freehold, leasehold or commonhold) on any property listings. Further changes are coming that agents and landlords will also need to be aware of further down the line. While the changes aren’t massive, they are essential to fully comply with the new rules.
The push for greater transparency and clarity across the board is certainly welcomed, but there is likely to be a bedding-in period as everyone gets used to the new way of doing things.