Suffolk Trading Standards Issues Advice to Estate Agents & Letting Agents

Suffolk Trading Standards are committed to creating a level playing field for all businesses and business sectors that operate within the county. Equally important is ensuring that all businesses comply with their legal obligations. As such, we are keen to offer advice wherever possible to ensure compliance. The following is the content of a letter that will be sent to over 200 Estate Agents and Letting Agents across the county in the very near future. The purpose of this article is to provide easy, one-stop access to all of the links and sources of information contained within the letter.

To access the information via the links below, simply right-click the link and open in another window.

“Dear Sir/Madam

Recent changes to legal obligations on Estate Agents & Letting Agents

Consumer Rights Act 2015 – Letting Agents display of fees

ASA Adjudication – Display of percentage sales fees

Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

Following recent complaints and enquiries Suffolk Trading Standards would like to bring the enclosed information to the attention of all Estate and Letting Agents based in Suffolk. The information and guidance includes legal updates that may affect your business and is designed to ensure that all Suffolk Estate Agents and Letting Agents are directed to the relevant information to assist them with compliance with consumer protection law.

As of the 27th of May 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 there is a duty on letting agents to publicise details of relevant fees at their business premises and on their websites. The Act states that fees must be clearly displayed and must include a description of each fee and the service it covers and state clearly if the charge applies to the property being let or each individual tenant. These fees should include VAT.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made an adjudication in November 2014 that sales fees figures should include VAT when it is possible for a VAT inclusive fee to be calculated in advance as a percentage. This adjudication seeks to ensure that all competitors in the Estate Agency industry display in all advertisements, (that includes leaflets, letters and promotional boards) the percentage sales fee in the same way for the benefit and understanding of consumers.

In summary the percentage sales fees should be displayed, as per the adjudication, to include the current rate of VAT e.g. a sales fee of 2.5% + VAT should be advertised as 3%. Adding an “inclusive of VAT” type statement is optional. Flat-rate sales fees should also be adjusted to include the current rate of VAT e.g. a sales fee of £495 + VAT should be advertised as £594. Adding an “inclusive of VAT” type statement is optional.

The ASA adjudication on the matter can be found at the link below:

https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2014/11/IMS-Residential-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_276939.aspx#.VXALfPxVikq 

The Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) provide guidance for letting agents on the matters listed above and can be found at: www.arla.co.uk

In addition the Property Ombudsman also provide general information on industry maters that can be found at: www.tpos.co.uk

Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 consumers are provided general protection from unfair or misleading trading practices and misleading omissions. This piece of consumer protection law covers all business contracts with a consumer including Estate and Letting Agents. Broadly speaking, if consumers are treated fairly and not mislead, then traders are likely to be complying with the Regulations.

The information and links to guidance in this letter are designed to assist your business in understanding the relevant law but it cannot cover every scenario and is not a substitute for reading the Consumer Rights Act and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations which can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk

If you have any further questions or wish to use hyperlinks to any of the links above please visit the Suffolk Trading Standard’s blog at: www.suffolktradingstandards.wordpress.com

Yours sincerely,

Suffolk Trading Standards

UPDATE 22/07/2015 – The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team has prepared a draft of revised guidelines on property sales, to replace the old guidance issued by the Office of Fair Trading.  Find out more here.

About suffolktradingstandards
Suffolk Trading Standards is working towards creating and fair and safe trading environment. By creating empowered consumers, that are armed with the knowledge to stop 'rogue traders'.

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