Dealing with Estate Agents
Love them or loathe them but property is big business in the UK and despite the growing trend to dispense with them, they are still by far the preferred method when selling and renting.
How do you pick one?
Unlike other professions, there are no formal mandatory qualifications required – although you can gain qualifications offered by the National Federation of Property Professionals.
There is also no single regulatory body which governs the profession. Instead they may be members of associations like the Independent Network of Estate Agents, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the National Association of Estate Agents and also the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
Having an estate agent who is a member of a professional association should go some way to alleviating your concerns about standards.
My own local authority (Newham) have introduced a lettering agents rating scheme which allocates ratings of 0 to 5 to currently 159 agents in the borough.
You should also not be shy to ask for references from past and current clients, especially if you can’t readily see feedback from social platforms like Google reviews and Trustpilot.
Make sure they are good for the money – check their filed accounts if they are a limited company; ask for evidence of insurance cover.
Estate agents like consumer facing industries are subject to oversight by the Office of Fair Trading.
They are also bound by the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 which came into force on 13 June 2014.
If you have exhausted the internal complaints of an estate agent, you can refer the matter to the Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Service: Property or the Property Redress Scheme all which looks at poor service.
Since Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 it is compulsory for estate agents to be a member of one of the three ombudsman scheme set out above.
The starting point is to refer to your contract with the estate agents to see if there has been a breach of contractual duties to you.
They may also be in breach of statutory obligations under Estate Agents Act 1979, Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the Business Protection from Misleading Markets Regulations 2008, as well as the Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.
In tort they can also be liable in professional negligence if a duty of care is owed to you which is breached and causes you loss. The standard is what a reasonably competent estate agent would have/would not have done in the circumstances.
It can be worrying given that there is no formal compulsory qualification or regulation of the profession. In rentals, they sometimes are called upon to undertake legal exercises such as drafting tenancy agreements and serving evictions notices, both of which have undergone extensive changes since the Deregulation Act 2015.
Prevention is always better than cure so do your research and pick a good one. But don’t despair if it’s all gone wrong as there is certainly recourse for remedies.