On 1st October 2016, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme will issue updated versions of its Codes of Practice, in order to address emerging industry issues.
Primarily, TPO aims to eradicate the practice of portal juggling – when an agent misleads customers by removing and relisting homes on property portals, enabling them to hide price cuts and give the impression that a property is new to the market when it is not.
The Property Ombudsman Updates Codes of Practice
Other updates include:
- Disclosure on pre-contract deposits – to clearly define the actions required to ensure all parties involved in a pre-contract deposit arrangement have agreed to the terms and conditions attached to the payment.
- VAT on fees – to ensure that all fees and charges are quoted inclusive of VAT.
- Disclosure of referencing – to add the provision that landlords receive all relevant facts, regardless of whether the tenant has met or failed to meet the referencing criteria.
The Chairman of TPO Board, Gerry Fitzjohn, explains: “The decision was taken to carry out a full review of the codes to reflect market developments and provide clear definitions of unfair practices. Our codes already state that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful, but now go one step further to clarify that portal juggling, in its various forms, is misleading to consumers. Evidence of member agents found to be carrying out such poor practice could be reported to the Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee (DSC), NTSEAT and/or local Trading Standards.
“As the industry changes, it’s necessary to release new versions of our codes to ensure agents fully understand their responsibilities and adhere to best practice.”
The Ombudsman, Katrine Sporle, will apply the new Codes of Practice when reviewing consumer complaints regarding events that have occurred after 1st October 2016, to determine whether or not a TPO-registered member has breached the high level of standards required.
Issues included in the new codes will be covered in greater depth at TPO’s annual Raising Standards Conference on 12th October 2016 at the National Conference Centre, Solihull.
The working group for the updated codes included trade associations, representatives from large and small estate and letting agents, and a representative from TPO’s independent council.
All TPO Codes of Practice have been revised, including: Residential Estate Agents, Residential Letting Agents, Residential Estate Agents (Scotland), Residential Letting Agents (Scotland), Buying Agents, Property Buying Companies, Commercial and Membership Obligations.
The CEO of the HomeOwners Alliance, Paula Higgins, comments on the changes: “Buying a house is the biggest purchase of your life, and you need to know the information you have is accurate when deciding whether to view and, more importantly, how to decide and negotiate the price. Without accurate information, homebuyers are at a big disadvantage and estate agents and their clients, the home seller, are the winners. This isn’t a level playing field. We’re glad to see the regulator stepping in.”