‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ (Newton’s third law of motion)

In our earlier piece ‘So what is Material Information’ we outlined the information (under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations) that must be provided in property particulars ‘to enable buyers to reach a transactional decision’.  This followed publication of Part A of Trading Standards’ guidance, Parts B and C having just been published.

Obviously any attempt to help our clients reach an early and educated decision as to whether to purchase – or even view – a particular property are to be welcomed, however, we have grave concerns as to the potential for compliance to dramatically slow down the time it will take for a selling agent to open the door to buyers (whether on or off market):

While the Guidance suggests that ‘prospective buyers may be directed to the relevant authority website for details on planning applications and larger developments’, it is arguable that, to be totally protected, an agent should commission Local Authority Searches (indeed, the Guidance suggests this on page 8).

If Trading Standards were to enforce this, it would dramatically delay getting a property to market:

So, if searches for every house were required pre-marketing, this predicts an increase in search requests by at least 8 times – which potentially implies a delay of 16 weeks from instruction to marketing!

We hope we are not being unduly alarmist – after all, the saving grace with all recent regulations is that meaningful enforcement is rarely adequately resourced (it is nearly two years since Trading Standards defined, under Part A,  that quoting ‘Price on application’ was ‘unlawful’ – yet many agents continue to do so).   It will probably take a disgruntled buyer or two making a formal complaints before Trading Standards bare their teeth (and their sanctions can bite deep –  ranging from fines to a ‘banning order’) for agents to prove truly diligent in their compliance……..

Bizarrely, the regulations don’t define the address of a property as being material!!