Estate and letting agents are being asked to contribute to make it easier for consumers to find out all the essentials about a home that they are looking to buy or rent.
National Trading Standards is launching an initiative to make it as easy as possible for estate and letting agents to provide basic information.
It believes that although the amount of information may vary depending on the individual property, some details are relevant to nearly all listings.
It said that by providing essential information on property listings and on portals – the starting point for the vast majority of property searches and transactions – agents will be able to meet their legal requirements at the start of the consumer “journey”.
The National Trading Standards estate and letting agency team is developing guidance for agents to clarify what should be considered as material information.
The team wants to hear agents’ views on the topic in a survey launched on Tuesday. The deadline for responses is May 17.
The poll will ask agents about what should be defined as material information, including information on building safety, utilities and property tenure.
Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, estate agents and letting agents have a legal obligation not to omit material information from consumers on property listings. But National Trading Standards said current practices around disclosure are not consistent across the industry.
Alongside the survey, National Trading Standards published research involving people who have moved in the past three years or are looking to move in the next three years.
It found that nine in 10 (90%) of those who use property portals would prefer to find detailed or key information about a property when they are searching on the portal.
A total of 87% agreed that property portals should include all key information about a home in their property listing.
More than half (55%) said that they would be less likely to buy or rent a property where information was missing on the listing.
And 40% assumed that missing information meant that something was wrong with the property.
James Munro, senior manager of the National Trading Standards estate and letting agency team, said: “Buying or renting a home is one of the biggest purchasing decisions that a consumer will make in their lifetime.
“We want to make it easier for agents to provide basic material information to consumers by ensuring more of this information is published on property listings.
“By participating in the survey, agents will help us provide clarity to the industry and ensure consumers can access relevant, essential information when they start their property search.”
To support agents across the industry and help them meet the legal requirements, the National Trading Standards estate and letting agency team is working with property portals and industry groups.
This work is being developed with organisations including Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket, the Property Ombudsman, Propertymark, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), the Lettings Industry Council and the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA).
Rightmove’s legal and compliance director David Cox said: “The information that agents need to find out before marketing a property varies so much depending on the type of home, and so we support the drive to provide clear industry-wide guidance on basic material information.
“Unlike price and number of bedrooms which is already available on all listings, there are some features that aren’t displayed in every case, such as tenure, and so we’d like to hear from agents about what challenges they face in collecting this type of information.
“Once a list is finalised we can help by explaining to prospective sellers and landlords what information they should already be starting to gather when they are thinking of coming to market, and help buyers and tenants understand what’s in the list and why.”
Richard Price, director of UKALA, said: “We are keen to be involved in initiatives like this that enable UKALA members to operate on a level playing field.”
The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NTSELATIS.