Disclosure…. No I am not talking electronic music, I am talking about complying fully with The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice and with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, (knowns as CPRs).
I have noticed an increasing breach of these regulations, whether through ignorance or design and it makes me angry as it only serves to bring down my industry. It only takes a few bad apples, as the saying goes. . .
Failure to comply with CPRs is a criminal offence so you would expect all agents to fully comply and explain the law to all clients. Agents face hefty fines and banning orders and Vendors themselves can be left open to legal action even after a sale completes, whether due to a wilful or even accidental breach of these regulations.
CPR regulations are aimed at making sure buyers are treated fairly. They encourage an open and honest approach when selling your home – just as you would declare all facts when selling something on ebay! The old long standing tradition of “Caveat Emptor” (Buyer Beware) is a thing of the past and does not apply to 21st century homes sales.
In simple terms, CPRs mean agents and vendors have to declare all “material facts” to a consumer, at the earliest opportunity. A consumer is not necessarily a buyer, it could be a potential buyer – someone viewing the property. This is why our policy is to declare material facts either on the property description or, perhaps if they are more sensitive, at the point of arranging a viewing.
So what are “material facts” and when is something significant. Agents after all, are here to present properties in their best light, take flattering photos and write nice descriptions. A list of faults and defects wouldn’t go down very well with our vendors who are, at the end of the day, our paying clients. Besides, isn’t that the job of a surveyor? Well, it is confusing and we do have to walk a careful line, but it doesn’t mean we cannot be open and honest. Experience, due diligence and genuine care will mean a good agent will know what to say and when to say it – I know what is significant and what is “material” and I will inform all my clients at the outset of marketing their home in order to avoid future delays and complications during their conveyancing process.
Locally our major concern is the issue of flooding. We have homes that have been flood hit on numerous occasions and homes that only suffered in the unprecedented floods of 2015. We even have homes far away from rivers that suffered with run off from the hillsides, particularly in 2012. There is a clear duty to disclose any flood history and absolutely no point in attempting to hide it. Yet still I see homes, refurbished following the last floods being advertised as “Ideal for First Time Buyers” with no mention of the flood history.
Structural defects, bad surveys, under-pinning these are also material facts but there has to be some care when disclosing this sort of information as surveys themselves are subjective opinions. Fortunately in our area we don’t have to worry about flight paths, motorway or HS2 developments and usually things that need disclosing are perfectly obvious. The lesson is to always use a reputable agent look for members of The Property Ombudsman and look for the Propertymark sign.