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Property agents (estate agents and letting agents) play a crucial role in ensuring that consumers make informed decisions when buying or renting a property. To achieve this, it's essential to provide consumers with "material information" in property listings. The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) has released new guidance to help us to identify and disclose this vital information on residential property listings. This guide applies to both residential property sales and lettings and it is imperative that our sellers and landlords work with us to ensure that this information is readily available to buyers and tenants in the correct time-frame, which in most instances is before they even view a property!

The Origin of 'Material Information'

This guidance does not introduce a new requirement for material information. It stems from Regulation 6 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). These regulations make it a criminal offence for businesses, including estate and letting agents, to omit or conceal "material information" that could influence the transactional decision of an average consumer. When we talk about "material information," we mean information that must be accurate, truthful, not hidden, and not misleading. The "transactional decision" encompasses deciding whether to enquire further, view a property, or proceed with a purchase or rental. The term "average consumer" refers to someone who is reasonably well-informed, observant, and cautious.

Defining 'Material Information'

The core principle of this guidance is to provide the average consumer with the information they need to make an informed decision when buying or renting a property. While the guidance offers a basic list of what NTSELAT considers the minimum material information required for buyers and renters, it encourages providing as much relevant information as possible. This list is not exhaustive, as material information can vary from property to property. It serves as an overview of the most common examples. Here are some key areas covered within the material information guidance:
  • Council Tax / Domestic Rates
  • Asking Price/Rent
  • Deposits (lettings) or Tenure (sales), including detail of any inescapable costs such as service charges, ground rents, estate rent charges, etc.
  • Physical Characteristics: Property Type, Construction Materials, and Number of Rooms
  • Utilities: Electricity Supply, Water Supply, Sewerage, Heating, Broadband, and Mobile Phone Signal/Coverage
  • Parking Availability
  • Building Safety Issues
  • Restrictions, Rights, Easements, and Wayleaves
  • Risks to Property: Flood Risk, Coastal Erosion, and Proximity to Mining
  • Planning Permission or Developments in Surrounding Areas
  • Property Accessibility Adaptations

How to Display Material Information

It is our job to make material information available to buyers and tenants at the earliest opportunity. In most cases, this is possible by prominently displaying the data from the property description. Utilising photographs and floor plans, where relevant, can enhance the presentation of this information, whether it's on a property portal or the agent's own website. In cases where we lack specific knowledge about an issue, we are expected to make reasonable enquiries and direct buyers and tenants to further information, when necessary.  It is not possible for us to 'ignore' any issue that we are aware of, and it is the duty of our client vendors and landlords to provide us with all of the information that we legally need.  

For the complete guidance on material information in property listings, please refer to the full document.

Ensuring that material information is readily available to consumers is not just a legal requirement but also a vital step towards transparency and trust in the property industry. By adhering to these guidelines, we can contribute to informed and confident decision-making by our buyers and tenants.  If you are thinking of selling or letting a property with Wills & Smerdon, we trust that you will be forthcoming with all relevant information and will not expect information to be covered up in any way.  We thank you for your co-operation and look forward to helping with your property transaction in an honest and transparent way.