Property

NTS survey on improving material information on property listings – Law Society response

The proposals

Discussion in the property sector around what should constitute ‘essential’ information provided upfront on property listings and portals has been going on for some time.

In April 2021, National Trading Standards (NTS) released a survey to assist it in developing guidance for agents to clarify what should be considered as ‘material information’.

NTS noted that estate and letting agents are obliged under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 “not to omit material information from consumers on property listings” but disclosure practices are not consistent across the industry.

Our view

Solicitors are strongly in favour of agents using property information or vendor property questionnaires for freehold, leasehold and rented properties to make sure that the relevant and pertinent questions are always covered.

To assist agents, we began piloting a facility in March 2021 that aims to make key information for home buyers and sellers available at a much earlier stage in a transaction, at the point before listing.

This new facility will be an extension of the longstanding TA6 Property information form.

Until now, the TA6 information was only collated post-offer, after a solicitor has been instructed.

Working with InfoTrack and Perfect Portal, we’ve identified key early marketing questions that can be completed by agents at the point of marketing in what will be known as the TA6 Part 1.

We believe that agents should find out about fire safety and/or cladding issues early in the marketing process (before solicitors are involved in the transaction) in order to establish that a sale can proceed.

We accept it’s not straightforward to address the many individual matters that may affect properties.

It would likely be impossible to cover all the specific details but it would be beneficial to have a list of matters that are likely to be applicable to most properties and another list setting out the more niche factors.

Being able to access material information on websites is key but we also take the view that people should be handed a copy of the relevant information or be otherwise able to download information.

For example, consumers may need to be able to get a copy of the lease upfront if the property is leasehold, given all the additional factors that need to be considered before deciding to proceed with a leasehold purchase.

What this means for solicitors

This consultation was aimed at surveyors and property agents, but any changes to what constitutes material, upfront information from NTS will be relevant to residential conveyancing solicitors.

The aim of our pilot is to assess the extent to which the answers to the questions in the TA6 Part 1 help to inform a buyer’s decision to purchase a property.

The pilot will support industry-wide initiatives to begin the systemic collection of up-front information about a property.

We expect the TA6 Part 1 to support a greater uptake of digital workflow processes, enabling data to be shared between facilities and shorter transaction times as labour intensive, manual processes are streamlined.

Next steps

This survey closed on 17 May 2021.

Read the survey on the NTS website

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