Following their purchase of the property, the buyers, Mr and Mrs B, raised a complaint with the Agent, pointing out that although the particulars detailed that the garage benefitted from a vehicle inspection pit, there was actually no such facility.
Considering the submissions provided by both parties, it was apparent that the Agent’s market appraisal and initial sales particulars made no reference to an inspection pit. Indeed, the property had been previously marketed via another agent whose sales particulars also made no reference to an inspection pit. However, the Agent argued that on being informed by the seller’s son of the apparent existence of the inspection pit, they amended the sales particulars accordingly, yet did not attend the property to verify its existence, taking the information provided by the son in good faith.
Given that there was no record of the existence of the inspection pit in the Agent’s notes or the previous agent’s marketing material, I considered that the Agent was put ‘on notice’ that the information provided by the seller’s son should have been verified before the property particulars were amended. I, therefore, considered that the Agent had not demonstrated that they fully adhered to their obligations under Paragraphs 5h and 5i of the
TPO Code of Practice, by taking reasonable steps to ensure the property details were accurate. I supported the complaint and made an award of £200. In reaching that decision, I advised Mr and Mrs B that as the buyers, they also had a responsibility to satisfy themselves that the property met their requirements and if the inspection pit was a material factor in them purchasing the property, then I would have also expected them to take steps to verify its existence during viewings. It was certainly not an aspect that an average consumer would consider material to their purchase.
Amending property particulars to include additional aspects without verifying their existence is simply bad practice. Paragraphs 5h and 5k of the TPO Code of Practice, points out that not only should property particulars be legal, decent, honest and truthful in accordance with the relevant advertising codes, the CPRs require agents to take all reasonable steps to ensure that all statements made about a property are accurate and not misleading. In this case reasonable steps would have involved attending the property to determine whether or not there was an inspection pit.