Following the potential Buyer withdrawing from the transaction, the potential Sellers claimed that the Agent had fabricated information provided to the potential Buyer, including inventing offers and viewings. The Sellers also claimed that the Agent failed to deal with their complaint appropriately. The Agent’s response was that they simply applied 'gentle pressure' on a difficult purchaser to assist the progression of the transaction.
Following a survey of the property, the potential Buyer raised concerns about the source of damp at the property and, although not withdrawing from the transaction at that point, requested a delay in exchange to allow for a more detailed survey. The Agent then informed the potential Buyer that the Sellers had received a further offer on the property, which was £20,000 higher. The Agent went on to explain to the potential Buyer that the Sellers had rejected that offer, but had actually accepted an offer that was £30,000 more than the potential Buyer's accepted offer, adding that the Sellers may be persuaded to reverse their decision if the potential Buyer was ready to proceed without delay. The potential Buyer did not proceed. The Agent’s file revealed that none of these facts were correct. I also noted that Agent took two months to respond to the complaint and when they did, they did not address the complaints that had been made.
I did not consider that the fabrication of offers could be considered 'gentle pressure' and I deemed the Agent's actions to be both unfair and intentionally misleading, constituting a devious attempt to persuade the potential Buyer to progress the transaction. In my view, their actions were a clear and intentional breach of Paragraphs 9f and 9h of the TPO Code of Practice. I considered the Agent's actions caused the Sellers avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience when they became aware of the misinformation that had been provided to the potential Buyer. However, due to the unresolved damp issue, I was unable to categorically conclude that the Agent's actions were the cause of the potential Buyer withdrawing from the transaction. Overall, I made an award of £650.
Put simply, it is unacceptable to fabricate offers in an attempt to persuade a potential buyer to take a particular course of action. Whether or not such action is a misguided attempt to benefit the seller, it is neither fair nor ethical and is a clear breach of the TPO Code of Practice, specifically Paragraphs 9f and 9h. Such behaviour impacts on the reputation of all estate agents and TPO will always contact the agent concerned seeking written assurances from directors that such practices will not be tolerated.