After viewing the property and making an acceptable offer, the potential buyer, Mr A, found out through his solicitor that there were planning permission and title issues. Mr A subsequently complained to the Agent that this information had not been divulged or included in the sales particulars. The Agent argued that reference had been made to the planning issue and commented that it was not their role to investigate the title of the property.
I observed that the property had an unusual layout as it was arranged as two studio flats and a one bedroom flat with access to the garden. I also noted that, while the sales particulars provided by the Agent stated that this arrangement was subject to planning permission, that statement was missing from the copy provided by Mr A. My examination of the Agent’s file found no record of the seller’s approval of the particulars or any amendments made to the document thereafter. Furthermore, I noted that the Agent had not asserted that the planning permission statement was included when responding to Mr A’s complaint.
I advised that it was not necessarily the Agent’s role to investigate the title to the property and that they were entitled to rely on the seller’s assurance that he held the freehold title. However, I considered that the layout of the property was such that it ought to have been sufficient to put the Agent on notice with regard to potential planning permission issues and I considered that verification that the relevant permission had been granted ought to have been obtained from the seller as a result. I supported the complaint to this extent and made an award of £200.
Paragraph 5h of the TPO Code of Practice requires agents to take all reasonable steps to ensure that all statements made about a property are accurate and not misleading. Under the CPRs the Agent was required to disclose any material information of which they were aware in relation to the property. In this case, given the layout of the property, I expected the Agent to take reasonable steps to investigate possible planning issues with the seller and, thereafter, divulge that information.