National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team’s industry guidance on referral fees

Published on Wednesday, 06 March 2019. Posted in Press Releases

National Trading Standards has published new guidance on referral fees received by estate agents across the UK, which will make previously hidden fees open and transparent to consumers.

The new guidance was produced by the NTS Estate Agency Team with assistance from The Property Ombudsman, NAEA Propertymark, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Guild of Property Professionals and the Property Redress Scheme.

The NTS Estate Agency Team guidance concludes that referral fees for connected services are permissible, but in accordance with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, should be disclosed by agents to sellers and buyers where relevant. The guidance also includes a number of examples as well as a model form that agents should use to provide the fee information to consumers.

National Trading Standards are due to report to Ministers on agent compliance with its guidance after monitoring the market for the next 12 months. Ministers have confirmed that a ban on referrals fees remains on the table and will be considered against the results of the monitoring.

The guidance on ‘transparency of fees’ can be found here.

Mark McLaren, Chair of TPO’s Consumer Forum and Non-Executive Board Member commented:

“It is important for both buyers and sellers to be aware of the true cost of any service being recommended by estate agents. Whether this is relates to conveyancing, removal firms or producing Energy Performance Certificates, clearly disclosing the benefit that the agent will receive at the earliest possible stage is the right thing to do. By providing this important information, consumers can compare the services on offer and make an informed decision.”

The NTS Estate Agency team have advised that agents who need further advice should contact their professional body or trade association and that members of the public should raise any concerns about referral fees not being disclosed to Citizen’s Advice on 03454 04 05 06.

ENDS

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NOTES TO THE EDITOR

Any issues regarding this document should be addressed to the process owner.

Notes to the editor:

What is The Property Ombudsman?

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered agent. The scheme was established in 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose, achieving a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and/or for aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered agent.

TPO is funded through membership subscriptions and case fees and is free to all consumers.

At 31 December 2018 over 15,818 sales offices and 14,746 letting offices were registered with TPO.

Independence

Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Board which is chaired by a member of the House of Lords and with the majority of its members being independent from the industry.

The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered agent. However, registered agents can be referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel agents from the scheme and/or report them to the appropriate authorities, with the power to ban agents from carrying out estate agency business.

Further information

The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, case summaries, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered agents.

For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk