Country houses for sale

New law to protect homebuyers

A new law which will make life difficult for rogue estate agents is due to come into force next year, as more emphasis is placed on consumer rights. The Consumer, Estate Agents and Redress Bill will:

  • Make it compulsory for all estate agents to belong to an independent ombudsman with powers to awards compensation to buyers or sellers; and agents who refuse to join could be investigated and banned from the market
  • Require estate agents to keep written records of dealings with buyers and sellers for six years, to be inspected without notice
  • Give greater powers to the OFT to remove rogue estate agents from the market
  • Streamline and strengthen consumer representation by creating a new stronger consumer advocate, bringing together the National Consumer Council, Energywatch and Postwatch

Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, said: ‘This is a real victory for consumers and puts companies with shoddy services on notice that they will need to clean up their act.

‘This is also a powerful piece of legislation which has benefited from cross-party input and support. More than ever before, it confirms that, in a competitive world, what is good for consumers is good for Britain.’

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) also welcomed the legislation, but said it could go further. Peter Bolton King, Chief Executive at the NAEA, said: ‘This is clearly a positive step for the industry. We believe redress for consumers is extremely important, to the extent that we already insist all our members belong to an independent redress scheme.

‘While the latest legislation is certainly welcome, moving forward there are a few key issues still to be dealt with. As we have said before redress on its own is not enough. Initiatives need to be put in place to prevent bad practice from happening in the first instance. By requiring all agents to belong to an approved industry body with competency standards the government could very easily address this issue. The industry does in fact already have the structure in place for this to be achieved quickly and in a straightforward manner and we urge the government to consider this.’