Property description takes on new force

New rules mean agents selling property have a legal duty to mention anything they know of that may affect the likelihood of a buyer making an offer.

Following the repeal of the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 (PMA), the Consumer Protection Regulations will extend an estate agent’s duty of care to consumers as well as to selling clients.

The PMA made it an offence to make false or misleading statements in the course of estate agency business when advertising property for sale.

The CPRs are potentially more powerful than the PMA and will include a ban on misleading omissions. “This means agents will have to consider not just what they do say about a property, but also what they don’t say,” said Charlie Evans of Strutt & Parker.

“They must ensure that any applicable truths or particulars are actively made available to potential buyers.”

Examples of practices that are expected to be covered by the new rules, but weren’t under PMA, include failure to declare a covered asbestos dump or using a photograph of a farmhouse that contrives to hide a particularly intrusive pylon.

“Although in the short term it may be difficult for sellers to accept that we are required by law to mention any issues that are likely to affect a potential buyer’s decision on making an offer or not, the advantage is that this added transparency means buyers will be fully aware of any shortcomings around a farm well in advance of making an offer, which in turn should ensure that a deal does not collapse once in the solicitors’ hands,” said Mr Evans.