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Full Material Information Guidance Published

30 November 2023
  • New guidance for sales and letting agents covers all three phases of programme
  • Aim is to help agents to meet their existing legal requirements under the CPRs
  • Material information guides also available to support landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers

Parts B and C* of the process to improve material information disclosure in property listings are published today within comprehensive new guidance for sales and letting agents.  

Representing the culmination of a programme of work led by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) alongside industry leaders and the UK’s major property portals including Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and Property Pal**, the guidance has been developed in response to agents’ calls for clarity on what constitutes material information.

Part B is information that should be covered for all properties – such as the type of property, the building materials used, the number of rooms and information about utilities and parking. Part C is information that only needs to be established if the property is affected by the issue – such as flood risk or restrictive covenants. Part A was announced last year and includes council tax band or rate, property price or rent and tenure information (for sales). 

Agents are already obliged under the Consumer Protection Regulations (CPRs) not to omit any material information on property listings. Although material information is any information that is important in helping an average consumer make a decision about a property, until now there hasn’t been a defined list of the basic information required. This has left agents vulnerable to enforcement action, and the aim of this guidance is to help them meet their obligations and reduce this risk. By engaging conveyancers to help them prepare the relevant details at the start of the sales or letting process agents will reap the benefits, with shorter transaction times and fewer fall-throughs that result from important information coming to light. 

Sellers will be advised to bring a conveyancer on board at an early stage to help ensure validated information is available to the agent for marketing and that issues like restrictive covenants or boundaries are addressed at an early stage. Buyers or renters will see new data fields appearing on portals and any left empty will be flagged and will have a link explaining what’s missing. This will help consumers understand the benefits of being fully informed before embarking on moving home.

NTSELAT will be monitoring take up on the portals over the next 12 months and agents can use free text to input information whilst waiting for any dedicated categories. As ever, under the CPRs any information can be deemed material if it impacts a consumer’s transactional decision so agents should continue to be mindful of this. 

In addition to the guidance on its dedicated webpage, NTSELAT has published short guides for agents, sellers and landlords, and buyers and tenants. It will also be delivering a series of webinars in partnership with steering group members. 

Evidence has consistently shown overwhelming support amongst agents for the mandatory disclosure of material information, with a survey of agents in 2021 finding that 91% agreed that a defined list of basic material information would help improve clarity for the industry.*** 

James Munro, Senior Manager of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said:

“For years, property agents have grappled with what information they should be providing and how, and when it should be disclosed. Their call for help was clear. And too many consumers suffer emotionally and financially because important information crops up late in the process and the transaction falls through. That’s why I’m delighted to publish this guidance today, as the culmination of nearly three years’ work in collaboration with our partners to define and clarify what constitutes material information and to ensure that agents can access that information promptly and with the support they need.  

“This industry-wide effort will create consistency and raise standards across the board, and I would like to thank all those who were involved, in particular, the property portals, industry leaders and agents themselves who have made such an important contribution.

“With all sections of the industry ready to support agents I am confident the process of change will be smooth and that the benefits – faster transactions, fewer complaints and fall-throughs and ultimately, greater consumer trust – will be quickly felt.” 

Lesley Horton, Deputy Ombudsman, The Property Ombudsman, said:

“Buying or renting a property is one of the most expensive and important decisions a consumer can make. Our data tells us that consumers value transparent and relevant information to support their decisions. Availability of good quality information earlier in the process will benefit consumers and should support the reduction of fall-throughs. Agents will have more certainty about the information they are providing and will see the benefit of a reduced risk of failed transactions. NTSELAT has worked closely with industry members to provide detailed guidance that support agents and consumers alike. We look forward to working with our members and all our consumer and industry stakeholders as NTSELAT’s guidance beds in.”

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress, Property Redress Scheme, said:

“This has been a phenomenal joint effort by everyone across the property sector. The obligations for transparency, and upfront information are far from new, but here for the first time is a comprehensive guide to what a property professional is expected and needs to provide to the consumer. It will help clarify the what ifs, the how tos and where to finds, when compiling property listings but also provide a blueprint for material information requirements throughout the entire marketing and transacting of property sales and lettings.

“As a major provider of redress, we also welcome the clarity and consistency, this will provide for when resolving complaints and will work with agents to raise standards and overcome the short-term challenges they face as they come up to speed.”

David Cox, Rightmove's General Counsel, said: 

“For a long time agents have wanted clarity and consistency about the material information that they need to include on property listings, so we hope the full guidance published today will achieve both of those. We know that there will be a period of transition as agents consider the new information that they need to include on listings, so we’re providing a range of resources, including webinars and a new CPR training course, to help agents feel confident in understanding and complying with the new guidance. We’ll also be updating our glossary of terms to help home-hunters understand each of the new material information terms and why they are important.”

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, said:

“Providing a defined list will make it much easier for estate agents to know what has to be provided.  Overall though this will benefit consumers and stakeholders where the information will be gathered at the point of listing to identify the Material Information relevant to that property. Of course where this has been gathered and reviewed by the seller’s conveyancer that will only reduce transaction times, as it will all be available to buyers and their conveyancers on sale agreed, avoiding the post code lottery of delays for searches in some areas. Plus, with 90% of transactions going through while the search is up to date, the buyer will be able to rely on the searches obtained to check for Material Information thus reducing fall throughs and transaction delays.”

Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, said:

“Propertymark are always keen to see and be involved with collaboration across the property sector, with key stakeholders working together to understand industry challenges and creating solutions that achieve a functional balance for all.

"To have essential information presented with a new level of clarity will help drive consumer confidence and assist agents with delivering essential detail with a unified approach. Propertymark are strong advocates for embracing technology and appreciate in an ever-digitised world, it will be crucial to stay at the forefront of innovation, in order to support the collation and delivery of many areas of the guidance going forward."

Paul Offley, Group Compliance Officer & Director, The Guild of Property Professionals, said:

“Whilst this is not new legislation in itself it is good to have some clarity and consistency on what is deemed material information. This will help sales and lettings agents ensure that those involved with the transaction have all the information in order to make an informed decision. Whilst this may mean some changes in the information obtained in the long term it has the real benefit of reducing queries at a later date and therefore giving an opportunity to reduce the time between sale agreed and exchange and contribute to the number of ‘fall-throughs’. As with all change, it may take time to fully embed but this is a major step in the industry looking at how it can improve the home buying process. Overall, this is a good way forward for both consumers and agents. We will now be hosting various webinars and briefing sessions across all of our members to help implementation.”

Andrew Bulmer, Chief Executive, The Property Institute, said: 

 “The Property Institute, as the leading professional body for residential property managers, welcomes publication of this National Trading Standards guidance to help build common understanding of what is meant by ‘material information’ in property sales and lettings. This comprehensive and pragmatic guidance will help raise standards by encouraging a consistent and transparent approach to sharing material information. It is a great example of how key stakeholders in our sector can collaborate effectively to move the industry forward to help consumers make informed decisions, in what can be a very challenging and opaque process.”  

Andrew Simpson, Head of Innovation Business Development at the Coal Authority, said: 

"Understanding coal mining legacy can be an important part of buying a home and we're glad to see this new guidance being created which will improve the process for both buyers and sellers.

"It's been great to work with the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team on this project to ensure upfront material information is provided across the industry."

 

Notes 

*List of material information for Parts B and C 

(NB: The examples given are not an exhaustive list – please see the guidance for full details. 

 

Part B – information that should be established for all properties: 

1.     Physical characteristics of the property:

  • Property type – e.g. house, flat, room to let, park home etc.
  • Property construction – key materials used in the main structure and other areas 

2.     Number and types of room – including room measurements 

3.     Utilities – how they are supplied:

  • Electricity supply
  • Water supply
  • Sewerage
  • Heating
  • Broadband – including type and an indication of speed
  • Mobile signal/coverage – including any known issues or restrictions

4.     Parking

 

Part C – information that may or may not need to be established depending on whether the property is affected by the issue:

  • Building safety – e.g., unsafe cladding, asbestos, risk of collapse
  • Restrictions – e.g., conservation area, listed building status, tree preservation order
  • Rights and easements – e.g., public rights of way, shared drives
  • Flood risk
  • Coastal erosion risk
  • Planning permission – for the property itself and its immediate locality
  • Accessibility/adaptations – e.g. step free access, wet room, essential living accommodation on entrance level
  • Coalfield or mining area

 

Steering group 

**Organisations that have helped shape improvements to the disclosure of material information in property transactions are:

  • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
  • Nationwide – Property Risk
  •  OnTheMarket
  • Propertymark (NAEA/ARLA)
  • PropertyPal
  • Rightmove
  • The Coal Authority
  • The Conveyancing Association
  • HM Land Registry
  • The Law Society
  • The Property Institute
  •  The Property Ombudsman
  • The Property Redress Scheme
  • The UK Association of Letting Agents
  • Zoopla

 
Sources:

***335 respondents from the property industry completed the survey, carried out in April and May 2021. 

Background to the material information programme

The initiative to improve the disclosure of material information launched in April 2021, when National Trading Standards published The Case for Change: improving the provision of material information in property sales and lettings. This included data (survey carried out by Censuswide in 2021) from 1002 people who had moved in the previous three years or were looking to move in the next three years and showed that: 

  • 90% of respondents who use property portals would prefer to find detailed or key information about a property when they’re searching for a property on a portal
  • 87% of respondents agree that property portals should include all key information about a home in their property listing
  • more than half of respondents (54%) said that they would be less likely to buy or rent a property where information was missing on the property listing
  • 41% of respondents assume that missing information means something must be wrong with the property.

 

Three stages of material information disclosure

Part A – announced early 2022

Information that, regardless of outcome, is always considered material for all properties regardless of location.  This information generally involves unavoidable costs that will be incurred by the occupier regardless of the use of the property. Includes council tax band or rate and the property price and tenure information (for sales)

 

Part B – announced today

Information that should be established for all properties. It applies mainly to utilities (and similar), where non-standard features would affect someone’s decision to look any further at that property.

 

Part C – announced today

Additional material information that may or may not need to be established, depending on whether the property is affected or impacted by the information. Applies to properties affected by the issue itself because of, for example, the location of the property.
 

About National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues. Agreements are in place with regional Trading Standards groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland to reflect the Estate & Letting Agency team’s remit which extends to the whole of the UK.

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