FACTSHEET and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Subject: Estate Agents
Relevant or Related Legislation:
Estate Agents Act 1979 and Property Misdescriptions Act 1991.
Q1. Are estate
Q1. Are estate agents regulated?
Estate agents are regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979, which:
Estate agents also have to comply with the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991, which makes it an offence to make false or misleading statements about property offered for sale.
Q2. What should I do if I have a complaint about an estate agent?
You should contact your local trading standards department or the Office of Fair Trading, which enforce the Estate Agents and Property Misdescriptions Acts. The Department of Trade and Industry does not have a role in investigating individual complaints.
For further information contact your local trading standards department or the Office of Fair Trading.
Office of Fair Trading
Some estate agents belong to the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) Scheme. The OEA scheme is devised to address disputes between member agencies and consumers who are actual or potential buyers or sellers of residential property in the UK.
The Ombudsman will consider complaints where it is believed a member agency has infringed a consumer's legal rights, not complied with the OEA Code of Practice, acted unfairly, or been guilty of maladministration (including inefficiency or undue delay). The Ombudsman cannot deal with disputes about surveys and/or valuations of properties, or property letting and management.
For further information on the OEA Scheme contact:
Office of the
Ombudsman for Estate Agents
Q3. What is the Government doing to deal with problems in the housing market such as gazumping?
The Government is committed to reform of the house buying process in England and Wales in order to make the buying and selling of homes quicker, easier and more efficient.
The Government plans to introduce Home Information Packs (HIPs) containing standard information and documents for prospective buyers including evidence of title, local searches and a home condition report. Providing this information at the start of the house buying process will reduce delays and uncertainties experienced by both buyers and sellers.
Measures for introducing HIPs were included in the Housing Bill, which gained Royal Assent on 18 November 2004.
HIPs are to be introduced on a voluntary basis in 2006, but from 2007 it will be compulsory for home sellers to provide a HIP when putting a property on the market.
Further information on HIPs is available from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Q4. What has the Government proposed in its response to the OFT report on estate agents?
The OFT published a report on the estate agency market in England and Wales on 23 March 2004. The report concluded that the estate agency market works well in many respects, but there is significant consumer dissatisfaction with estate agency services and customers find it difficult to complain and obtain redress.
The Government responded to the OFT report on 22 July. The Government proposed a package of measures building on and strengthening the OFT's proposals to:
The key elements of the Government response are:
The Housing Bill was amended in 2004 to require estate agents to belong to industry redress schemes, but the scope of the Bill meant that they can only deal with complaints about HIPs (see above). This is a much narrower scope than we had originally envisaged. We are therefore looking for a suitable legislative vehicle to extend the coverage of redress schemes to other kinds of consumer complaints against estate agents. This also applies to extending coverage to Scotland.
The Government response.
Comments on the Government response may be sent to:
Competition Policy Directorate
Tel: 020 7215 2115