Decision on lengthy OFT and DBIS consultation dilutes property law rather than tightening it up

Thursday, September 13, 2012 by Ed Mead

The Department for Business and Innovation – the clue isn’t in the name- have today published their decision, after esoteric and frankly not enough consultation, on what to do about the Property Misdescription Act  (PMA) and proposed amendments to the Estate Agents Act (EAA).


All this consultation involved the OFT, who aren’t apparently long for this world, and has concluded that the best way forward is to exempt private selling websites from the EAA and do away with the PMA. All this at a time when anyone can set up a lettings agency, handle money and vanish with no redress, and selling agents still need absolutely no qualification to sell your biggest asset.


Strangely, at a time when you’d expect such a review to tighten up the law they’ve actually reduced protection on the spurious basis that the highly commercial [sic] Business department has decided there aren’t enough methods of selling your property in this Country. The repeal of the clear and unequivocal PMA, a decades old list of prescribed words that agents can’t use to mislead anyone, is to be replaced by the wishy washy generalised consumer protection regulations and misses the point that property is a huge and specialist area that required its own lingo. Up until now it’s had it but I now see a yawning gap opening up that’ll be filled with litigious types keen to test the new more open to interpretation rules.


I was thinking we existed in a free market with the lowest fees in the developed world for selling property. The report absurdly brushes this under the carpet when comparing our average 1.5% fees with the qualified US market realtor’s 5-6% by saying “The level of commission paid in different countries is not directly comparable, however, not least because it involves comparing property prices which is difficult” – why is it difficult, a flat rate is a flat rate. If you don’t like your flat rate then negotiate, do a sliding scale, be creative. Surely the great British selling public needs to grow a pair.


The report further states that there are “less than 30” private selling offerings as if there SHOULD be more. If the offering was a good one there’d be more but in a free market consumers have a choice, and it’s clear at the moment they’re not keen. In the late 70’s some 75% used an agent to sell and that figure in now c. 80%, and in a free market that has to tell you something.


Rather than trying to lower standards anywhere in the Industry, and private selling websites ARE part of the Industry, why on earth can’t such consultations concentrate of registration and licensing of all agents to raise standards as the best way of protecting the consumer.


Two reasons, this coalition in a puerile attempt to sound free market said they wouldn’t introduce any legislation in this Parliament that added to red tape, and secondly, if you want better and qualified agents you’ll have to face higher fees.


As always in life, you get what you pay for.