How will Consumer Protection Regulations impact on property agents?
David Hughes

David Hughes

How will Consumer Protection Regulations impact on property agents?

When they were introduced, six years ago, they were as noticeable as a dust mite in a shag pile carpet. CPR, as far as property agents were concerned, was what you might apply to an over excited client who swooned at the sight of their wonderful new purchase. If you were to tell them, ‘Actually, it refers to Consumer Protection Regulations,’ you would be met with a wry smile and a reassurance that, ‘It’s OK. I defer to the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991. That’s what our work is really judged against.’

Well, the goalposts have shifted yet again and now the government has scrapped the Property Misdescriptions Act. Many of us are bidding it farewell with something of a tear in our eye. We’ll miss its black-and-whiteness; its absolute clarity. We knew where we were with its 33-long list of dos and don’ts. It told us exactly what we had to say and exactly what we weren’t allowed to say. It was boxy and reliable, like a Barratt House.

Consumer Protection Regulations, by comparison, are sprawling and less specific. And they’ve filled many of us with a nagging sense of worry that creeps to the forefront of our minds whenever we list a property or talk to a client on the phone. Of course, we love their requirement that we be honest and up front in all our transactions. Ultimately, that will help us cement our reputations with clients as solid and trustworthy. But we worry that they’ll catch us out for a simple oversight.

Truth is, though, there’s not really anything to get upset about. The new regulations can actually work in our favour, if you consider that, although the onus is on the agent to ask all the right questions in the first instance, it’s the legal responsibility of the client to disclose truthfully all information about a property. What we’re not told and what isn’t made apparent to our expert eyes we will not be held accountable for. But that doesn’t mean we can be lazy and rely on the client for information – far from it.

You might want to think of Consumer Protection Regulations as a truth serum concocted in the laboratories of the Competition and Markets Authority. They’re an intoxicating potion that makes us seek out all the facts about a property, good and bad, and ensures we make those facts clear to potential buyers and tenants from the very beginning of negotiations. If there’s so much as a crack in the plasterwork, our expert minds should set to wondering what might have caused it and we need to do some detective work to find out. If there’s an issue with a property that we knew about or should have known about, we’re responsible. So we need to be super vigilant.

In the end, it’s very likely going to be a positive move forward for the industry. Sure, it will probably have an impact on asking prices at some point in the future. But it’s still a great piece of reputation management – CPRs make us more transparent and we all know that transparency is one of the hot topics of the customer service industry in 2014. Plus, you can’t knock the fact that they allow Trading Standards Officers the opportunity to take civil rather than criminal action against infringements.

Our advice to you is this: educate yourself, keep up to date with developments and news pertaining to the new regulations and don’t rest on your laurels. Follow those rules and CPR will stop you from having an unnecessary coronary. Pun intended.