OFT gets tough on estate agents

Posted: 20 Jul 2006 10:59:11 GMT

            Property News - OFT gets tough on estate agents

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has amended or removed a number of unfair terms from the contracts of 25 estate agency businesses.

Prompted by research from consumer organisation, Which?, the OFT decided that the 25 estate agencies were breaching the Estate Agents Act, the Estate Agents Regulations and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

In its investigation of the contracts, the OFT found evidence of terms that were fundamentally unclear because of termination provisions.

Some contracts appeared to be for a minimum period of 12 weeks, but were also subject to 14 days cancellation notice after that minimum period, meaning that the contract was effectively extended by two weeks.

There were also terms stating that the seller must give his solicitor "irrevocable authority" to pay the agent's fees.

According to the OFT, "such terms may have the effect of unfairly restricting the seller's right to withhold some, or all, of the agent's fee if he considers that the agent has provided an unsatisfactory service".

Christine Wade, OFT director of consumer regulation enforcement, asserted: "House sellers should be able to rely on fair and balanced contracts when using an estate agent to sell their property."

The OFT clamp down follows a BBC Whistleblower documentary that exposed a number of underhand tactics at a London estate agency.

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