Sellers must be truthful too!

Vendors who carry out their own viewings should be put on their guard so they do not mislead potential purchasers. If they do, they could face action by Trading Standards, or private litigation. 

So could an agent be culpable if the owner of the property were to lie or omit – whether accidentally or deliberately to mention something about the property while conducting a viewing?

According to the Property Ombudsman, the answer is that the vendor conducting the viewings is responsible – but the agent could share liability if the property particulars are misleading. 

What about the role of online agents, given that so many are remote operators and cut prices on the basis that sellers and landlords do their own viewings? Would owner and agent share legal responsibility if something about the property is not disclosed during a viewing? If the buyer goes ahead with a transaction based on false or withheld information, would they have a case against the property owner, the agent or both? And what about the redress? 

This is what Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman said “under CPR (Consumer Protection Regulations) it is the agents responsibility to fully and truthfully describe the property. They do that based on the information given by the seller and their own assessment.

If the seller does not tell the agent about something or misdescribes something knowingly or accidentally, the agent can claim a defence under Regulation 16 to any action taken against him”. 

“Under that same Regulation the action could then be taken against the seller, such action being by Trading Standards or perhaps by civil action by the buyer. None of the redress schemes can consider disputes between buyer and seller, so court action is probably the only route for resolution”. 

“Online agents could be conducting a full estate agency function or simply be passive intermediaries. Depending on the role they take, the same issues can apply, although for passives, even though they look and smell like an estate agent, the law allows them not to be strictly liable under the CPRs. 

Here at Martyn R Cox & Co, the vast majority of viewings are accompanied, but a few sellers prefer to undertake this task themselves under guidance.