The Property Ombudsman issues revised Codes of Practice to address ‘portal juggling’

On 1st October 2016, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme will issue updated versions of all its Codes of Practice in order to address emerging industry issues; primarily the manipulation of internet portals, coined ‘portal juggling’.

The practice known as ‘portal juggling’ accuses agents of misleading consumers by removing and re-listing homes on property portals, enabling them to hide price cuts and give the impression a property is new to the market when it is not.

Other revisions to the Codes include:

  • Disclosure on pre-contract deposits – to clearly define the actions required to ensure all parties involved in a pre-contract deposit arrangement have agreed to the terms and conditions attached to the payment.
  • VAT on fees – to ensure all fees and charges are quoted inclusive of VAT.
  • Disclosure of referencing – adding the provision that landlords receive all relevant facts, regardless of whether the tenant has met or failed to meet the referencing criteria.

Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of the TPO Board, comments: “The decision was taken to carry out a full review of the Codes to reflect market developments and provide clear definitions of unfair practices. Our Codes already state that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful, but now go one step further to clarify that ‘portal juggling’, in its various forms, is misleading to consumers. Evidence of member agents found to be carrying out such poor practice could be reported to the Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee (DSC), NTSEAT and/or local Trading Standards.

As the industry changes, it’s necessary to release new versions of our Codes to ensure agents fully understand their responsibilities and adhere to best practice.”

The Ombudsman, Katrine Sporle, will apply the new Codes of Practice when reviewing consumer complaints about events that have occurred after 1st October 2016 to determine whether or not a TPO registered member has breached the high level of standards required. Issues detailed in the new Codes will be covered in greater depth at TPO’s annual Conference ‘Raising Standards’ on 12th October at the National Conference Centre, Solihull.

The working group for the revised Codes involved trade associations, representatives from large and smaller agents in both sales and lettings and a representative from TPO’s independent Council. All TPO Codes of Practice have been revised including: Residential Estate Agents, Residential Letting Agents, Residential Estate Agents (Scotland), Residential Letting Agents (Scotland), Buying Agents, Property Buying Companies, Commercial and Membership Obligations.

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking. Internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Social Media. Writes about UK property prices, housing, politics and affordable homes.

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