Property industry cracks down on portal juggling

The property industry is cracking down on the controversial practice known as “portal juggling”.

Property portals have become an integral part of the house-hunting process, as the majority of buyers turn to the Internet to search for their home. However, the rise of the digital real estate industry has also brought with it controversy, such as the portal OnTheMarket.com requiring agents to only list a property on one other site apart from theirs.

Another practice that some agents are accused of operating is “portal juggling”, which involves them relisting properties that have been on the market for some time, hiding price cuts and making older homes look like they are new additions to the market.

Now, though, the Property Ombudsman has updated its Codes of Practice to crack down on the activity. Its new industry guidelines will see any agents caught carrying out such misleading practices reported to the Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee (DSC), NTSEAT and/or local Trading Standards.

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.”

Agents will also be required 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, and to ensure all fees and charges are quoted inclusive of VAT. Disclosure of referencing will also be enforced, adding the provision that landlords receive all relevant facts, regardless of whether the tenant has met or failed to meet the referencing criteria.

“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,” he adds.

The new codes will come into effect from 1st October, with further discussion of them to take place at TPO’s annual Conference ‘Raising Standards’ on 12th October at the National Conference Centre, Solihull.

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