As part of recent governance changes, TPO has set up both a consumer and an industry forum, representative of the whole property sector including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Michael Stoop, former Vice Chairman of the Board, has taken on the role of Chair of the Industry Forum to feedback industry matters and concerns, while the Consumer Forum is chaired by Mark McLaren, an independent Board Member, previously of Which?
The purpose of the Fora is to facilitate discussion and debate around specific issues which could result in consumer detriment, and consider ways, wherever possible, to eliminate these through guidance, best practice and/or changes to TPO’s Codes of Practice.
The last meetings took place on 18th October 2018 providing an opportunity for both groups to hear from industry representatives, network and share ideas.
Two important topics arose; Dual Commission Fees and Weekly Vs Monthly rent.
Dual Commission Fees - looking at court cases with an emphasis on the need to further educate consumers and agents. Presented by Alison Farrar, Investigator for National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NSEAT)
In 2017, TPO received 32 cases relating to dual commission fees. Last year TPO received over 50 cases highlighting this as a growing issue. Other industry representatives also shared similar concerns.
It was agreed that transparency to the seller at every stage of the process is required and agents need to highlight the circumstances where dual fees could become due if a seller decides to use a second agent.
Because of the level of detail in a contract, many consumers fail to read and understand all of the information outlined, one solution is to highlight essential information on page one such as, where a seller may be liable for a dual fee.
Further work will be undertaken by TPO on the issue to provide clear guidance with case study examples.
Weekly Vs Monthly Rent - Analysis of the potential issues caused by agents advertising rent weekly rather than monthly, by Donald Silcock, Civil Advisor, Trading Standards, Westminster City Council
Donald discussed the issue of advertising weekly versus monthly rent. Since most tenants do not have the option to pay rent weekly, advertising the price of a property per week, without clearly indicating the monthly cost alongside, could be misleading to consumers.
Many consumers make the mistake of multiplying the weekly figure by 4 (rather than by 52 and dividing by 12) leading them to believe the rent is, in some cases, significantly lower than it is.
The fora came to the consensus that advertising the weekly price of rent is acceptable, particularly as many agents in London have done this for many years. However, all agreed it should be clearly written alongside the monthly rent using the same size font.
To support TPO agents and help them comply with regulations, TPO has obtained Assured Advice on the issue which is available here.
The Fora will meet again on 27 February, where topics such as referral fees and forthcoming leasehold guidance from NTSEAT will be discussed.