The estate agent market is highly competitive and it is common for property sales and lettings ads to include claims such as ‘market leaders’, ‘leading estate agent’, ‘premier’ or ‘top selling agent’. Over the years, we have investigated and upheld various complaints about the use of these types of claims when they cannot be substantiated. As a general rule, we consider ‘leading’ and ‘number one’ claims to relate to sales or market share and that counting ‘sold’ or ‘for sale’ board presence is an inadequate method of substantiation.
We also advise advertisers to steer clear of making comparative sales claims about discrete postcodes based on data obtained from the Land Registry, and superiority claims based only on website data taken from property portals such as Rightmove or Zoopla.
The other main area of complaints we see about property sales and lettings ads are to do with fees, costs and charges.
If VAT can be calculated on fees and charges in advance then it needs to be included in the quoted price and not referenced separately. This rule also applies to percentage charges which are subject to VAT. All tenant and landlord fees should be advertised inclusive of the current rate of VAT.
For the avoidance of doubt, this position also applies to both letting agents and property portals. Advertisers may wish to consult the Competition and Markets Authority’s guidance for lettings professionals on consumer protection law.
Furthermore, lettings agents should ensure that non-optional fees, such as credit checks, application fees, fees for drawing up tenancy agreements and inventory fees are clearly stated in ads for properties being let. Ads should make clear whether charges are per tenant or per property.
Advertisers are reminded that all non-optional fees that can be calculated in advance and apply to all, or most consumers, should accompany the monthly rent. Including this information elsewhere is unlikely to be acceptable.