The private rental sector has grown rapidly over the last 20 years. It now accounts for over 4.7 million households in the United Kingdom. Over two thirds of all private tenancies involve an agent. Yet, Which? magazine has referred to “renting roulette” and “the great letting agents gamble” whereas the RICS has described this essentially unregulated sector as “property’s Wild West”.
Negligence Claims Against Estate Agents, MBL Seminars, webinar streaming Fri 22 Feb, 12:30, available to view for 90 days thereafter.
When selling, letting or managing property, estate agents owe a common law duty of care to their clients (usually vendors or landlords) and sometimes also to others. Whilst reported claims in this field may be less frequent than those concerning valuation, it is nevertheless topical. There have been high profile cases involving letting (Carleton (Earl of Malmesbury) v Strutt & Parker) and sales (John D Wood & Co v Knatchbull). In a recent Scottish case (Hines v King Sturge LLP), the Inner House had to consider whether managing agents owed a duty of care in respect of loss caused by fire.
As an alternative to court, there will often be the possibility of a complaint to The Property Ombudsman. Formerly the Ombudsman for Estate Agents, TPO came into being on 1 May 2009. Since 1 October 2008, all estate agents have been required to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme approved by the OFT.
Moreover, the law relating to the industry generally is changing, in particular as a result of the Government’s proposals to reform the Estate Agents Act and repeal the Property Misdescriptions Act.