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Complaints about estate agents

Information on how to make a complaint about an estate agent.

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Complaints and enquiries about individual disputes

If you are not happy with an estate agent's service, tell them and give them a chance to investigate and resolve your complaint.

If you are not satisfied with the way the agent has dealt with your complaint, you may wish to contact one (or more) of the following:

A redress scheme

If you are a consumer and an actual or potential buyer or seller of residential property, you can refer your dispute to an approved redress scheme for investigation. Legally, unless the estate agent is a law firm with an exemption, it must be registered with either:

The redress schemes are independent and free of charge to consumers in the UK. For more information, see Estate Agents Redress Schemes.

If the estate agent is a law firm that does not have to belong to an approved redress scheme, it will be covered by other redress arrangements (which are also independent and free of charge to consumers). You can refer your complaint instead to:

A consumer advice service

  • The Citizens Advice consumer service

    In England, Scotland or Wales, if you require consumer advice on your individual dispute or want to make a consumer complaint against the agent, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service. This service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 040 506.

    Where Citizens Advice identifies a need for further action, it can refer complaints to the enforcement agency that is best placed to act, such as the Local Authority Trading Standards Services. Trading Standards would be able to consider your complaint in terms of any applicable consumer protection legislation, for example the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). They may be able to take civil or criminal enforcement action against the estate agent.
  • Consumerline

    In Northern Ireland, if you require consumer advice on your individual dispute or wish to make a consumer complaint against the agent, contact Consumerline. Visit www.consumerline.org or call the helpline on 0300 123 6262.

    Consumerline is a partnership between the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service and the Consumer Council of Northern Ireland.

Trading Standards Services (TSS)

You can refer complaints about estate agents directly to your local TSS department. Find your local TSS contact details by entering your postcode in the 'Need Help?' box at www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/advice/index.cfm.

Note that the telephone contact number for many TSS in England, Scotland and Wales will be the Citizens Advice helpline number and some TSS prefer to receive complaints via the Citizens Advice route.

The Advertising Standards Authority

If your complaint is about the estate agent's advertisements online or in print media, you may also complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. Visit www.asa.org.uk or call 020 7492 2222.

A professional body or trade association (for estate agents)

f the estate agent is a member of a professional body or trade association, you may be able to ask the body to look into your complaint. If the agent is in breach of the rules of membership or code of practice, it could face disciplinary action. Each professional body or trade association will have its own complaints handling procedures. Use their websites to find the contact details and to confirm that the agent is a member. The two biggest professional bodies are:

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Complaints about other property sales businesses

You can also contact the www.adviceguide.org.uk (or www.consumerline.org), a Trading Standards Service and/or the Advertising Standards Authority if you want to complain about a property sales business who is not an estate agent.  For example a private sales intermediary not caught by the Estate Agents Act 1979. For the legal definition of who is an estate agent, see our Estate agency work page

A number of laws that apply to estate agents also apply to all other property sales businesses, notably the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.

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Complaints to the OFT about estate agents

You can report estate agents (or any other property sales businesses) that are not complying with competition or consumer legislation, for example the CPRs, to the OFT. However, the OFT cannot help you with your individual dispute and you will not get an individual investigation of your complaint.

We will log your information and may consider it in relation to other information that we hold, for example other complaints. Where we identify breaches of legislation that affect the collective interests of UK consumers, we have powers to act. The decisions we take on what cases and projects to do are based on our prioritisation principles.

In specific circumstances, the OFT and Trading Standards Services can investigate whether the estate agent is in breach of the Estate Agents Act 1979.

Please note that the Estate Agents Act 1979 and its associated legislation does not cover:

  • gazumping
  • gazundering 
  • property renting
  • contractual matters
  • quality of service issues
  • valuations
  • overseas property transactions.

However, the Estate Agents Act 1979 and its associated legislation does require an estate agent:

  • to declare any personal interest that he or a connected person may have to a buyer or a seller ('connected person' means an employer, employee, wife, husband, brother, sister etc and includes partnerships and companies)
  • to set out his terms and conditions clearly in writing (it does not have to be in the form of a contract) before his client is contractually obligated
  • to treat prospective buyers fairly by not discriminating against them because they do not want to take any services from the agent eg arranging a mortgage, insurance cover
  • to forward all offers promptly and in writing to the seller, unless the seller has indicated in writing that there are some offers that he does not want to receive
  • to provide his client with a list of all services offered to a buyer
  • to represent offers and prospective purchasers honestly, i.e. not to misrepresent the details/existence of any offer or the existence/status of any purchaser
  • to belong to an approved Estate Agents Redress Scheme.

If you have a specific complaint that an estate agent has breached the Estate Agents Act please email enquiries@oft.gsi.gov.uk, or write to:

Office of Fair Trading
Fleetbank House
2-6 Salisbury Square
London
EC4Y 8JX

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The OFT's enforcement role is changing

From 2 April 2013, under changes to the consumer protection regime introduced by Government, there will be a greater role for the local authority Trading Standards Services in the enforcement of consumer protection law at national level. The OFT will retain all of its current consumer enforcement powers but will tend to use them where breaches of consumer protection law point to systemic failures in a market. This means cases will more often be taken against a number of firms in a market, rather than cases against individual firms, unless changing the behaviour of one firm would set a precedent or have other market-wide implications.

The OFT will also retain the lead role for the enforcement of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 although the Trading Standards Services will have equal enforcement powers.

In the first instance consumers are encouraged to contact Citizens Advice regarding any problems they may have in buying goods or services.




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