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New-build buyers to get greater protection from Trading Standards

In a bid to eliminate bad practice in the housing industry, particularly involving new-build purchases, the government has vowed to commit more money to protect consumers.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced that it is going to up its funding to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) to almost £500,000 per year, which is a 100% increase on the previous budget.

The doubling of annual funding has been triggered by NTSEAT reporting that the number of complaints it received for 2017-2018 had escalated to 459 from 246 in the previous year.

Run by Wales’s Powys and Anglesey Councils, NTSEAT has been handling housing complaints since April 2014 when it assumed responsibility from the Office of Fair Trading. The additional funds will enable NTSEAT to recruit more staff to deal with the caseload after it has come under added pressure from the increased workload. In 2017/18, the agency issued 16 prohibition orders – four more than in 2016/17 – and at the end of April reported it was investigating 53 cases.

Greater powers to investigate and regulate

NTSEAT is set to take on increased responsibilities, one of which will look at the new-build housing sector and the other will be to monitor agents’ upfront disclosure of referral fees.

Heather Wheeler, housing minister, said: “Making the housing market work is not only about building homes, but helping hard working families buy and sell with confidence. This new funding will help ensure all estate agents are held to a high standard, reducing stress for people when making one of the most important purchases in their life.”

NTSEAT will be concentrating on three focus areas:

  • Protecting new-build buyers – enabling the regulator to investigate whether homebuyers are being provided with the right information and what could be done to improve the way new-build properties are sold.
  • Uncovering ‘rogue agents’ – the regulator will be given the tools to step up its enforcement action by increasing the number of cases under investigation and the ability to issue more banning orders.
  • Greater fee transparency – enabling the regulator to enforce new ruling on estate agents to disclose referral fees upfront to inform consumers exactly where their money is going when recommending services.

Eliminating rogue agents can only be a positive move

Mark Hayward of NAEA Propertymark said: “Any steps to ban rogue estate agents are very welcome and we are pleased to see that the government has increased its funding for the national estate agent regulator.

Consumers should expect to be given the right information when they are buying or selling a home and stamping out bad practice and poor standards in the industry is the only way this can be guaranteed.”

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