This Primary Authority Advice has been produced by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service, in partnership with The Property Ombudsman and Propertymark, for use by member businesses as an aid to complying with the law. If you follow this advice correctly, your local Trading Standards Service should respect this and not ask you to comply with the law in a different way. If you are contacted by a local authority enforcement body, please inform them that you are a member of the scheme.
Assured advice issued:
1. Can properties be shown with a ‘SOLD’ or ‘SALE COMPLETED’ sticker rather than ‘Sold subject to contract’ following exchange or completion of a sale?
In answering this question we refer to advertisements inside estate agents’ physical premises, and not for sale boards at the property.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team Guidance on Property Sales states that the term ‘Sold’ can be used only after contracts have been exchanged. Therefore, if a property is ‘Sold subject to contract’, it should not be advertised as ‘Sold’ or ‘Sale completed’, as this would not be true and could be misleading.
‘Sale Completed’ should only be used for properties where completion has taken place.
2. Do we need the new owner’s permission to use a recently sold property when creating a ‘sold in your road’ flyer to send to neighbouring properties?
As far as the Consumer Protection Regulations (CPRs) are concerned, there is no barrier to identifying a recently sold property in marketing material, provided the house shown as having been sold was indeed recently sold by the agent using it in their advertising.
Whilst the copyright in the photograph image will likely belong to the agency via its agreement with the photographer, it is a requirement in paragraph 3b of The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice that you seek the new owner’s permission in any canvassing material.
If permission is obtained, we would consider properties to be ‘recently sold’ for a period not exceeding one calendar month from the date of completion.
3. Can previously sold properties be used on a wall display in the office on a longterm basis, or is there a time limit for this?
Previously sold properties can only be used on a wall display or any other canvassing material if the new owner’s permission has been obtained in line with paragraph 3b of the The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team Guidance on Property Sales suggests that ‘Leaving details of properties that you have sold on your website or in your office window for a long period of time (to the extent that you create a false impression that you are selling more properties than you actually are)’, could be a breach of professional diligence.
Our guidance is that a ‘long period of time’ would be more than one calendar month, starting from the date of completion for properties advertised as ‘Sold’.
However, if property marketing material was clearly and boldly marked with the actual date of completion, leaving consumers in no doubt when it was sold, it would then not create a false impression of selling more properties than you are at that specific time.
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Download the full version of this advice to see what legislation and guidance Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service considered before providing this advice.