Ex-Ombudsman Hamer says agents must not dilute transparency post-Brexit

Inevitably after the Brexit decision there will be many who will say that ‘we don’t have to do that now’ and we can repeal various laws that brought EU Directives into UK legislation.

Just recently in Eye there was an article describing a call that EPC Regulations could now be disbanded. It probably won’t be long therefore that someone spots that the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) and the Consumer Contract Regulations (cancellation notices) all came about because of EU Directives requiring EU Member States to pass legislation to accommodate the requirements of those Directives.

I am surprised that there have not already been vociferous calls for all these (and other laws also) to be repealed.

But why would that be a good idea? Yes, the CPRs are unwieldy and as I have previously expressed are not entirely suited to the property world, but those Regulations, EPCs and the Cancellation Rights all set out to create a level playing field both for consumers so that they know what to expect, and for agents so that they know what standards to apply when marketing property.

That level playing field is very much about transparency. In another recent article in Eye there was a voice claiming that privatisation of the Land Registry might potentially bring about a lack of transparency – so from factions within the property sector we have a desire to lessen that aspect but other factions expressing disquiet about the possibility of such a reduction.

In all walks of life if someone is buying something they should be given all material information about the purchase to enable an informed decision to be made. That is the basic premise of the CPRs, but in my time as Ombudsman the Home Information Pack came and went.

There has been some general suggestion that the HIP could return, and whilst the previous format did not work well, such a document giving prospective buyers up-front information has to be a good idea.

Given that a percentage of sales fall through because of a change of mind (for example the property turns out to have some issue that the buyer only becomes aware of during the conveyance) it does seem to be a ‘no-brainer’ that the provision of more relevant information at the outset is a good idea.

In my view, equipping prospective buyers before they commit to progressing the purchase is the right way. EPCs are part of that and of course CPRs are too – we have had them now for eight years and agents will be used to the idiosyncrasies of that legislation and the need to be cautious when describing their services and the property being marketed.

There will be plenty of turmoil for the property sector whilst the transition to non EU status is made – but we should not add to the confusion by demanding change that will dilute existing controls and approach.

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