Most property listings contain some pictures, plus the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, energy efficiency and a few other details. But the information estate agents are required to show has changed, and they now need to provide “material information”. Here, we’ve got everything there is to know about material information and what it means for you.
The definition of material information
According to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), material information is information an average consumer needs within the context of the product, service or, in the case of property, housing.
Essentially, it’s anything that can impact the decision a consumer makes concerning a property. This may include arranging a viewing, making an offer or renting. For example, failing to specify a property’s ownership type – be it leasehold, freehold or part-ownership – can be interpreted as failing to provide material information.
Estate agents should inform prospective buyers or renters about the material information at the easiest possible time. In most cases, this is on the listing page of the home. The scheme was brought about by the National Trading Standards Estate and Lettings Agent Team (NTSELAT).
This change aims to reduce transaction fall-throughs by providing maximum property information upfront, allowing issues to be identified and addressed earlier in the process. If certain problems are insurmountable, they can be taken into account in the asking price and marketing strategy, reducing the likelihood of lengthy sale processes and collapsed sales.
This video, produced by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, details the new requirements for listings under ‘Part A’ of the Trading Standards’ rules.
What qualifies as material information?
Material information refers to crucial details about a property that could significantly impact a buyer or tenant’s decision-making process. Such information encompasses various aspects, including the property’s structural condition, ownership status, legal issues, planning permissions, and potential risks or hazards associated with it. In the past, property listings on portals often lacked these essential details, leading to potential buyers or tenants being caught off guard by unexpected problems after entering into a transaction.
Types of material information includes:
Homes for sale
The property listing must contain ground rent and services charges, council tax band, purchase price and tenure – eg, is the property freehold or leasehold?
Details of the share being sold must be included. So should liabilities or obligations, such additional payment amounts.
Homes for rent
Letting information needs to contain council tax band or domestic rate details, information regarding any deposits payable and the rental amount. The rental amount for the property should be listed as a numerical amount and the related time period should be displayed e.g. per calendar month. If rent is paid monthly, the equivalent weekly rental amount can be shown for information purposes but if rent cannot be paid weekly then this must be clear from the listing.
The complete list of details regarding material information hasn’t been fully defined yet, and the work is ongoing. Organisations like Propertymark are taking an active role in the working group in determining what else constitutes material information.
What isn’t included?
There are three stages of material information disclosure – Part A was introduced in February 2022 and covers essential information for all properties, such as the property price, council tax band, and tenure. By the end of May 2022, this information will be required as standard on all property listings
The list of material information for Parts B and C of the Trading Standards’ revised rules is currently being developed in collaboration with industry partners and we are still awaiting this next phase of the guidance.
The National Trading Standards aims to make all material information mandatory on property listings once all three phases of the project are complete. This means that agents will be required to include all the necessary information before a property can be listed on a property portal.
Our property reports can help you move with confidence
While vital information regarding property must be included in listings, other details – such as the number of good schools in the area or nearby transport links – aren’t required. This information might be necessary to a buyer or renter, but it’s not considered material information.
Our property report, however, does contain information about schools in the area or the nearby transport links. It can help you to make a balanced and well-informed decision. It’s designed to help you to move with confidence and to get a better deal in the process.
Why is there a need for material information?
Displaying material information means prospective buyers and sellers get essential details about the property first-hand. Consequently, they can feel more confident when making enquiries about a property.
Beyond that, the material information eventually comes to light at some stage, especially when someone buys a home. Showcasing it on the property listing means consumers can see it earlier and will reduce unnecessary enquiries, hopefully resulting in a swifter sales process and a smoother transaction for everyone involved.
Which property listings should have this included?
Residential property listings must feature material information. This means any home listed for sale or to rent qualifies. Estate agents should also feature the necessary details on their websites and wherever the property may be advertised.
Who is responsible for displaying the information?
Anyone advertising residential property in the UK. This includes estate agents, new homes developers and private landlords. The information should be included prominently in all property advertisements. This includes property portals, websites, social media, window cards, printed brochures, newspaper adverts. Empty fields will be flagged on the listing, enabling consumers to be aware of gaps and request further details from the agent.
To further enhance transparency, property portals are now required to display the date when the material information was last verified. This date serves as an indicator of the freshness of the information presented. By making this information available, buyers and tenants can assess the reliability of the data and make more informed decisions. Encouraging agents to keep their listings up to date and preventing outdated or obsolete information from misleading consumers.
A recent statistic from a conveyancing group revealed that only 16% of property listings complied with new material information rules. Non-compliance seems to stem from issues with agents’ own software. A survey by the Conveyancing Association indicates that some Customer Relationship Management software used by agents is not gathering the correct information from sources, rendering listings less comprehensive than they need to be to align with the trading Standards rules.
The right type of information
The introduction of new rules regarding material information represents a significant step towards enhancing transparency and consumer protection. These rules aim to provide potential buyers and tenants with crucial information that can influence their decision-making process.
Sellers and landlords will also want to instruct high-level agents that ensure all material listing requirements are met. That’s why using a Propertymark Protected agent is an excellent place to start. You’ll find only qualified estate agents that are part of Propertymark’s membership and adhere to higher standards and practices.
Last Updated: November 22nd, 2023