Material Information for Property Listings: Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions:
Why is displaying material information important and how does it benefit you?
Making material information available upfront will increase consumer confidence and trust in property portals and the property industry, and reduce the distress that can be caused when information comes to light further down the line. For consumers, a better understanding of why certain information such as a property’s tenure is important will enable them to make informed decisions when they embark on a property. We know there is support for this – last year National Trading Standards surveyed people who have moved in the last three years or are looking to move in the next three - 87% agreed that property portals should include all key information about a home in their property listing. In the case of a property sale, you as the seller will be expected to provide details of material information as part of the conveyancing process and will be liable if you misrepresent anything. Therefore, it is likely that the information will eventually come to light and could cause further delays or even result in the transaction falling through if it is not disclosed early, costing you money and valuable time.
The list of material information that has been announced forms the minimum amount of information that should be contained in a property listing. You may be aware of other factors that relate to a property which is material information and these other factors must be disclosed. For example the presence of a footpath across the property, the existence of flying freehold, or restrictive covenants. A prospective buyer or tenant must be provided with material information at the earliest opportunity, which is usually when the property listing is viewed on a website. If material information is not disclosed, this can affect the transactional decision of a consumer and puts us as agents at risk of committing an offence under the CPRs for which agents can be prosecuted. The improvement of information on the property listing is not a replacement for further searches and enquiries which will be required in a property sale. Alongside this, the Government reiterated in April 2022 the importance of improved material information disclosure in its recent White Paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) the United Kingdom and signalled that legislation may follow.
The material information which has been determined in Part A can be obtained from title documents which are available online. As agents, we will be expected to proactively liaise with you, or your representative, before the property is marketed for sale. You should ensure that you provide the material information in order for us to create the property particulars. As agents, we will also be required to undertake verification checks on the information that is provided to ensure that it is accurate, e.g. obtaining title information to confirm ownership and tenure. Information regarding the lease will be contained in your lease information pack. Details on ground rent, service charge and review periods will be contained in your invoice/payment information. If you are unsure or unable to locate these documents, please contact your legal advisor who will be able to help you with retrieving the information. If you do not have a solicitor, your contact within Dawsons will be able to help by recommending a local solicitor. Further information on retrieving this information is contained below.
The guidance states that the material information should be prominently and clearly displayed in the property listing and should not be hidden, unclear or ambiguous as any of these failures could cause liability for “a misleading omission” which is an offence under the CPRs. The information will be displayed on online adverts, property brochures, and window display cards. Depending on the type of material information, it may be verbally reiterated to a prospective purchaser before and during a viewing appointment – especially if the material information may affect their ability to purchase the property or obtain a mortgage.
Shared ownership properties are an affordable form of home ownership and the associated title is leasehold. The seller, also known as a leaseholder, will own a share of the property and will pay rent on the part of the property retained by the landlord. The leaseholder will usually be able to purchase additional shares in the property until they own 100% of the equity, which is known as “staircasing”. There will be specific terms and conditions associated with the ability to purchase additional shares. It is also common for the shared ownership documents to contain a “pre-emption” right. This means, generally, the co-owner has the first option to buy the balance of the property. This first option must be exercised or declined before the property is placed on the open market. Further information regarding shared ownership can be found online via https://www.lease-advice.org/advice-guide/shared-ownership-leases/
As well as stating that the property is shared ownership, the listing should also include:- • Details of the share being sold, and • Any additional liabilities or obligations, i.e. additional payment amounts.
If you are unsure of this, it can be found by checking online via this link Search for a property - Check and challenge your Council Tax band - GOV.UK For some properties, there is a possibility the Council Tax band is due to increase on the next sale of the property due to alterations which affect its valuation (shown by an ‘improvement indicator’). This can include the provision of an extension, the creation of an annexe or other works which have changed the layout and size of the property. Your Property Sales Consultant or valuer will check with you to see if there have been any significant changes to the property which might affect its valuation. Further information for England and Wales can be found here Council Tax band changes - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
In the case of new builds, council tax bands/property rates are not always known at the point of listing. In this case, we would need to highlight that the information is not currently available and the reason why, for example: “New build – council tax band/property rates to be determined. The relevant local authority or developers may be able to assist with this information, and if part of the development is already occupied then the information may be more readily available. If you become aware of the relevant council tax band/property rates at a later date, listings should be updated to reflect this.
The tenure of the property must be contained on the property listing, e.g. “freehold”, or “leasehold”. This refers to the way in which the property will be legally owned and it affects the legal rights and associated costs with the property. In respect of tenure, prospective buyers may not be familiar with the differences between the types of ownership and we would ensure that information is clear and unambiguous. The different types of tenure are:- Freehold, Leasehold and Commonhold.
Freehold means that the seller owns the property and the land on which it is built. The owner will usually be responsible for the maintenance of the property and land and have more freedom to alter it, subject to local planning restrictions. Leasehold means that the property owner will have the right to live in the property for a set number of years (specified in the lease). The land is owned by the freehold owner of the land, who can be referred to as the landlord, and when the lease term expires ownership of the property will return to them. The lease will specify what maintenance the owner and the landlord are each responsible for and the owner is likely to need the landlord’s permission to alter their home. The owner will usually pay additional regular charges called ground rent and service charges. Additional charges may also be required for large-scale maintenance works and the seller may have received notification of these.
As well as stating that the property is leasehold, information about current ground rent payments and the associated review period need to be included in the listing. You should be able to sought this information as you are liable to pay it. Knowing the review period is important because this may result in an increase in the costs and prospective buyers will need to be aware of any upcoming changes. Information about current service charge payments must also be included in the listing. The seller should know this information as they will be liable to pay it and information should also be contained in the lease. Service charges may be fixed or variable and the lease will usually give the service charge period and how often the payments are due. The way in which payments are required will vary with each property. This could be a percentage or a proportion of the overall costs, or it may be referred to as a “fair” or “just” proportion of the service charge. Some leasehold management arrangements include contributions to a reserve or sinking fund which will be used to mitigate known or planned works. Check with the lease administrator whether this applies and consequently, where they do apply, the information must be included in the property listing
Any deposit must be disclosed. If a holding deposit is required then at a minimum it would need to disclose ‘holding deposit required'. The amount is capped by the Tenant Fees Act 2019 in England and the Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Act 2019. National Trading Standards encourage disclosure of the amount if it is known at the time of listing.
Any information which is material to a prospective tenant needs to be disclosed in order to meet the requirements of the CPRs.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the “CPRs”) The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (legislation.gov.uk)
The National Trading Standards website - Welcome to National Trading Standards
The National Trading Standards guidance on material information - Material Information - National Trading Standards
List of Part A Material Information Material information - Part A - Feb 2022.pdf (nationaltradingstandards.uk)