4 ways to prepare your agency for the new material information rules [+ podcast]

23 May 2022

Estate and letting agents need to start preparing for the new material information rules. Here's Sean Hooker, Property Redress Scheme, to share some advice on where to start.

"The new material information rules will level the playing field," says Sean Hooker, head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme. "Those agents that are complying, that have complied, and will continue to comply with lettings regulations can rest easy with these new rules in place."

The new material information rules for property listings aim to ensure more clarity around the information that needs to be shared with tenants upfront. Sean recently joined the Newsagent podcast to discuss material disclosure and here's some of his advice on how to prepare your agency.

1. Keep your records up to date and ask the right questions

The top thing that your agency can do to prepare for the new rules is to ensure that the information you collect about the properties you're letting out is as up to date as possible - and ensure that you're asking the right questions to capture the things that tenants want to know.

"Remember that you have a duty to disclose information but also to make reasonable inquiries about those details," says Hooker. "If you're getting information from a buyer or a landlord, you need to make sure that information is, to the best of your knowledge, accurate - or at least highlight to the consumer that you don't have perfect information."

2. Monitor the safety of your properties

Sean has previously outlined the importance of sharing details of building safety with tenants upfront and including this in the new rules.

The building safety information collected by agents doesn't need to be too technical. Questions such as "is the property safe to live in?" will help make sure you collect the relevant information to share with your prospective tenants.

"I know that a lot of our agents are anxious because they're not experts in building safety," says Sean. "But you don't have to be an expert on buyer safety, building safety, et cetera.

"You just have to be sure that the requisite forms and designations have been put into place, and then you need to present them to the consumer as openly as you can."

3. Be open about any remedial work with tenants

"If you're renting out properties that could be subject to remedial work, please tell the tenant," says Sean.

Making your tenants aware that there are certain safety issues that need to be fixed will help you avoid any bigger issues later on in the tenancy around the inconvenience caused.

"If they're going to be faced with disruption for six, eight, 12 months of their tenancy, they won't be very pleased with that noise and inconvenience," says Sean.

4. Keep an eye out for guidance as parts A, B, and C progress

Guidance for leasehold properties is an area which still needs some work. The ownership and management structure tends to mean a chain of stakeholders, where the relevant information may be hard to track down, as Hooker explains.

"Leasehold flats have got freeholders and property managers behind them - and getting information out of them is not always as easy as it sounds. I know the government was looking at trying to make that information more readily available."

However, in other areas, guidance is already in place or more is on the way. "We've been pushing all along for the government to provide as much help, support and guidance for agents and property managers as possible," says Sean.

As the work around parts B and C advances, agents should make sure they stay on top of new guidance as it's published, so they can incorporate the steps into their processes as soon as possible, so as not to be caught out when all three parts become mandatory.

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