Material information: must-read documents
How to stay compliant on Rightmove (links to emails recently sent to our customers):
Material information FAQs
Below, we’ve summarised most of the questions answered by Rightmove’s Legal and Compliance Director David Cox in our live Q&A webinar on 10th May.
As we ran out of time to answer the hundreds of questions submitted, we’re running a follow-up webinar on Tuesday 24th June. Come armed with any outstanding questions you have and put them to the expert.
The scope of the guidelines
Why have these guidelines been introduced?
Since the repeal of the Property Misdescriptions Act in 2013, agents and developers have been asking for more detailed guidance on how to comply with the all-industry Consumer Protection Regulations and, specifically, what “material information” means when it comes to property listings. Trading Standards has now devised this guidance through a steering group. Working with the portals, professional bodies and sector leaders Trading Standards is now expecting the guidance to be implemented.
Are the guidelines a legal requirement? What happens if you don’t comply?
Technically, this is what’s referred to as “non-statutory guidance”. A court would expect you to adhere to it and for you to have a very good reason if you are not compliant, but it is not “law”.
However, non-compliance with the guidelines could be viewed as a breach of the Consumer Protection Regulations which could result in a fine of up to £5,000 and/or up to 2 years’ imprisonment.
From 1st July, non-compliance will also be a breach of the Rightmove T&Cs, which, for repeated breaches, could result in a membership being terminated.
There are also operational benefits of complying with the guidelines. Adding this information to listings will save you time currently spent answering the same questions from multiple different applicants.
What is covered in Part A?
The guidelines will have three parts.
Part A of the guidelines says that you need to include information about all “unavoidable costs” on your listings to help home movers make an informed decision about a property by understanding its true cost.
This covers three areas:
- Tenure – freehold, leasehold or commonhold.
- For leasehold properties: information on the ground rent, service charges and length of lease
- Council Tax – bands to be included for England, Wales and Scotland (rates for Northern Ireland)
- Lettings properties to include the monthly rent and deposits payable.
- Properties for sale to include the property price
- Shared Ownership properties to include details of the % share being sold and rental cost for the remaining share
Parts B and C will follow at a later, as yet confirmed, date.
Where does the Part A information need to be displayed?
Anywhere that you advertise properties. This includes:
- Property portals
- Your website
- Social media
- Window cards
- Printed brochures
- Newspaper adverts
Trading Standards is expecting this information to be displayed prominently on the places above and any other similar advertising. On online media, you shouldn’t have to click off to another page or PDF to find the information.
On Rightmove, that means the information needs to be displayed on the Property Description page of a listing, without having to click off anywhere else to find it. We’re making this easier by introducing new fields for those that upload properties via a data feed provider/software. See the questions further down below for more information.
Who needs to adhere to these guidelines?
Anyone advertising residential property in the UK. This includes estate agents, new homes developers and private landlords.
Do the rules apply to commercial properties?
No. The Consumer Protection Regulations only apply to B2C (Business-to-Consumer) transactions. They do not apply to B2B (Business-to-Business) transactions.
From Rightmove’s perspective, this means that any commercial properties advertised on Rightmove Commercial are not in the scope of these guidelines.
Do the rules apply to the sale of land?
This will depend on where you’re advertising the land. If you’re advertising it to consumers on the main Rightmove residential website then the guidelines apply. If you’re advertising it to a business buyer on the Rightmove Commercial website, the guidelines do not apply.
Do the rules apply to overseas properties advertised on Rightmove?
Yes, as Rightmove is a website aimed at UK home movers who are protected by the Consumer Protection Regulations. Overseas property advertisers will need to enter the required information in the Property Description on your Rightmove listings.
When do these guidelines come into force?
Trading Standards is expecting listings to be compliant by 1st June.
As the vast majority of properties are uploaded to Rightmove via data feeds, we’ve written to data feed providers and asked them to make the changes on their side by 30th June in order to give them enough time to make the changes, and to give our customers enough time train their teams and update processes. We’ll be updating the Rightmove Terms and Conditions to include mandatory compliance with these new guidelines on 1st July.
Any listings added to Rightmove from 1st July will need to display all the Part A information. Properties added before 1st July will not need to be retrospectively updated (unless the “added on” data subsequently changes to on or after 1st July, e.g. after fall through).
We’d encourage agents and developers to start adding the Part A information into the Property Description on your Rightmove listings before the new data feed fields are available to stay compliant.
Can we use Price On Application?
Here’s a link to a statement Trading Standards issued about POA when they were asked to provide extra clarity:
The guidance says that POA is a misleading omission under the CPRs and is likely to be unlawful. Therefore, to maintain compliance with the guidelines, we’ve taken the decision that the price will need to be displayed on residential properties that are added to Rightmove on or after 1st July. You won’t be able to upload a property without a price from that date. This applies to both sales and lettings.
Like all these guidelines, this does not affect properties that were added before 1st July unless they’re subsequently added again after 1st July, e.g. after a fall-through.
This will affect fewer than 1% of properties on Rightmove.
Does this mean that it will effectively be unlawful for agents to use a confidential listings strategy?
Yes. This is exactly the type of thing the guidelines are trying to outlaw, as it is not in the best interests of the consumer to hide a property’s price.
Can we use Guide Price, Prices from..., Offers in the Region Of, Offers in Excess of, etc?
Yes. Any price that displays an actual number will be allowed – regardless of any additional qualifier.
How does pricing needs to be displayed on lettings properties?
The price will need to be displayed as a price per calendar month. You also have the option for this to be converted to a price per week to display alongside the monthly rent. Both of these fields already exist on Rightmove.
How should information on security and holding deposits for rented properties be shown?
The security deposit is an existing field that should be populated as per usual. This information then appears next to the price of the property on the Rightmove listing.
To help you comply with the tenant fees ban, we added a “tenancy information” box to Rightmove in 2019 where information about holding deposits is currently entered. You should continue to use that to show the amount of the holding deposit. If nothing is entered in that box it displays, by default, a list of all the fees an agent is permitted to charge a tenant. We won’t be adding an extra field to enter the holding deposit as the statement saying it will be a maximum of a week’s rent is displayed next to the weekly rent on the listing, making it easy for a consumer to calculate.
Should we display the security deposit as a numeric figure or as text, e.g. 5 weeks’ rent?
In the security deposit field, you should enter the amount calculated based on the rental value that the property is being marketed at. We appreciate the actual amount may end up changing, but this will be compliant with the guidelines.
What pricing do we need to show on Shared Ownership listings?
The guidelines say that you need to display the following on Shared Ownership listings:
- The share for sale and the cost, e.g. 25% for £100,000
- The rental cost of the remaining share, e.g. £500 per month for the remaining 75%
We’re adding new fields into our Real Time Data Feed spec to allow agents that use a data feed to populate this information via their agency software provider.
What Tenure information do we need to display on properties for sale?
You need to include whether the property is freehold, share of freehold, leasehold, commonhold or feudal. This is an existing field on Rightmove called “Tenure”.
Some extra information is also now required for leasehold properties. This includes:
- The length of the lease – expressed as the number of years remaining when the property was added to Rightmove
- The annual service charge
- Ground Rent – what it is, how often it increases, and by what amount if will increase
These are all new fields that are being built into the Rightmove Real Time Data Feed.
How can we validate the information about the leasehold, etc, if the vendor has provided it and a solicitor hasn’t been appointed yet?
Trading Standards would encourage sellers to get a conveyancer involved earlier in the process to reduce the potential of wasted costs on all sides.
If a conveyancer hasn’t been instructed, we’d encourage you to ask the vendor to provide the information in writing and that it is true to the best of their knowledge.
What Tenure information do we need to display on properties for let?
The minimum tenancy length will need to be included (as a number of months). On Rightmove, this field will replace existing fields for “long” and “short” lets.
Do we need to include the price and dates, or just the band?
If you’re in England, Wales or Scotland, you need to include the council tax band, which will be between A and I.
Only the band needs to be included. You don’t need to include the amount in pounds.
In Northern Ireland, you need to include the rates.
What about new builds, where you don’t know the council tax band?
You’ll be able to enter the council tax band if you know it. If it’s not available, there will be a “To be confirmed” option you can use instead.
What about rented properties where council tax is included or not paid by the tenants, e.g. student properties?
There will be two additional qualifiers in the council tax fields for lettings properties – “Included” and “Exempt”. You should use these in those scenarios.
Implementation of the guidelines on Rightmove
How will these changes be implemented on Rightmove listings?
This depends on how you upload properties to Rightmove.
If you upload properties via a software provider using Rightmove’s Real Time Data Feed (RTDF)
This applies to the vast majority of estate agents. We’re adding some new fields into our Real Time Data Feed to accommodate the new requirements. We’ve started communicating with data feed providers and have shared our specifications with them so that they can begin the work to update their systems and train their customers.
Here’s a copy of the email we sent to agents on 4th May 2022 with a list of the new fields we’re providing.
If you upload properties manually via Rightmove Plus
This applies to a small minority of estate agents. As the work to update the RTDF has such a long lead time, we are advising those that upload via Rightmove Plus to use the existing fields to populate the price and tenure. Everything else should be added to the Property Description.
Here’s a copy of the email we sent on 4th May 2022 to agents that upload properties via Rightmove Plus.
If you’re a new homes developer that uploads properties via the Automated Data Feed (ADF)
As the work to update the RTDF has such a long lead time, we are advising customers using the ADF to use the existing fields to populate the price and tenure. Everything else should be added to the Property Description.
Here’s a copy of the email we sent on 4th May 2022 to New Homes Developers that upload properties via the ADF.
What fields is Rightmove adding within its Real Time Data Feed to accommodate the new guidelines?
These fields, required by Part A of the Material Information Guidelines, already exist:
- Price – Sales (£)
- Tenure type (Freehold, share of freehold, leasehold, commonhold, feudal)
- Length of lease (no. of years remaining)
- Price – Rent (£pcm with £pcw alongside)
- Security Deposit (£)
- Tenancy length (no. of years/months)
These new fields will be added:
- Shared Ownership (% of share being sold and monthly rental cost for the remainder)
- Current ground rent (£)
- Ground rent review period (no. of years/months) and percentage increase
- Annual service charge (£)
Sales and lettings
- Council tax band – England, Wales and Scotland (including “Exempt” and “Included” options for rental properties and “TBC” option for New Homes)
- Council tax rates – Northern Ireland (£)
We’ve communicated will all data feed/software providers about these changes and given them a heads up of what they will need to change to accommodate them in time for 1st July.
What if a field doesn’t exist on Rightmove for data we are required to provide?
You should add the information into the Property Description instead.
How should we display this information on our listings before 1st July?
Where fields don’t exist on Rightmove yet to display the required information, to be compliant we’d encourage you to display this information in the Property Description on your Rightmove listings until the new data fields are available.
Got a question that isn’t answered above?
Join our next live Q&A webinar and put it to our expert, David Cox. We’ll do our best to get an answer to as many of your questions as possible, but for the best chance of getting a response, please include your question when prompted in the sign-up form for the webinar, or send it to us in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Link to next webinar https://hub.rightmove.co.uk/material-information-on-property-listings-live-qa-with-david-cox/