Revised guidance published on terms used in property advertising
What’s been published?
On 15th August 2023, the National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) published revised guidance on terms used in property advertising for sales and lettings.
This includes specific definitions for when terms like ‘new instruction’, ‘under offer’, ‘sale/let agreed’, ‘sold/let subject to contract’ should be used, in order to provide consistency and improve standards across the industry.
How this impacts you
This applies to your:
Your own website
Property portal listings including Rightmove
The guidance is effective now.
We’ll be using our existing tools, terms and conditions, in conjunction with the guidance from NTSELAT, to ensure the guidance is implemented.
To help you understand in practical terms what this means for your Rightmove listings and your business more broadly, our Legal and Compliance Director David Cox, will be covering the guidance and answering your questions in “News Hour” on 12th September.
‘New on the market’ A property that has not been advertised since the last sale or let of that property. This description should only be used for short period of time*.
‘New Instruction’ A property where an agent has recently been instructed to market (and which may have been offered for sale by another agent without being sold or let); the description should only be used for a short period of time*.
‘New and Exclusive’ A property that is either a new instruction or new on the market which is exclusive to that agent or portal (depending on the context). The description ‘new’ should only be used for a short period of time*, although the term ‘exclusive’ can be used for as long as it is applicable.
‘New Method of Sale/Let’ A property that is now being advertised for sale or let using an alternative mechanism to the original advert (e.g., changing to an auction or sealed bid for a property sale). This description should only be used for a short period of time*.
‘Reduced’ A property that has been recently reduced in price. Any reduction should be a genuine reduction against the previous price, in accordance with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s ‘Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices’. Note: Any reduction should be a genuine reduction against the previous price, in accordance with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s
*NOTE: Any guidance on the length of time for which the above descriptions are used (i.e., a ‘short period of time’, referred to above) can only be very general. Material considerations such as the advertising medium, the buoyancy (or otherwise) of the market, the method of marketing and perhaps even the nature of the ‘average consumer’ at whom the marketing in question is targeted will vary greatly and only the courts will be able to decide based on all the individual circumstances. Use of the above terms for a period not exceeding one calendar month is unlikely, in the general course of events, to be considered misleading.
2. Terms for sales
‘Under Offer’ A property where an offer has been received which is under consideration by the vendor, but the property is normally still on the market, i.e., further offers may be made dependent upon the vendor’s written instructions. This description should only be used until the offer is accepted or declined.
‘Sale Agreed’ A property where an offer has been accepted by the seller, but (for example) contracts may not have been prepared or the buyer may not be in a final position to proceed. The property may or may not still be on the market, i.e., further offers may be made dependent upon the seller’s written instructions. The seller’s decision on future marketing is material information in this context and should be clearly stated on property listings to avoid any confusion amongst potential buyers. This description may be used until the property is sold or the sale falls through, as the case may be.
‘Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC)’ A property where an offer has been accepted by the seller, subject to contracts being exchanged. The seller should be asked by the agent to confirm whether the property should continue to be marketed for sale, and this decision should be clearly stated on property listings, as above. This description may be used until the sales process is complete or the sale falls through.
‘Sold subject to conclusion of missives (in Scotland)’
A property where an offer has been accepted but the sale has not yet concluded, pending the exchange and agreement of the missives. The property should no longer be actively marketed for sale. In rare cases the sale may still fall through, hence the use of this description.
‘Sold’ A property where the sale has concluded, resulting in the buyer becoming the legal owner of the property. ‘Sold’ property listings should be removed in line with property portal requirements, relevant codes of practice (e.g., RICS UK Residential Real Estate Agency 6th edition, the Property Ombudsman code of practice for residential sales, etc.), and local planning laws.
3. Terms for Lettings
‘Under Offer’ A property where an offer has been received which is under consideration by the landlord, but the property is normally still on the market, i.e., further offers may be made dependent upon the landlord’s written instructions. This description should only be used until the offer is accepted or declined.
‘Let Agreed’ A property where a landlord has, in principle, agreed to enter into a rental agreement with a prospective renter, subject to further checks and referencing. Note: “Rental agreement” includes, but is not limited to: tenancy agreements, a licence to occupy, excluded licences, and occupation contracts (in Wales)
The use of this term is not subject to a relevant person having received a holding deposit from the prospective renter. (The processes relating to holding deposits and other permitted fees that can be charged to prospective renters is set out in the
‘Let’ A property where a landlord and renter have entered into a binding rental agreement. Note: Checks on the prospective tenant(s) have been completed and a binding rental agreement has been entered in to. Adverts should be removed in line with property portal requirements, relevant codes of practice, and local planning laws.
Key details: Dealing with offers (sales only)
Guidance has also been provided on dealing with offers. This aims to clarify your obligations when it comes to receiving and communicating offers with vendors throughout the sales process. The guidance states:
Any offer received on a property at any stage in the sales process must be communicated to the vendor in writing without delay.
The only exception to this is where a vendor instructs the agent in writing that offers of a certain type do not need to be passed on, or where agents are under a statutory duty to delay passing on such offers (e.g., where a suspicious activity report is being made).
Agents must therefore establish at every significant stage of the sales process whether, or not, a vendor wishes to continue receiving offers.
Without written instructions to the contrary, the agent is obliged by law to continue passing on offers until contracts have been exchanged or missives concluded.
Where instructions have been received that no further offers are to be accepted, this is material information and should be declared in the property listing and any other advertisement.
Additional guidance provided by NTSELAT can be found here.