Referral Fees Survey launches to assess estate agent use

A survey has been launched by the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) to assess the use of referral fees by estate agents.

Supported by the Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Scheme, the launch of the survey comes in the wake of the Government’s Call for Evidence released last year. Aimed at both the public and industry professionals, the Department for Communities and Local Government launched the consultation to gather views and opinions on how the home moving process could be improved.

In April, the government response to the consultation was published; whilst the prime objectives were to improve the consumer experience, reduce the time from offer to completion and to reduce the number of failed transactions, it also highlighted transparency of referral fees and the various issues surrounding them.

A working group was set up by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to take a more detailed look at the issue.

Commenting on the industry response to the consultation surrounding referral fees was James Munro. The head of NTSEAT highlighted the importance of these survey results in terms of informing the future proposals, stating: “The consultation responses to whether the Government should take further action to enforce current transparency regulations regarding the disclosure of referral fees were overwhelmingly supportive.

“However, at the inaugural meeting, it was decided that more information was required from agents about the nature of fees they currently received. The results of this survey will feed into the working group discussions.”

Also commenting on the relevance of the survey results was Katrine Sporle. Speaking to attendees at the Property Ombudsman Conference earlier this month, the ombudsman stated that the possibility of a total ban on the fees is still being considered, with the current focus being on improving levels of transparency. She said:  “We are not asking for agents to incriminate themselves, but the Government is concerned about transparency and wants consumers to be able to make informed choices.

“The results of the survey will help provide evidence of how agents currently approach referral fees and allow the working group to discuss how the industry can work together to adopt a standardised approach of up-front disclosure.”

Open until 2 July, the survey can be accessed here.

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