Estate agents - Gazumping
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- The practice of gazumping, when a seller has accepted an offer and then accepts a higher offer from another buyer, is legal in England and Wales.
- Estate agents have a duty to communicate all offers to the seller, right up to the point when contracts are exchanged.
- If you have been gazumped, it does not mean the estate agent has acted improperly or illegally.
- However, an estate agent cannot lie about offers to negotiate a higher price.
- If you believe the agent has acted unethically, your first step is to speak to them directly.
- Explain the situation and give them an opportunity to put things right.
- If you aren't happy with the estate agent's response, you can escalate your complaint to the Property Ombudsman.
- You must refer a complaint to an ombudsman within six months of the agent's final response, and within nine months of your first complaint.
- If you don't pay an agent's fees, they have the right to take you to court - and if they do so, an ombudsman will not be able to start an investigation into your complaint.
- You may want to ask for a copy of your estate agent’s complaints policy and code of conduct. You should also ask for confirmation of who will be handling your complaint. Your agent should respond within 15 days.
If you do not pay your agent's fees they have a legal right to take you to court. If you contest the fees, then it is important that you raise the case immediately with the estate agent and pay the uncontested element of the fees. If the agent begins legal action against you, the ombudsman willnot be able to continue/start to investigate your complaint.
Your final option
If the estate agent is a member of Propertymark, it is bound by the their codes of practice. After receiving a decision from the ombudsman, you can refer the agent to Propertymark, who will investigate the agent's professional conduct and could impose a fine. However, Propertymark cannot make any financial awards to consumers. If the agent is a member, Resolver will give you this option automatically.
You may need to fill in a copy of Propertymark's consumer complaint form and send them a copy of your resolver case file. You should also include a copy of the ombudsman's findings and copies of supporting documents.
If you need additional advice
If you are unhappy with the ombudsman's decision and believe your estate agent has acted illegally, you can seek legal advice. The Home Owners Alliance runs a legal advice line that you can contact for a £36 annual membership fee, on 0330 088 2050.
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