Estate agents - Sole agency period

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Your rights guide: sole agency period

If you have a sole agency arrangement, you are tied into one agent for a specified period of time, usually 4–12 weeks. This should be specified in your contract. During this time, you can instruct another agent to sell your property, but you will have to pay commission to the sole agent if any sale is made. After the sole agency period ends you are free to use other agents and/or cancel your agreement.

If you believe that an estate agent has miscalculated the sole agency period or is claiming commission incorrectly after the sole agency period has finished, your first step is to speak to the estate agent directly. Explain the situation and give them an opportunity to put things right.

What about private sales?

Under a sole agency agreement, you do not have to pay commission if you make a private sale. However, ‘sole selling rights’ are different to a sole agency arrangement. If your contract states the agent has ‘sole selling rights’, you may be liable to pay commission even if you make a private sale.

You should know

  • We will make sure you email the estate agent, including copies of relevant documents, correspondence and notes or recordings of calls
  • If you are not satisfied, you can escalate your complaint to one of two ombudsmen for the property sector - we will let you know which ombudsman you need to contact
  • If you do escalate your issue ot the ombudsman, we will package up your case file for you - including all correspondence and phone calls recorded via resolver - but make sure you ask the agent's permission before sending recordings of calls
  • 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

Making a complaint

If you are not happy with their response, email the estate agent via resolver, including copies of relevant documents, correspondence and notes or recordings of any calls. Explain your issue and what you want them to do about it.

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.

How resolver will help

resolver will record all your emails and phone calls automatically and for free. At each stage of the process, it knows who to escalate your case to within the company and when to do this.

If you are not satisfied

If you are not satisfied with your agent's response or they don't resolve the issue within eight weeks, your complaint can be sent to the ombudsman. There are two ombudsmen for the property sector - the Property Ombudsman and Ombudsman Services. resolver will remind you when to escalate your case and knowswhich ombudsman to contact.

Your case file will be sent over as a package to the ombudsman, including copies of all relevant correspondence, supporting documents that you have uploaded and phone calls you have made. You should ask the estate agent's permission before you send recordings of phone calls.

Is there a deadline for contacting the ombudsman?

All complaints must be referred to the ombudsman within six months of receiving your estate agent's final response. All complaints must be referred to the ombudsman within nine months of your first complaint.

Be aware

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 the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), it is bound by the NAEA's codes of practice. After receiving a decision from the ombudsman, you can refer the agent to the NAEA, who will investigate the agent's professional conduct and could impose a fine. However, the NAEA 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 the NAEA 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.

If you need to submit your issue, you can use resolver for free

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