Estate agents - Sole agency period
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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
- 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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