Creating ‘fake’ property bids to be improper under new rules

Letting agents required to return deposits within 10 days under proposed standards

The proposed new standards for real-estate agents are at an early draft stage, and are due to undergo a period of consultation with representative groups in the industry.

The proposed new standards for real-estate agents are at an early draft stage, and are due to undergo a period of consultation with representative groups in the industry.

 

Creating “false or misleading” property bids to drive up house sale prices would be deemed improper conduct under proposed new minimum standards for estate agents.

Letting agents would have to return deposits to tenants within 10 working days of a lease ending, under new rules being considered by the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA).

The regulator is considering a range of expanded minimum standards for the sector, which covers real-estate and letting agents, auctioneers and property management agents.

Telling potential homebuyers that a competing or higher offer has been received on a property, when it has not, would be a breach of new professional standards for the sector.

During a speech to a property industry conference held in Croke Park on Wednesday, PSRA chief executive Maeve Hogan said there were gaps in the current standards.

Currently real-estate agents are required to log all bids they receive on a property that is for sale. The additional minimum standards would go further, making it a breach of professional conduct to “create a false or misleading bid”, Ms Hogan said.

“So alleging that you have a higher bid and you don’t have that bid, and you inform the person that you have a higher bid, we are proposing to include in the standards,” she said.

The new standards are at an early draft stage, and are due to undergo a period of consultation with representative groups in the industry.

“One of the issues we’re proposing, it is improper conduct to impose a viewing fee on a prospective purchaser or tenant in respect of sales or lettings,” Ms Hogan said. Housing charities have said the crisis in the rental market has led to property agents levying extra charges on tenants in recent years.

It would be improper conduct to charge tenants a fee for the renewal of a lease, Ms Hogan said.

Security deposits

Booking and security deposits would have to be returned to tenants within 10 working days of a lease ending, she said. The regulator had received a number of complaints on this issue, but could take no action as it fell outside of current minimum professional standards.

The 10-day time limit to return deposits would not be “unreasonable” for letting agents to meet, Ms Hogan said.

Property agents could not accept “any form of inducement” from a prospective buyer or tenant trying to secure a property or lease, the draft guidelines state.

Other actions to be deemed improper conduct would include a property agent overstating their experience, or failing to declare any potential conflict of interest with a client.

Breaches of existing laws such as equality or data-protection legislation would also be deemed improper conduct under the expanded minimum standards.

Research presented at the PRSA’s Facing the Future conference found 36 per cent of property agents surveyed felt Brexit would have a negative impact on their business.

The survey by Dr Róisín Murphy, which compiled responses from 1,207 agents, found 82 per cent agreed regulation was positive for the property sector.

The PSRA was set up in the aftermath of the property crash, and requires any agents looking to operate in the sector to obtain and renew a licence.