Estate agents that deliberately mislead homebuyers through a practice called ‘portal juggling’ could be prosecuted and face a ban from working in the industry.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) is warning against the practice, which involves the deliberate removal of properties from major property sites before relisting them.
The properties are often relisted with only minor differences to make them appear new on the market.
NTSEAT has confirmed that the practice is in breach of trading regulations and, in some cases, can be fraudulent.
Buying a house can be stressful. If things go wrong, you can use our guides to make sure you know your rights and solve any problems you have with your estate agent.
Is it really ‘new on the market’?
NTSEAT has received complaints that some agents struggling to sell a property are using this practice to mislead potential homebuyers.
Acting on these complaints, the team has confirmed that the practice is illegal and could lead to prosecution.
NTSEAT confirmed it would be an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) if an estate agent relisted a property and:
- described it as ‘new on the market’
- implied it is new on the market
- used it as a mechanism to falsely inflate sales statistics.
False representations made by an estate agent could also fall under the scope of the Fraud Act 2008.
NTSEAT team leader James Munro said: ‘It’s clear that portal juggling is a concern to many in the industry, and we’re warning those estate agents involved in portal juggling that they may be breaking the law, which could lead to enforcement action from local Trading Standards authorities and prosecution.
‘We will work closely with industry bodies to stop this unfair and misleading practice, which misleads prospective homebuyers and harms honest estate agents.’
How do you spot a ‘juggled’ property?
It can be pretty tough to spot a juggled property. You need to be watching the property portals constantly for similar listings.
But there is dedicated estate-agent software that searches portals for duplicate listings that can then be reported to platforms such as Zoopla or Rightmove.
You can do some basic checks as a buyer or seller, such as reviewing the listing history on a portal and asking an agent about the marketing history.
Under the Estate Agents Act Estate 1979, agents are required to tell you the history of their listings.
You can also keep an eye on email alerts to see how often the same property pops up.