Estate agents: what happens if you don’t comply with the law

Estate agents: what happens if you don’t comply with the law

What enforcement action can be taken and who can enforce the legislation

If you’re an estate agent, you’ll need to comply with certain legislation. 

If you don't comply with this legislation, you could be:

  • banned from working in property sales
  • prosecuted
  • given an unlimited fine

See our guide to running your business legally

Enforcement action

Enforcement action includes warning orders and prohibition orders.

Warning and prohibition orders can be made against:

  • individuals
  • partnerships or companies
  • anyone employed by the above

Warning orders

Warning orders allow an individual or business to continue trading, but with a set of rules that they must abide by.

We can issue a warning order if you break the law relating to:

  • information on charges: such as fees payable by your client, or charges for services you arrange
  • definition of terms: such as advertising a property as new when it has previously been on the market 
  • your personal interest in a sale of a property
  • information to clients about offers: such as claiming a higher offer has been made, or not passing on offers 
  • information to clients about services provided to buyers: such as conveyancing, arranging a mortgage introduction or a removal firm 
  • misleading statements: such as describing a property as having an extra bedroom, when planning permission has not been given
  • bias against buyers: only passing on offers from certain clients, or discriminating against buyers who don’t want extra services 
  • interest on clients' money

If you breach the warning order, you could be banned from further estate agency work under a prohibition order.

Prohibition orders

Prohibition orders can ban you from all, or some aspect of, estate agency work. 

It can be issued whether or not a warning order was previously made.

A prohibition order can be made if you have:

  • breached a warning order
  • committed an offence of fraud or other dishonesty, or violence
  • committed racial or sexual discrimination during your work as an estate agent
  • committed certain specified offences such as fraud, or other dishonesty or violence
  • committed certain offences under the Act such as engaging in estate agency work whilst bankrupt 
  • breached certain provisions of the Act: such as not being a member of a redress scheme 
  • engaged in a practice declared undesirable under the Act such as discriminating against buyers who don’t want additional services

If you don't comply with a prohibition order, you have committed a criminal offence, and you could be fined.

Who can enforce the legislation

The legislation can be enforced by:

  • The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team
  • Local authority Trading Standards departments
  • The Department of Economic Development (Northern Ireland)

We’ll issue a Notice of Proposal before we make an order. 

The Notice of Proposal will include:

  • our plan to issue an order against you
  • information about why we’re issuing the order

We can ask anyone, including clients and potential buyers, to give us information or produce documents before we decide if we’ll issue an order or carry out other enforcement activities.

You’ll have at least 21 days to explain why the proposed order shouldn’t be made. The notice will explain how you can do this.

Appeal a prohibition or warning order

If you’ve recently been issued with a ban or warning order you can appeal the decision.