Estate Agents Act 1979

The Estate Agents Act 1979 governs the work done by estate agents. Complying with the Act helps to ensure that sellers and buyers are treated honestly, fairly, and promptly.

What Does the Act Cover?

The main piece of legislation covering estate agents is the Estate Agents Act 1979 which came into effect in 1982 and covers anyone working in estate agency including those working in commercial or agricultural agency and any other type of agency dealing with land or property. It does not cover solicitors, surveyors or financial advisers.

Estate agency is defined as running a business, acting for a client to sell land or property and introducing a buyer. Internet-based companies that simply allow sellers to advertise and be contacted by potential buyers are not estate agents as defined, but as soon as they offer advice or become involved in negotiation etc, they are regarded as estate agents and subject to the Estate Agents Act 1979.

In 1991, further legislation was passed:

  • The Estate Agents (Provision of Information) Regulations 1991
  • The Estate Agents (Undesirable Practices) (No 2) Order 1991
  • The Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No 2) Order 1991

Section 18 of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Provision of Information Regulations 1991

This legislation requires agents to give information about various items including charges (which relate to the fee or commission for selling and any other charges e.g. photography, For Sale board costs), circumstances in which the seller will have to pay charges and services that might be provided to a buyer. This information must be given promptly and in writing, before there is an agency contract with the seller and with an explanation of the agency terms sole agency, sole selling rights and ready, willing and able purchaser (see Agency Terms and The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013).

Connected Persons and Personal Interest

Estate agents cannot ask for or receive a deposit where there is a personal interest involved – which must be disclosed promptly and in writing. Section 21 and Sections 31/32 of the Act define personal interest and connected persons.

The Undesirable Practices Order

This requires agents to inform sellers promptly and in writing if a buyer takes services from them and to forward offers promptly and in writing. Agents must also ensure they do not discriminate against a buyer who is not taking services from them or misrepresent offers or the status of buyers.

Clients’ Money and Deposits

Clients’ money must be kept in an account with an authorised institution. Clients’ accounts must be audited annually within six months of the end of the accounting year. Interest must be paid on deposits of more than £500 if the interest comes to £10 or more. Receipts should be given for deposits paid and records kept for at least six years.

Warning and Prohibition Orders

If estate agents break the rules, Powys County Council can impose sanctions in the form of warning and prohibition orders (see Dealing with Clients’ Money & Deposits) that are kept on a public register. An estate agent must be given notice if an order is to be made and has 21 days from the notice to make representations. They must be given an oral hearing if requested and 21 days’ notice of the hearing needs to be given. If an order is made, the estate agent has 28 days to appeal to the Secretary of State.


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This article is published by Domus Estate and Letting Agency Software.

Domus is an easy to use cloud based estate and letting agent software for estate agents to manage sales, lettings, accounting and a client portal.

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