Owners face fines under new laws on selling homes

HOME OWNERS who sell their properties privately will be liable to fines and imprisonment if they fail to comply with new legislation aimed at speeding up the sales process.

HOME OWNERS who sell their properties privately will be liable to fines and imprisonment if they fail to comply with new legislation aimed at speeding up the sales process.

The criminal law, to be introduced next year, will carry a maximum £5,000 fine at a magistrates' court. The sanctions are part of a package of measures that is expected to bring about a radical change in the act of home buying, aiming to reduce the average time it takes to sell a property from three months to just two weeks.

Using new "information packs", sellers will be obliged to carry out a property survey and a draft contract at their own expense, adding around £500 to the cost of a sale. A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions said that it decided to make breaches of the new law a criminal, rather than a civil, offence because it had been advised that it was the only way to stop a move towards unregulated private sales.

Estate agents will be responsible for ensuring that these conditions are met before the home is marketed for sale. Those agents who fail in their duty will be liable to the same criminal sanctions as vendors who sell their homes privately. However, they will be subject to prosecutions carried out by the Office of Fair Trading, which already has the power to fine estate agents or ban them from practice.

Buyers will also have to comply with strict rules including having to provide confirmation of a mortgage agreement before they can make an offer.

But, as expected, the Government has backed away from making gazumping illegal. Instead it hopes that by reducing the delay between offers and agreed sales there will be fewer opportunities for more attractive offers to be submitted by third-party buyers. Insurance companies are to be encouraged to develop insurance to protect buyers and sellers from gazumping. Other proposals aim to speed up local government property searches, while buyers will also have to provide evidence that there are no financial problems affecting their offer.

While most of the changes were welcomed "wholeheartedly" by the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, it expressed reservations over the proposals for the new sellers' packs to contain compulsory surveys.

Buyers would be unwilling to trust a survey arranged by the vendor, the society warned, and they are likely to want to commission their own, creating additional expense and delay.

The Trade and Industry minister, Kim Howells, said the measures would bring "greater confidence" to, and speed up, the home buying process. "Too many transactions fall or are delayed at the last minute because this information is not available," he said.

Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said that a compulsory regime was vital. "There have been many voluntary schemes, but none has worked," he said. But it was equally important that all parties involved in the selling of a property were subject to the rules, he added.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

    $200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

    Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

    $125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

    Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

    Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Day In a Page

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture