Bairstow Eves, one of the UK's largest estate agency chains, was censured yesterday for erecting "for sale" boards outside properties that it has not been asked to sell.
The Office of Fair Trading found that Mankind Property Ltd of New Cross, south London, which traded under the Bairstow Eves name, was guilty of what is known as "flyboarding", after residents made several complaints.
Suspicions were raised when numerous Bairstow Eves boards appeared in the area a short time after the branch opened. The boards were often on lamp posts outside properties or on street corners.
Mankind's manager, Farooq Majeed, has agreed not to market any property unless acting on instructions to do so by the owner and has now taken down unauthorised boards.
John Vickers, the chairman of the OFT, said yesterday: "Flyboarding is misleading and undesirable. It gives the impression that an estate agent is doing more business in an area than is the case, which can affect the choices a seller makes when selecting an agent to sell their property. We will continue to take action to stop it."
The National Association of Estate Agents yesterday called flyboarding a "deplorable" practice that was outlawed under its code of practice. But despite this, flyboarding is known to the OFT as a common practice, along with removing boards of rival estate agents.
Countrywide Assured, the listed group that owns the Bairstow network, yesterday sought to distance itself from the New Cross branch. A spokesman for the group said: "The actions taken by Mankind are in direct contravention of our operating rules.... We are discussing the matter with Mankind and will take the appropriate disciplinary action, which could include suspending their franchise."Reuse content