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Estate Agents Falsies

It is always a discomfort to me to report in turn on the discomfiture of Estate Agents. OK, it is only a very minor discomfort. Still, I must persevere and suffer for our readers. Ahem.

A practice which has been common, is for estate agents to find a house which has been empty, or is otherwise suitable for this purpose, and to erect a ‘For Sale’ board, with a ‘sold’ sticker on it from the start. In truth, he has absolutely no connection with the property, but he hopes that by doing so he will advertise his own business as successful to those who pass by. ‘Gosh, George, if Smith & Co can sell even that property, I’m sure they could do a good job for us’ is his fond imagining. Such an act is a criminal offence. The Trade Descriptions Act 1968, section 13 makes it an offence to give a false indication that services were supplied to the owner of the house.

In R v Docklands Estates Ltd CACD Times 22 Sep 2000, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal by the defence against fines totalling over £22,000 imposed by magistrates for a series of such offences. The appela was successful, and the fines reduced, but dishonest Estate Agents, if there are any, should not take a lot of comfort from the case. A trawl had been made of similar prosecutions and few were found where the fines were above £1000 per offence, and many were at the £100 mark or even below.

The court did agree to reduce the fines in this case, but it set a new standard starting point of £2,000 per false indication after a contested trial, and suggested strongly that magistrates should in future impose fines of this order.

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18 October 2013 http://www.swarb.co.uk/lawb/crmEstateAgentsFalsies.shtml 342 18 October 2013