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Many people who sell a property in the UK will use the marketing services of an estate agency. Estate agency work is defined by the Estate Agents Act 1979 as: “introducing and/ or negotiating with people who want to buy or sell freehold or leasehold property (including commercial or agricultural property) where this is done in the course of a business pursuant to instructions from a client”.

Estate agents are principally regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. In addition, since 1 October 2008, all estate agents in the UK who engage in residential estate agency work are required to belong to an approved redress scheme dealing with complaints about the buying and selling of residential property. This is a requirement of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.

Estate agents across the UK are regulated by the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) of  Powys County Council. The team assesses whether or not an individual or business in any part of the UK is fit to carry out estate agency work within the terms of the Estate Agents Act 1979. It took over this enforcement role from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on 1 April 2014.

This Commons briefing paper provides an outline of the current regulation of estate agents in England and Wales only. In both countries there is no legally binding contract at the point when a seller accepts an offer; there is only the potential for a transaction at a verbally agreed price. This means that until exchange of contracts, either side can pull out without being liable to the other for any losses incurred. The situation is very different in Scotland, where there are different property laws. In Scotland, there is a much earlier legally binding agreement between the buyer and seller of a property.

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