Property Market 101 from

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Property problems – get ready to stop them with

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Buying, selling, letting or renting a home can all be taxing and emotional experiences.

Thanks to good estate and letting agents keeping problems to a minimum by working to strict codes of conduct and striving to maintain high levels of customer service, most transactions proceed smoothly. But if something goes wrong it is often the agent who is blamed, fairly or not.

This guide from looks at a few possible problems to help you know what to do if things do go wrong.

Agents act for their clients

The agent has a legal obligation to look after the interests of their client and to follow their instructions. Yet agents are sometimes wrongly blamed if things go awry for a prospective buyer or tenant.


Do your homework – see Top Tip guides. Those who prepare are less likely to experience transaction problems. Good communication is also key. Keep in close contact with agents, advising them of changes in circumstances, to ensure that any issues can be dealt with early.


This is when the seller backs out of an agreed deal and accepts a higher offer from a different buyer. The first buyer may wonder why the property was still being shown and why the estate agents allowed someone else to make an offer. But unless the seller agreed that the property should come off the market while the first sale proceeds, the agent was correct in continuing to offer it – not least because buyers can pull out of transactions.

The agent is legally obliged to inform the seller of all offers. As a buyer you can reduce the chance of being gazumped if you are properly prepared for the purchase, to cut down time taken to exchange contracts.

Where’s my deposit?

At the end of a tenancy, deductions may be made for dilapidations, so the tenant doesn’t get all his deposit back. Agents hold the deposit on behalf of the landlord and can only return it when the deductions are agreed and the landlord instructs them. A good agent will try to resolve disputes over deposit returns but they cannot override their client’s instructions.

There is an independent alternative dispute service but avoid deposit disputes by ensuring there is a detailed inventory at the start of the tenancy.

Why isn’t my offer accepted?

This will be the decision of the seller or landlord not the agent. But in sales, an agent may point out that one buyer is in a better position to proceed. So put yourself in the strongest position by preparing your finances before making an offer.

Why is this sale taking so long?

Once the sale is under way, the agent should check on progress and report to all parties. But sometimes delays can occur. In most cases agents are the glue that binds the transaction together.


Sometimes a serious error may be made. If you feel you have a legitimate grievance against an agent, discuss the problem with them before deciding if you want to make a formal complaint. All good agents have a complaints procedure. You can also complain to an independent Ombudsman.


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