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The Plan to Add Broadband and Mobile Cover to UK Property Listings

Thursday, Aug 18th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 2,896
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The National Trading Standards – Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT), which works to protect consumers by enforcing existing legislation, is reportedly considering updating the material information rules for property listings to require that agents include data on broadband ISP and mobile coverage.

At present Estate Agents are not strictly required to include key detail on broadband and mobile capability when listing new homes (houses, apartments etc.) or other buildings for sale or rent. But a few organisations, like Right Move, have optionally managed to add some very limited data on internet speeds (here) – albeit arguably not enough to be very useful.

Under the existing Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, estate and letting agents have a legal obligation not to omit Material Information from property listings. But at present this tends to only cover key details, such as fees and photos, council tax bands, floor plans and so forth.

The proposal from NTSELAT would, if approved, require property listings to also include detail about both a property’s broadband and mobile capability.

James Munro, Head of the NTSELAT, said (EstateAgentToday):

“This is where we are saying we need to know things about a property that would be unconventional. Is broadband speed or mobile signal material information? I went to look at a lovely property but my wife and I couldn’t get signal on our phones and there was none on my work phone.

That sounds idyllic but is a serious issue. We would say we cannot live there as we can’t do anything about it.”

As we understand it, such a change would be introduced into Part B of the material information requirements. Part A was only recently updated – as part of NTSELAT’s ongoing work to defining what constitutes material information for property listings – and thus work has now switch to Part B.

The three stages of material information disclosure

Part A

Information that, regardless of outcome, is always considered material for all properties regardless of location. This information generally involves unavoidable costs that will be incurred by the occupier regardless of the use of the property.

Part B

Information that must be established for all properties. It applies mainly to utilities (and similar), where non-standard features would affect someone’s decision to look any further at that property.

Part C

Additional material information that may or may not need to be established, depending on whether the property is affected or impacted by the information. Applies to properties affected by the issue itself because of, for example, the location of the property.

On the surface this might seem like an entirely fair thing to do, but not all agents are happy about the idea, and it’s easy enough to understand why. Today’s market is chocked full of different network operators and just trying to figure out what is actually available, with any real accuracy, to a given property can be very tricky – even for us.

Most network checkers do not cover every single operator, and they often use older data that may not reflect the situation today – a key issue given the rapid rollout of new full fibre (FTTP) networks. All of this is before we even consider the highly variable nature of mobile coverage, whether it be measured indoor or outdoor etc.

In the past, we’ve tended to see some estate agents try to get around this by displaying only the advertised rates from specific ISPs (usually just the biggest players) or using highly unreliable data from anecdotal speed testing reports, neither of which can accurately reflect the full variety of local network availability or performance. Some property listing firms may only show network and ISP options from those providers where they have a commercial relationship, which further corrupts the accuracy of their result.

In other cases, the property listing might completely ignore the existence of smaller alternative networks (AltNets), even when they’re known to exist in an area. Suffice to say, details matter, but figuring these things out for every single property listing – with any accuracy – could be quite a complex and laborious task. Hence, why there are still some detractors for what is, in principle at least, a very good idea.

Strictly speaking, NTSELAT could use the existing regulation to enforce such a change upon the industry, but that wouldn’t necessarily solve the challenges involved (as above) and could result in a backlash. Instead, the team appears to be taking a softer and more collaborative approach. “We want to secure compliance by working together,” said Munro.

At present there doesn’t appear to be a solid plan or timeframe for this change to be introduced and no doubt, even if an agreement can be reached, there will be some devils in the detail. But for now, we’d still recommend that consumers do their own research and not trust in what developers or Estate Agents tell you, at least when it comes to telecoms.

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15 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Angry Man says:

    But are they not just adding what sites like Rightmove already guesstimate? But they are accurate?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      We don’t know yet, there’s no detail on the proposal. Speaking of Right Move, they seemed to have watered down their approach (hence my comments in the article). I just did a couple of checks via their website and, under where it says ‘Broadband speed’ in a property listing, the only result they showed was “Onestream 75Mbps” (i.e. effectively the fastest speed on an FTTC tier).

      In the same areas Virgin Media was also present (not mentioned) and so was FTTP from Openreach and another altnet network (both not mentioned). Likewise, why only Onestream for FTTC – when lots of ISPs offer it (guessing commercial deals)? Furthermore, the advertised speed did not reflect the real-world capability of the homes tested, which BTWholesale said would get much closer to 20-40Mbps in the real world.

      This just goes to show how tedious it could be to get this right, while avoiding commercial interests that corrupt the results. Commercial interests may be part of the reason why some Estate Agents don’t want this imposed through the rules, as it may limit their arrangements.

  2. Avatar photo K says:

    This is insane! Generally in my experience listing will not include;

    If property has gas vs oil vs electric
    vs heat pump availability / heating.
    Fresh water from a well or mains.
    Septic tank or mains sewage.
    And so on. Realistically I think most people capable of buying a house will be able to search on gocompare to get the broadband options or whatever.

    We can’t expect estate agents to be experts in altnet availability vs 4G networks vs FTTC. I’m not even convinced it’s desirable.

    1. Avatar photo Stuart Gibson says:

      I work for a broadband company and I completely understand your point, but sadly lots of people still don’t check what broadband they can get at a new property. A large amount of people assume that you can just plug your router into a new house and it will work

    2. Avatar photo Tech3475 says:

      “ I’m not even convinced it’s desirable.”

      I’ve read that Broadband speeds can affect the value of a house and turn people off completely. I can imagine estate agents hating it for the latter reason alone, especially if as Stuart says people don’t check themselves.

    3. Avatar photo angry man says:

      That’s fair enough but to also be fair no one should buy a house based on the speed – not in 2022 when you can now plunk a sat dish anywhere and get very fast speeds

      Then again I live in a Motorhome – so maybe I should just butt out 😀

    4. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Lack of superfast broadband is definetly a turn off for many buyers, its in the estate agents interest to find out the fastest providers in the area. Lack of ultrafast isn’t a complete turn off for me but it does make the house less attractive if its unlikely to come soon.

      @angry man, technically true but Starlink is £89pm.

    5. Avatar photo K says:

      I guess that my point here is that If the news is positive its invariably in the listing anyway (save for when to owner doesn’t know, in which case how can we expect the estate agent to?)

      If not then I would expect people to check before buying a house if its important to them

    6. Avatar photo Mike says:

      If people are too stupid to check beforehand then they get what they deserve.

  3. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Why do you need a law for this? If the property on sale has a high-speed broadband service, then a competent agent would include that fact in the sales blurb.

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Welcome to the new totalitarian society.

  4. Avatar photo Regorimabitbackward says:

    I wonder if a property for sale is advertised as having this such broadband speed and this such mobile coverage and it is subsequently found not to be the case, will a purchaser have the right to cancel and get a full refund ie false or misleading advertising?

  5. Avatar photo cdturri says:

    The only real way of doing this is to have the government require all ISPs to report the availability of their services and the speeds they can provide for all properties they serve. The government can then consolidate this information and provide a search capability web portal. Finally the estate agent can simply do a query on the property and attach the report to the property listing. I suspect ISPs will not like this system as it will generate a lot more competition as it will show areas not well served by the big guys. But it could also be used against consumers. I have good internet options at my house, 300mb FTTC G.Fast from Openreach and 1gb from Virgin Media. So when I need to renew my contract from VM they give me good deals. But a friend of mine who lives not far from my house doesn’t have good FTTC and VM always offers him worst deals than the ones I can get.

  6. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    Seven redundant words at the end, there:-)

  7. Avatar photo Mark says:

    Wouldn’t sellers complain if they live in a poor mobile area and Broadband is poor it could prejudice a sale due to potential buyers being put off. So it would come down to area and desirability. You could argue some don’t want technology so aren’t too worried about availability.

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