Estate Agents who remove and relist properties on portals to hide price discounts could be reported to Trading Standards under new rules announced by The Property Ombudsman.

The practice, known as ‘portal juggling’ gives the impression that a property is newly listed when in fact it could have been on the market for weeks or even months.

Figures indicate that there is a link between the amount of time a property is on the market and how much buyers are willing to pay.  Portal juggling is believed to distort property process by creating a false sense of urgency among home buyers.

Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of The Property Ombudsman Board, said: “Our Codes already state that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful, but now go one step further to clarify that ‘portal juggling’, in its various forms, is misleading to consumers.”  He added that agents found guilty of the practice could be reported to The Ombudsman’s Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee or Trading Standards officials.

Other revisions to The Property Ombudsman’s codes include new rules on the disclosure of pre-contract deposits, VAT on fees and disclosure of referencing.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professional Risks.  “The Ombudsman’s code sets new standards for best practice by estate agents.  Any agent who breaches the new rules could find themselves in hot water with the authorities.  Insurers also consider the operational standards of firms before they offer cover, so any agent with a poor disciplinary record could find it harder to secure good value professional indemnity insurance.”

The Property Ombudsman’s press release and the new codes are available on its website.  The changes have been widely reported in the national press, including The Telegraph as well as industry publication Estate Agent Today.