Campaign against standard term estate agency contracts

Does Steve Brine MP Winchester, Support Rogue Traders?

steve brine - mp winchesterJust prior to the election we wrote to Steve Brine, MP for Winchester about the situation the victim of Penyards has experienced.  We chose Mr Brine because Grahame Evans of Penyards is a constituent of his and plying his trade from his area.

 rogue definition:

‘Operating outside normal or desirable controls: “How could a single rogue trader bring down an otherwise profitable and well-regarded institution?” (Saul Hansell).’

Mr Brine claims that he is a champion for citizens rights so when we wrote to him with regard to this he replied that ‘if reelected he was happy to consider taking it to House of Commons’.

Naturally, once the conservatives won we picked up the conversation where it had been left.

We also informed Evans of Mr Brine’s admirable stance on supporting a campaign that will affect his litigation, every homeowner in his constituency and the UK.

Then Mr Brine made a dramatic U turn.  It appears that Evans or his solicitors forwarded private correspondence and in doing so we can only assume that as is their way, they have threatened him also (although this is speculation).

We received this:

‘An email has come to my attention. Let me quite clear with you … if you wish to pursue legal proceedings against anyone that is your choice. I cannot, and will not, play any part in that as a Member of Parliament.’

Mr Brine’s comment was obtuse as no one had asked him to pursue legal proceedings against anyone.

He had been asked to support the campaign and ensure homeowners are protected. The aim of the campaign is clear.  The clause in Estate Agents contracts is clearly dangerous when a ‘rogue’ (see definition above) agent such as Grahame Evans chooses to ignore all industry codes of practise and should be struck out.

Now we understand the reluctance to get directly involved in the dispute between Penyards and the victim but the two are intimately entwined.  The victim’s experience is a documented case and what can happen when this clause is leveraged.  ALL UK homeowners are clearly exposed to massive exploitation when agents choose to litigate.

The ONLY reason this does not happen more often is that most agents act in the most professional manner and abide by the Codes of Practice set out to protect the public.

Everybody knows that the law is confusing and it often more about points scoring than what is fair and reasonable. However, this case is pretty straightforward and the clause in standard term estate agent contracts appears to be unfairly biased towards the agent.

The regulations are aimed at contracts made between businesses and consumers, and contracts which are drafted in advance and presented to the consumer to sign. They apply to all standard terms (i.e. those that have not been individually agreed with the consumer), by applying a test of ‘fairness’. If any of the standard terms fail this test, then they will not be enforceable against the consumer.

The OFT, and certain other bodies, can take legal action to prevent the use of unfair terms but they haven’t in this case due to the default judgement (ie there was no defence presented) Penyards luckily secured. A term is likely to be considered unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

Yes, the clause is covered by TPO (Property Ombudsman) National Ass. of Estate Agents guidelines but Evans simply ignored them (rogue: operating outside normal or desirable controls). The TPO, NAEA and Trading Standards clearly have no teeth, therefore the public need to be protected.

TPO and NAEA codes of practice are simply unnecessary – no clause, no issue!

We received a letter from an agent claiming that the clause needs to be there to protect them from clients taking advantage of their marketing and moving on. Well the answer to that we believe is to ensure the agent offers a first class service isn’t it?  If the service is second to none then why would a client move on?

With the clause in place it leaves the door wide open for a super-aggressive estate agent to leverage tens of thousands of pounds from innocent homeowners … and in this case this is not the first time this agent has come to blows.

We have now written several times to Brine but he appears to be hiding behind his autoresponder, ignoring correspondence and in doing so clearly supporting the abhorrent practices of Estate Agents who choose to disregard normal professional practise with horrifying consequences for those who put their trust and property in their hands.

Mr Brine has a golden opportunity here to make a huge difference in championing reforms.  The fact is, that the situation the victim of Penyards faces could happen to anyone in the UK, even Steve Brine and his family. As said, we suspect Mr Brine has received veiled threats which would account for the recent change of mind.  If this is the case then surely it would be motivation to stop this now.

As it stands UK homeowners are open to massive exploitation and by doing nothing Mr Steve Brine is failing in his commitments and the faith his voters placed in him to look after their best interests. 

We await Mr Brine’s comments.



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