Information on how to sue estate agents

An estate agent is a professional who arranges the buying and selling, renting and management of properties, including:

  • Homes
  • Land
  • Other buildings

Estate agents may deal with residential or commercial property.

Why sue estate agents?

You may wish to sue estate agents that you used for the buying or selling of a property, or the leasing of a property. The Estate Agents Act 1979 regulates estate agents.

Under the Act, disciplinary and enforcement action can be undertaken by the Office of Fair Trading, including:

  • Warning orders
  • Prohibition orders

The Act may apply to someone who is carrying out estate agency work even if they are not valid estate agents under the Act. However, the Act cannot regulate work done by solicitors or their employees as part of their work as solicitors, or other professionals involved in estate agent services - such as surveyors or valuers - carrying out work independently of any other estate agency work.

It is a good idea to speak to a solicitor to see which laws cover your circumstances. You may be able to sue estate agents under the agency agreement or under the common law or statute.

What could I sue them for?

Misrepresentation and negligence are the most common areas of law under which people attempt to sue estate agents.

  • Misrepresentation, or misleading information, occurs where the estate agents made a false statement of fact which induced you to enter into a contract.

For example, the agent may have told you that there was access to a rooftop area when there was not. You will need to discuss with a solicitor the fine line between a statement of fact, which may lead to a legal claim, and a statement of opinion, which cannot.

  • You may be able to sue your estate agents under negligence if they breached their duty of care towards you and you have suffered loss as a consequence.

For example, if your estate agent failed to carry out a proper inspection of the property or failed to inform you of an existing tenancy.

Example case

An example of an estate agent’s negligence can be seen in the case of Lough Eske Holdings v Knight Frank & Rutley. 

The client in this case brought a claim alleging professional negligence. Estate agents instructed by the plaintiff had failed to conduct a proper examination and valuation of the property and as a result were found to be in breach of their professional duty.

However the award in this case illustrates how complex it is to successfully sue estate agents.

Negligence will only lead to a financial reward in court if it directly attributable to a loss. In this case the estate agents established that had they recommended a full evaluation the client would not have paid for it, and therefore the evaluation would not have been done. The plaintiff in the case only received a nominal award of one pound, and was still liable for the agency’s fee.

It’s a very complicated area of law, and the best way to resolve it is to speak to a specialist solicitor. Contact Law has a UK-wide network of solicitors who can help.

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