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Distance Selling

We have noted a marked increase in queries regarding consumer protection legislation. As such a little reminder about the The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 may be of some help.
These regulations are secondary legislation under the European Communities Act 1985 and the intention behind them is to regulate distance selling business transactions. That is contracts concluded at a distance where there has been no face to face contact, which are for the provision of services. Tenancy agreements are specifically included within the general scope of the Regulations, because the tenant will have been supplied with a service, and so the Regulations will apply to landlords in distance selling situations and therefore agents should familiarise themselves with the basic provisions.
The regulations have 2 important effects for landlords regarding distance contracts, which the agent should ensure that the Landlord is aware of:
1. allow the tenant the right to cancel the distance contract
2. require that a landlord (or agent on his behalf) provides certain specified information to the tenant
The Regulations imply a right to cancel by the tenant into any distance contract under the Regulations unless this right has been specifically excluded by agreement of the parties.
Cancellation operates when the tenant gives a notice of cancellation to the landlord or the agent on his behalf if permitted. Where it applies, the right to cancel can be exercised by the tenant within seven working days of concluding the agreement if the Written Information requirements have been complied with, or within three months and seven working days if they have not.
Agents should note that the tenant’s right to cancel does not apply for the supply of services if the tenancy has started and the tenant has been informed that there will be no rights to cancel the contract once it had started. It is therefore recommended that agents attempt, where possible, to have the agreement signed in their presence at the time they release the keys for the property.
The Written Information that must be supplied to the Tenant prior to the signing of the tenancy agreement is mostly in the tenancy agreement itself and includes such things as the Landlord’s and where applicable the Agents contact details, the fees in arranging the agreement if applicable, the rent payable, the duration of the agreement and so on.
We have noted that many people assume that the Regulations apply to Guarantor Agreements however given that the Guarantor receives no service for entering into the agreement, this is inaccurate.
Incidentally, contrary to some advice we have seen, the Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work Etc Regulations 2008 also does not apply to guarantee agreements as no service is provided and it does not cover tenancy agreement but do cover agent’s terms of business.

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