No estate or letting agent ever intends to give bad advice. But unfortunately, expensive mistakes do happen every now and again.
Whether they are sellers, buyers, landlords or tenants – disgruntled clients can feel so strongly that they may take legal action against your firm in a bid to claim for compensation, complain to the property ombudsman or your professional body and make damaging comments on social media.
Taking out professional indemnity insurance ensures that you are not left to cover the substantial costs of compensating your client and also foot the bill for legal costs.
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Reputation is key
There is also a growing focus on the professionalism of estate agencies. The NAEA, RICS and even Rightmove all require professional indemnity insurance to join - they know that claims happen. In addition to this, all agents need to belong to an independent redress scheme, such as The Property Ombudsman – which again requires that the agent has professional indemnity insurance in order to join.
What to look for
Although professional indemnity insurance is important to both the reputation and financial health of any estate or letting agent, you need to be sure that the policy you’re taking out is a comprehensive one.
Some examples of claims
It was alleged that the agent undersold a property. Five months later it was resold for double the previous price. Amount Paid £ 200,000
An employee of the business altered the amounts and wordings of cheques, enabling him to obtain the proceeds. Amount Paid £ 50,000
The agent advised a client to sell a farm by auction. The client later alleged that a higher price could have been obtained if the land and buildings had been sold separately. Amount Paid £ 45,000
A property was put up for sale by the agent but it was alleged that this had not been requested. Amount Paid £ 40,000
The agent valued a client's house in excess of £ 500,000 and it was subsequently put on the market. In anticipation of a quick sale, the client purchased two properties. The house was overvalued, however, and after a long delay was sold for a substantially lower price. A claim was brought for the cost of bridging finance and other expenses incurred as a result. Amount Paid £ 30,000
An agent was retained to negotiate a rent review but failed to agree an early figure.Tenants had to pay higher rent. Amount Paid £ 700,000
A notice to quit was served on the tenant of a farm. The firm failed to serve a counter notice under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 within the time limit. Amount Paid £ 75,000
The insured was managing a client's property and replaced a clay roof with concrete tiles. Because the property was a listed building, planning permission should have been obtained. The local authority required that the clay tiles be refitted. Amount Paid £ 20,000