Estate agents in the North are to be policed by a new watchdog who will have the power to ban those who do not stick to the new rules, it was revealed today.
Anyone who buys or sells residential property will be able to file complaints to an ombudsman under new legislation that comes into force on October 1.
Estate agents who fail to join an approved complaints scheme by that date face a £1,000 (€1,300) fine, or ultimately a ban from operating.
The ombudsman will have a range of powers and can force agents to pay compensation to customers found to have been unfairly treated.
In the North, the legislation will be enforced by the Trading Standards Service (TSS) of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Head of the TSS, David Livingstone, said: “Trading Standards Service has written to all estate agents in Northern Ireland to notify them about the new law, and to advise on what action is required.
“While we hope that it will not become necessary to impose penalty charges on any estate agents in Northern Ireland for non-compliance, nonetheless we are duty bound to enforce this new law.
“If any agents fail to join one of the approved schemes, we will have no option but to take enforcement action.”
The UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has already approved applications from the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) and the Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme (SOS) to run redress schemes.