Recently there has been increasing public concern that some of the property advertisements issued by estate agents may contain false or misleading information. In this regard, estate agents must comply with the relevant laws and guidelines issued by the Estate Agents Authority (“EAA”) when they issue advertisements, and the EAA will conduct regular checks to ensure estate agents’ compliance. However, there is sometimes no straight forward answer as to whether a particular contained in a property advertisement is “true or false”.
In the exuberant property market in Hong Kong, a property could be sold within a short period of time after the advertisement is posted. Besides, vendors may change their minds according to market trends and adjust the selling price of their properties from time to time, while some may also choose to appoint more than one estate agent or allow sub-listing of their properties.
All along, there are a number of requirements that estate agents must comply with when issuing residential property advertisements. For example, estate agents must enter into an estate agency agreement with the vendor and obtain his/her written consent before issuing any advertisement for residential properties. Advertising a property at a price or rental or on such terms different from that instructed by the client is also not allowed. To enhance transparency so as to better safeguard the interests of consumers, the EAA issued a new Practice Circular (No.18-02(CR)), which shall take effect on 1 December 2018, to set out more stringent guidelines for estate agents to follow when issuing their property advertisements.
According to the new Circular, estate agency companies must assign a unique identification number (“Property Number”) to each property to be advertised and state clearly and legibly the Property Number as well as the date on which the advertisement is issued or updated (“Advertisement Date”) on the advertisement. Moreover, estate agency companies must ensure that all information contained in the advertisements is accurate and valid as at the Advertisement Date. All advertisements should be removed from cyberspace or shop windows or other advertising channels as soon as practicable after the property concerned is no longer available for sale or leasing, or the termination of the estate agency agreement concerned (whichever is the earlier).
Consumers are advised to be very careful when reading any property advertisement and before making a purchase decision. They should not rely solely on the advertisement issued by an individual estate agency company but, instead, gather more information and references such as the price range and other important property information about their favourite development or area from media or government sources. Most importantly, they are always advised not to be hasty in and should make more comparisons before their decisions.
Chief Executive Officer
Estate Agents Authority