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Obscure fees, illegal clauses… the repression of fraud pinpoints real estate agencies

Are you always well informed when buying real estate? Are all clauses valid? Do you pay legal fees? So many questions to which the repression of fraud tried to answer by launching a vast survey in 2019 among 2,175 establishments in France. In a context where sales exploded in 2019 (more than one million) and agency turnover increased by more than 10%, new players have also arrived on the market. It is therefore necessary to reckon with real estate agencies, networks of agents and notaries. But problem. According to Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF)there are many shortcomings.

The main ones relate to the lack of information, in 50% of cases even. And in particular the fee schedules. If the scales must be clearly displayed in agencies, in these cases, they were “little visible” or even “not at all”, deplores the DGCCRF. Others were “incomplete” and agencies gave them “on estimate”. Not to mention the agencies that apply scales different from those displayed or divide them between buyers and sellers. These problems with the display of fee schedules have also been observed in agencies working on the web. Missing, not found or not very updated, the defects “have been noted in advertisements for sale and rental”, points out the DGCCRF.

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Moreover, for rentals, very often the indication of the surface or the amount of the security deposit is missing. Worse, according to the repression of fraud, agencies put forward on their windows goods marked as “sold” when they are not, only “to make believe in intense activity”. The problems related to the diagnosis of energy performance (the famous DPE) are also numerous. A lot of ads show “DPE in progress” or “DPE blank” which is a big deal. For new housing, while it is sometimes not yet realized, real estate agencies still classify it as “A”, criticizes the DGCCRF in its report.

Sales mandates are also covered, whether they are signed at home or “concluded remotely”. Non-compliance with formalism and the absence of a withdrawal form are the most common anomalies. Others are unaware of the obligation to indicate the name of the consumer mediator or the possibility of registering on a list of opposition to cold calling.

65% of agencies in default

The repression of fraud also wishes to recall that the profession is regulated and that only the holder of a professional card “transactions on real estate and goodwill” can open an agency. Of course, commercial agents are recruited to work with real estate agents, but they remain intermediaries. If the agent does not have the obligation to hold a card, he must on the other hand be “authorized” by a cardholder. Exercise conditions that the DGCCRF lists in its report. However, non-compliance with these rules constitutes 22% of breaches. For pinned officers, they were exercising with a “T” card that had expired, it read. Unauthorized employees and commercial agents account for 11% of breaches.

The last point concerns misleading commercial practices, which is almost a quarter of breaches. Professionals operate without a business mandate or with a mandate that contains irregularities, they leave advertisements in the window or on their sites when the goods are already rented or sold, or they present misleading mentions in the advertisements for sale. Unfair clauses have also been identified, such as payment reminder fees to the tenant or penalties in the event of late payment of rent. Of the 2,175 establishments checked, nearly 65% ​​(1,401) were “anomalous”, underlines the DGCCRF. A number that is on the rise.

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