‘My house failed to sell, so why is the estate agent demanding commission if it is bought later?’

Linda J. Dodson

Every week, The Telegraph’s Property Doctors bring expertise on renovations and DIY, interiors, buying and selling, lettings, legal issues and taxes. Send your questions to [email protected]

Q My wife and I put out house on the market in 2018 with a national estate agent and it remained on the market for a year and two months.

Although we reduced the price on a number of occasions, we came to the conclusion that it was not going to achieve the true market price for this kind of property, due to the spectre of HS2, which is being built nearby.

Reluctantly we notified the agent that we would withdraw the house, and they agreed.

They reminded us that a period of 14 days’ notice, in accordance with the terms of the contract with them, would apply. After this period a letter arrived from the agent stating: “Under the terms of our contract you would be liable to pay our sales commission (2pc) if a memorandum of sale issued by another agent to a buyer that we have introduced within six months of the date of our instruction ending. If no other estate agent is involved this time limit extends to two years. This is in line with section 5 of the code of conduct of The Property Ombudsman”.

No such words were written into the contract and no conversation, discussing this element post contract, ever took place.

What would happen if a person knocked on our door and asked whether we would be interested in selling the house two months after the termination of the contract?

If this were to happen would it be equitable for an agent, who has not introduced a prospective purchaser, to gain a commission on the sale of the property?

AT, Chilterns

A Estate agents normally make it clear that a commission is payable if an applicant introduced by the agent buys the property at any time. 

The passage you have been quoted by the agent is effectively a concession made to comply with their code of conduct that payment will only be made if the buyer previously introduced by the agent buys the property within six months or two years as the case may be.  

Frankly, I think this is fair – otherwise it would be very easy for a seller to avoid paying the agent by simply getting the contact details of the person who views the property and calling him direct. 

As ever, there are grey areas. It sometimes happens that a prospective buyer views a property through an agent, the property is then taken off the market and perhaps many years later the property goes on the market again and the original prospective buyer contacts the seller direct.

Strictly speaking the agent would probably be entitled to a fee under the original contract in those circumstances. This is why the code of conduct to which you have been referred puts a time limit on the agent’s ability to claim his fee. 

Becky Fatemi runs Rokstone Properties in Marylebone, London (rokstone.com)

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