An Act to prohibit the making of false or misleading statements
about property matters in the course of estate agency business and property
[27th June 1991]
Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with
advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in
this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as
Offence of property misdescription.
1.(1) Where a false or misleading statement about a prescribed
matter is made in the course of an estate agency business or a property
development business, otherwise than in providing conveyancing services,
the person by whom the business is carried on shall be guilty of an
offence under this section.
(2) Where the making of the statement is due to the act or default
of an employee the employee shall be guilty of an offence under this
and the employee may be proceeded against and punished whether or not
proceedings are also taken against his employer.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be
(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory
(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine.
(4) No contract shall be void or unenforceable, and no right of
in civil proceedings in respect of any loss shall arise, by reason
the commission of an offence under this section.
(5) For the purposes of this section
(a) "false" means false to a material degree,
(b) a statement is misleading if (though not false) what a
reasonable person may be expected to infer from it, or from any omission from it, is false,
(c) a statement may be made by pictures or any other method of
signifying meaning as well as by words and, if made by words, may be
made orally or in writing,
(d) a prescribed matter is any matter relating to land which is
specified in an order made by the Secretary of State,
(e) a statement is made in the course of an estate agency business
if (but only if) the making of the statement is a thing done as
mentioned in subsection (1) of section 1 of the [1979 c. 38.] Estate Agents
1979 and that Act either applies to it or would apply to it but for
subsection (2)(a) of that section (exception for things done in
of profession by practising solicitor or employee),
(f) a statement is made in the course of a property development
business if (but only if) it is made
(i) in the course of a business (including a business in which
person making the statement is employed) concerned wholly or
substantially with the development of land, and
(ii) for the purpose of, or with a view to, disposing of an
in land consisting of or including a building, or a part of a
building, constructed or renovated in the course of the business,
(g) "conveyancing services" means the preparation of any transfer,
conveyance, writ, contract or other document in connection with the
disposal or acquisition of an interest in land, and services
to that, but does not include anything done as mentioned in section
1(1)(a) of the Estate Agents Act 1979.
(6) For the purposes of this section any reference in this section
section 1 of the Estate Agents Act 1979 to disposing of or acquiring
interest in land
(a) in England and Wales and Northern Ireland shall be construed in
accordance with section 2 of that Act, and
(b) in Scotland is a reference to the transfer or creation of an
"interest in land" as defined in section 28(1) of the [1979 c. 33.]
Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979.
(7) An order under this section may
(a) make different provision for different cases, and
(b) include such supplemental, consequential and transitional
provisions as the Secretary of State considers appropriate;
and the power to make such an order shall be exercisable by statutory
instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a
resolution of either House of Parliament.
Due diligence defence.
2.(1) In proceedings against a person for an offence under
section 1 above it shall be a defence for him to show that he took all
reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing
(2) A person shall not be entitled to rely on the defence provided
subsection (1) above by reason of his reliance on information given by
another unless he shows that it was reasonable in all the
for him to have relied on the information, having regard in
(a) to the steps which he took, and those which might reasonably
have been taken, for the purpose of verifying the information, and
(b) to whether he had any reason to disbelieve the information.
(3) Where in any proceedings against a person for an offence under
section 1 above the defence provided by subsection (1) above involves
an allegation that the commission of the offence was due
(a) to the act or default of another, or
(b) to reliance on information given by another,
the person shall not, without the leave of the court, be entitled to
on the defence unless he has served a notice under subsection (4)
the person bringing the proceedings not less than seven clear days
the hearing of the proceedings or, in Scotland, the diet of trial.
(4) A notice under this subsection shall give such information
identifying or assisting in the identification of the person who
the act or default, or gave the information, as is in the possession
the person serving the notice at the time he serves it.
3. The Schedule to this Act (which makes provision about
enforcement of this Act) shall have effect.
Bodies corporate and Scottish partnerships.
4.(1) Where an offence under this Act committed by a body
corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or
of, or to be attributable to neglect on the part of, a director,
secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person
was purporting to act in such a capacity, he (as well as the body
corporate) is guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against
(2) Where the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its
subsection (1) above applies in relation to the acts and defaults of a
member in connection with his functions of management as if he were a
director of the body corporate.
(3) Where an offence under this Act committed in Scotland by a
Scottish partnership is proved to have been committed with the consent
connivance of, or to be attributable to neglect on the part of, a
he (as well as the partnership) is guilty of the offence and liable to
proceeded against and punished accordingly.
Prosecution time limit.
5.(1) No proceedings for an offence under section 1 above or
paragraph 5(3), 6 or 7 of the Schedule to this Act shall be commenced
(a) the end of the period of three years beginning with the date of
the commission of the offence, or
(b) the end of the period of one year beginning with the date of the
discovery of the offence by the prosecutor,
whichever is the earlier.
(2) For the purposes of this section a certificate signed by or on
behalf of the prosecutor and stating the date on which the offence was
discovered by him shall be conclusive evidence of that fact; and a
certificate stating that matter and purporting to be so signed shall
be treated as so signed unless the contrary is proved.
6. There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament
any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable out of such
money under any other Act.
Short title and extent.
7.(1) This Act may be cited as the Property Misdescriptions
(2) This Act extends to Northern Ireland.