Reader question: 'How can I get out of a contract with my estate agent?'

Paula Higgins from the Homeowners Alliance explains what rights a reader has if they want to ditch their estate agent

Love Money
Last updated:08 February 2018 - 12.24pm

A reader got in touch asking the following question:

I'm selling my home, but I'm not happy with my estate agent and how they have acted. How do I go about extracting myself from the contract quickly and cleanly?

How to get out of a contract

Paula Higgins (pictured), chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, explains what options are available to the reader.  

Selling what is likely to be your most valuable asset is a big undertaking and enlisting the help of a good estate agent is usually the best way to go about it.

However, the key word here is good.

Unfortunately, the standard of quality in the estate agent sector differs considerably and it’s not guaranteed that the agent you appoint will perform in the way you hoped.

If this happens, as in your case, it’s understandable that you’ll want to part company.

Now, this is where it can get tricky. In theory, you are absolutely within your rights to switch to another agent – so long as your contract doesn’t include any clauses that will make it difficult. Sadly, many do.

One of the most common obstacles sellers face when wanting to terminate a contract is the tie-in period. Some agents have very lengthy tie-in periods – 12 weeks is standard, but we have seen some up to 20-24 weeks – along with notice periods of an extra month tacked on the end. 

That means if you’re not impressed with your agent you still have to wait six months before you can walk away.

Future claims on commission can also be an issue and there is a real risk that you will receive demands to pay commission twice – which can amount to thousands.

Some agents will insist that they should get a share of commission even after you switch to a new agent, if the person you eventually sell the house to was in contact with the first agent at any point – even if that contact is as brief as taking a phone call and no further contact was made.

This is wrong, but you need to understand the law to fight it.

You don’t specify what problems you’re having with your agent and this could be an important point.

If you are able to prove that the estate agent breached the terms of the contract – by not passing on an offer to you, for example – you may be able to terminate the arrangement by threatening to report them to their ombudsman.

Unfortunately, if you simply feel like they are doing absolutely nothing to help sell your home or you don’t enjoy working with them you will have to adhere to the terms of the contract.

This is why it is so important to research the market before appointing an agent.

You could try our free-to-use EstateAgent4Me tool allows you to compare agents by performance, how long it takes for them to sell a property and how close they get to asking price – and to study any contracts in detail before signing anything. 

There is a handy list on what to watch for in these contracts and we at Homeowners Alliance HQ are happy to look them over for you before signing.

Finally, always ask for a list of names of potential viewers that have been in touch with the original agent before moving to a new one.

Good luck.

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The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of loveMONEY.