Real Estate Portals Vs Legislation: Spain, UK, Singapore

January 17, 2023
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We have spotted three instances of real estate portals fighting against legislative changes in the past six months. What happened, where, and with whom?

Here's the round-up.


Spain: Ley de la Vivienda met with disapproval

On February 1, 2022 a bill for new housing laws was approved in Spain—but not to everyone's satisfaction, and certainly not the portals.

Among the new housing laws, rent caps for portfolio landlords with more than 10 properties (or large properties), and maximum rent increases of 2% YoY for everyone, drove Idealista CEO Jésus Encinar to voice his opposition on Twitter in November:

"Legislation in favor of current tenants harms future ones. Current tenants benefit by raising their rent by much less than inflation. But every day it will be even more and more difficult to find a house for those who need to find a rental or move" [translated from Spanish]

Fotocasa has also raised concerns with the new legislation, posting a blog on its website detailing reasons why the changes could drive landlords to sell up in major markets that are already suffering from supply shortages.

The portals claim that the law, brought in by Pedro Sánchez's socialist government is contributing to a shortage of rental supply which in turn is leading to renters in Spain's larger cities paying a premium as landlords inflate prices of new inventory coming to the market.


United Kingdom: House Prices now Mandatory on Listings

In the United Kingdom, portals have been mandated to provide a property's council tax band or rate, the property price, and tenure information (for sales) since May 2022.

It led to Rightmove admitting that its own stock was non-compliant in July because its listings still contained data points including "offers in excess of", which is now illegal.

However, unlike Spain, there is a broad consensus in the UK that the changes enforced by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team last May were a good move.

According to the National Trading Standards website, a survey of over 300 UK agents found that:

  • 9 in 10 (91%) agreed that a defined list of basic material information would help improve clarity for the industry
  • 93% supported the mandatory disclosure of information relating to property tenure
  • 88% agreed that leasehold details should be disclosed.


Singapore: HDB Cracking down on Non-Compliant Listings

Singapore's Housing Development Board (HDB) went on the offensive in December when it launched an investigation into 53 cases of non-compliant listings published by PropertyGuru.

PropertyGuru had over 50 “vacant” BTO flats being sold on the open market—but the HDB stepped in because flat owners did not occupy their flats during the minimum occupation period between 2017-2022, which is illegal in Singapore.

The HDB requires flat owners to fulfil a minimum occupation period (MOP) of five years before selling their home, and it has specified that the owners have to physically occupy the flat during this period.

However, it is the responsibility of the agent—not the portal—to ensure property owners are abiding by the law before listing a property.

A PropertyGuru spokesperson said:

"A sound reasoning must be presented before the removal of listings from our site. Agents are required to make amendments or remove the post within a 24-hour or 48-hour period, depending on the nature of the violation, when a clear violation is found or reported.

"On our end, we are unable to determine if someone has lived in the house or not. However, our T&Cs state that agents are responsible for verifying that their listings comply with government rules."

January 17, 2023
Harvey is an experienced property journalist and copywriter. He has written about the property industry since 2015, starting at The Property Franchise Group in the UK, before moving to Spain to work for Spotahome. He has blogged for the private rented sector, ghostwritten for UK property experts and written case studies for franchise owners around the UK. Harvey joined Online Marketplaces as a News Editor in 2022.

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