Estate And House Agents

ESTATE AND HOUSE AGENTS. A person exercising the calling of a house agent in England is required, under a penalty of £20, to take out yearly a licence upon which £2 is charged as a duty of excise, unless he is licensed as an auctioneer or appraiser, or is an agent employed in the management of landed estates, or a solicitor or conveyancer who has taken out his annual certificate as such. In this connexion a person is deemed to be a house agent if he advertises for sale or for letting, or in any way negotiates for the selling or letting of any furnished house or part of any furnished house (any storey or flat rated and let as a separate tenement being for this purpose a house); subject, however, to the qualification that no one is to be deemed to be a house agent by reason of his letting, or offering to let, or in any way negotiating for the letting of, any house the annual rent or value of which does not exceed £25.

A house agent who is merely instructed to act in the usual way of his calling has no authority to bind his employer by a contract. His business is to endeavour to find a person willing to become a purchaser or tenant and then to communicate his offer to the owner. Unless express authority is given to the agent to sell or let, and for that purpose to enter into a binding contract, the principal reserves his right to accept or refuse the offer. As a rule, a house or estate agent has no authority to receive payment on behalf of the principal. Where he is employed to procure a tenant, he must use reasonable diligence to ascertain that the person to whom the property is let through his agency is fit to be a tenant. He does not, however, in any way guarantee the payment of the rent. A house agent may not, for or in expectation of payment, prepare any deed relating to the sale or letting of real or personal estate. There is, however, no similar prohibition as to agreements not under seal, and it is a common practice for house agents to charge for the preparation of them.

House agents are usually remunerated by way of commission. The scale adopted by the Institute of Estate and House Agents embodies the rates usually charged. In the absence of express provision upon the subject between the principal and the agent, commission is payable only when the latter has found a purchaser or tenant. If, however, he had found a person willing to buy or take property upon the terms upon which the principal intimated to him his willingness to sell or let it, the principal will be liable to pay the amount of the commission, even though in fact he refuses or is unable to sell or let it. Where the agent can show that he has brought about a sale or tenancy he will be entitled to the commission notwithstanding the fact that another agent has been paid, or has recovered in an action, commission in respect of the same sale or tenancy. The agent's authority may be revoked at any time; but, where he has already performed the service for which he was employed, the principal cannot defeat his right to be paid the amount of the commission by subsequently revoking his authority. If the agent is unsuccessful in finding a purchaser or tenant, as the case may be, he will not, as a rule, have any right to remuneration for his efforts in the matter.

Most auctioneers, in addition to holding auctions, carry on the business of house and estate agency. The number of licences issued to house agents and appraisers in England for the year ended 31st March 1899 was 4429, and for the year ended 31st March 1909, 4618. The number of licences issued to auctioneers in England for the corresponding periods was 6389 and 6543 respectively.

(H. Ha.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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