Property listings may need to include broadband coverage in future

Property listings and broadband coverage could be combined under new proposals, giving consumers better insight into domestic connectivity

Monday, 26 September, 2022

Property listings have historically contained two types of information.

There’s the content everyone looks at – floorplans and photographs.

Then there’s the content hardly anyone looks at – EPC certificates and council tax bands.

The latter are included as a legal obligation, rather than because a higher council tax band might materially affect someone’s decision to purchase a particular property.

However, there’s one piece of information missing in most online schedules which would be of great interest nowadays – internet connectivity.

At present, there’s no requirement for property listings and broadband coverage to be unified, but this might be about to change…

As broad as it’s long

Even seasoned property professionals may not have heard of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.

The NTSELAT’s job is to protect consumers by ensuring the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019 are enforced.

They can also recommend changes to existing policies and legislation, and their attention has recently been focused on the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

This little-known legislation ensures estate agents and letting agencies can’t omit ‘material information’ from property listings, though that term isn’t explicitly defined.

It does extend to utilities, and there’s a growing argument that dependable home internet is almost as important as a gas supply or water connection.

(It’s possible to live without a connection to these national networks, using septic tanks and propane canisters, but being off grid is undoubtedly more expensive and complex).

Reports over the summer suggested the NTSELAT was considering the merits of a formal link between property listings and broadband coverage.

It would become mandatory for any homes being marketed to include data on both mobile network coverage and ISP accessibility.

How would this work in practice?

The simple answer at this stage is that we don’t know.

The UK doesn’t have a national database where residential addresses can be checked for current broadband connectivity.

At BroadbandDeals, we base our results around your nearest exchange, but there may be individual properties which can’t connect to certain networks for specific reasons.

Given the rate at which existing broadband lines are being upgraded, and new full fibre networks installed, many third-party broadband checker databases are hopelessly out of date.

Others are incomplete or inaccurate, which poses questions about who’s liable if the broadband speeds quoted in property listings are wrong.

Estate agents may not know that a local startup recently installed full fibre outside a home they’re now marketing, resulting in them erroneously publishing Fibre to the Cabinet speeds instead.

New-build homes bring a different set of challenges.

Housebuilders often have exclusivity agreements with individual ISPs (Persimmon operate their own full fibre network), with sales documentation potentially painting an incomplete picture.

The promise of a 500Mbps line in a brand-new house sounds great, until you discover you’d be locked into using one company’s services – even if they turn out to be unreliable.

The alternative could be a far slower line speed, but with a far wider choice of ISPs.

It’s not clear whether NTSELAT would list both Openreach and proprietary full fibre line speeds, or simply quote the fastest average download speed available at that address.

Until these issues are clarified, consumers will have to continue making their own investigations into the line speeds available in any prospective future home.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!