A property management company that promised a guaranteed rental income to landlords, even if tenants failed to pay, has come under scrutiny from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). An advertisement running on the company website has been judged to be misleading following a complaint and has been banned from future use.
Always read the small print may be an overused phrase but it continues to be good advice, particularly when money is involved. Where this advertisement was concerned, the ASA judged that there was a particular problem with what wasn’t included in the small print.
Letting Agent Today reported this week that, in February, the website www.reliancepropertymanagement.co.uk carried a banner stating: Relax while your rental income is guaranteed! Receive your rent on time, every month, even if your tenant fails to pay. That’s a guarantee that would make any landlord sit up and take notice. None of us wants to miss out on a good deal but was this promise really one that could be relied on?
In fact someone did query whether or not rent really would be guaranteed in all circumstances and asked the ASA to investigate the claims. The advert in question stated that landlords would be paid each month whether or not the property was tenanted and claimed to be “taking away the risk” for landlords. The key phrase used was “giving you confidence in your rental income so you can rely on it, whatever happens”. Landlords were referred to the Ts & Cs for further explanation of the service but on investigation the ASA ruled that the company did not make clear each significant limitation that applied to the promise of guaranteed rent.
Nor was it made clear to landlords that the guaranteed rent was based on an agreement through which the property manager became the tenant and then sub-let the landlord’s property to other tenants. The ASA determined that this information was likely to be critical to any decision whether or not to sign a contract and the advert was therefore in breach of the ASA’s advertising code.
There are important lessons to be learned here. First, when advertising a product or service, any limitations must be made absolutely clear in marketing communications otherwise they will be in breach of the ASA code. Second – and this is a lesson for life, not just for property – if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!