Was it a case of burglary by brochure?

When estate agents use interior images of a property as marketing material, can this be seen as a breach of data protection? Our lawyer Fiona McNulty explains the issues
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Question: I bought a house last year, after which the estate agent sent a mail shot round the neighbourhood boasting about the sale, giving the full address, even the postcode, plus internal and external photos and stating the asking price of £2 million.

Two days later I was burgled. I believe it was because of the leaflets. Do agents have a right to do this sort of thing? What about data protection?

Answer: It could be that attention was drawn to your new home by the brochure, or by a “sold” sign (which the agent is likely to have advertised prominently), by its position in the neighbourhood - or maybe it is just coincidence. Even if the burglary was inspired by the brochure, you may have difficulty proving your house was targeted as a direct result.

An agency agreement with a seller usually covers how the property will be marketed, eg on the internet or in magazines or newspapers, and may also deal with marketing after sale. It will not deal with getting the purchaser’s permission, and you had no contract with the selling agents.

Presumably your seller allowed the selling agents to advertise the sale and for photos to be used then and subsequently, and probably wouldn’t have been too worried about any later consequences.

Regrettably the selling agents did not explain that to you, or indeed seek your specific consent and approval. Most reputable agents would not publish the postcode, address or sale price but would refer to a property in the neighbourhood and the guide price.

Complain to the agents about their conduct but you may struggle to prove there has been a breach of data protection unless you can show they disclosed data that would reveal your identity or that of another living individual.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP www.thrings.com.

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