The Property Redress Scheme (PRS) has now processed its 100th Complaint – six months since it became mandatory that all Letting Agents and Property Management Agents join a consumer redress scheme in accordance with the Consumers, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
The PRS is one of three consumer redress schemes authorised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and National Trading Standards whose role it is to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disputes between members of the public and property agents.
Since the 1st of October deadline, the PRS team have seen complaint numbers increase daily as awareness of the scheme becomes more widespread. Certain patterns are already emerging that indicate there are two areas that Agents should be consciously aware of – Documentation and Communication.
Clear and unambiguous documents, in particular those that relate to terms and conditions, charges and management agreements, are essential to ensure that the customer is fully protected. This also protects the Agent, defines the business relationship and manages customer expectations.
Communication is also essential and Agents should ensure that they do everything to keep the channels open even when the relationship is breaking down. Not doing so inevitably leads to the situation deteriorating and by the time of scheme involvement, the consequences have moved far beyond the initial dissatisfaction.
Sean Hooker, Head of Redress for the PRS, advises Agents “Do not assume the customer is trying it on, is wasting your time or will go away if you refuse to engage with them. Treat the complaint seriously and professionally and above all learn from your mistakes.”
With this in mind, the PRS have begun to build up the resources pages on their website to help educate and support Agent members. Their latest guide on Holding Deposits can be viewedhere.
The PRS has seen nearly 3400 Agent offices register with the scheme. They offer two membership models – the Entry Model which is a ‘pay as you go’ structure and the Enhanced Model which is an ‘all-inclusive’ option.
Though membership numbers and Consumer awareness has been positive, there is still further work to be done. The PRS would like to encourage Agent organisations and Landlord groups to continue to spread the word about redress schemes and report Agents that have failed to comply. Sean Hooker continues,
“It is still, in my view, the duty of the industry to help police this legislation. There are a number of Agents out there who either through ignorance or wilful defiance have not signed up to a scheme. We are therefore working with local authorities to ensure the law is enforced as vigorously as possible and consumers remain protected.”
About the Property Redress Scheme
The Property Redress Scheme is a new, straightforward and easy to use consumer redress (ombudsman) scheme for Property Agents and Professionals.
The main purposes of the Property Redress Scheme are to allow Agents to comply with their legal requirement to be a member of a government authorised consumer redress scheme and to settle or resolve complaints made by consumers against our Members.
We are authorised by the Department for Communities and Local Government to offer redress to Lettings and Property Management Agents and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (formally the OFT) to offer redress to Estate Agents.