A new report from the Property Ombudsman (TPO) Scheme reveals a big increase in complaints from tenants & landlords.
The reported sharp increase in the number of consumer complaints for the residential lettings sector comes as the requirement for all letting agents in England starts this week (1st October 2014) when every letting agent must register with an approved redress scheme.
The figures recently published by TPO claim that 1,187 complaints were resolved in total about both sales and lettings issues between 1 January and 30 June 2014, with 721 complaints (61%) made against letting agents, which is a 37% increase on the same period last year.
Of the total number of complaints received by the organisation, TPO say that 74% of the complaints made by landlords and tenants against letting agents were upheld.
Christopher Hamer, the Property Ombudsman says:
‘Up until now there has been no legal requirement for any letting agent to register with a redress scheme, which has left thousands of tenants and landlords unable to access our free, fair and independent dispute resolution service.
“That is shown by the fact that around 20% of the initial consumer enquiries we received in this period related to lettings agents that were not signed up to TPO.
“I am pleased to note that the new legislation will change that and we’ve already seen nearly 1,000 firms register this year, making us the largest redress scheme with 11,744 lettings offices under my jurisdiction and following our Code of Practice, which sets out what service consumers should receive from member firms.
“The sharp increase in the number of lettings agents registering for redress with TPO, combined with TPO’s increased profile and the ever-growing number of households renting goes some way to explain why we’ve seen such a significant increase in the number of lettings complaints, with more than half of our total enquiries now coming from landlords and tenants that feel they have been treated unfairly.
“The new legislation will make it an offence for any ‘rogue’ agent that has not registered, to trade and they will face a fine of up to £5,000.”
Key highlights from TPO’s latest Interim Report reveal that:
– Registered agents (p7): more than 4,000 additional agents registered with TPO, with sales and lettings representing the biggest growth areas. A total of 30, 128 agents registered with TPO across all jurisdictions – a 15% increase on the same period last year
– Consumer enquiries (p8): More than 8,474 consumers contacted TPO regarding a property dispute (a 4.6% increase on the same period last year). More than half of all the enquiries received were regarding lettings disputes with 4,759 enquiries logged (56.1% of all enquiries)
– Complaints (p9): Complaints grew by 37% overall with 1,187 cases reviewed, of which 721 were against letting agents (up 37%) and 544 were against sales agents (up 42%). The Ombudsman upheld 74% of all lettings complaints while 61% of all sales complaints were upheld
– Consumer case studies (p10): The Ombudsman hand-picked a selection of case studies to highlight issues varying from death and inventories, owed rent, visas, pets, ex partners, planning permission and fraud to share an insight into the cases reviewed and awards given
To view TPO’s 2014 Interim Report, please visit http://www.tpos.co.uk/quarterly_report.htm
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered agent. The scheme was established in 1990.
The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose, achieving a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party.
Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and/or for aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered agent.
For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk
One of Three Schemes:
If they have not already signed up to one of the three schemes on offer, letting agents can face a fine of up to £5,000 from their local council and could be forced to close the business for repeated abuses of the scheme.
Landlords can find out if their letting agent is a member of one of the three schemes by checking online:
The Property Ombudsman www.tpos.co.uk/find-member.php
Ombudsmen Services www.ombudsman-services.org/memberlists/property/
The Property Redress Scheme www.theprs.co.uk/PropertyAgent/Members
After joining one of the schemes, the letting agent must follow a code of conduct and agree to abide by the ombudsman’s decision if any complaints are made.
Ignoring a ruling could mean the letting agent is removed from the scheme and cannot join one of the other alternatives.
Besides checking if a letting agent belongs to one of the ombudsman schemes, landlords should also demand documentary evidence that the agent has a client money protection scheme in place.
This safeguards rents and deposits taken by the letting agent should the business run into financial difficulties or close.
Any agent affiliated the following bodies will already have the necessary cover and protection for landlords and tenants:
– The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – www.rics.org/uk/
– The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) – www.arla.co.uk/
– The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) – www.naea.co.uk/
– The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) – www.nalscheme.co.uk/
– The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) – www.ukala.org.uk/
– Safe Agent – www.safeagents.co.uk/
Letting agents with these organisations can be checked out online through their organisation’s web site.
Official figures estimate the UK has around 18,000 letting agents and at least 5,000 of these do not belong to a redress or client money protection scheme.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis today (3 October 2014) welcomed these new rules that require letting agents to join 1 of 3 redress schemes, to ensure tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward option to hold them to account.
“…the vast majority of landlords and letting agents provide a good quality service to those looking for a home in the private rented sector.
“The redress schemes will help ensure standards are maintained and provide tenants with somewhere to go if they feel like they are getting a poor deal.
“The schemes run by The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and the Property Redress Scheme offer independent investigation into complaints about hidden fees or poor service.
“Where a complaint is upheld, tenants and leaseholders could receive compensation.”
More Information here
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) October 3, 2014