By Bea Patel, TLE Property Editor and Director of Shop for an Agent – the estate agent comparison site
On 4 October 2016, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme released its latest annual report revealing an increase in the number of consumers contacting the scheme for help.
In the Ombudsman’s first annual report following her appointment last year, Katrine Sporle provides an overview of 2015, which confirms the scheme:
- Received 16,265 enquiries from consumers seeking advice.
- Resolved 3,304 formal complaints (a substantial 32 per cent increase from the previous year).
- Instructed agents to pay awards worth £811,134.
Other points include a breakdown of compensatory awards, common causes of complaints and several varied consumer case summaries.
Lettings statistical highlights:
- 1,965 formal complaints were resolved (33 per cent more than the year before).
- 83 per cent of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman.
- 50 per cent of complaints were made by landlords, while 47 per cent were made by tenants.
- The highest award issued last year was £16,954 for a lettings dispute.
- The average lettings award was £522.
- The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (24 per cent) and Greater London (24 per cent), followed by South West (9 per cent).
- The top three causes of complaints were: ‘Management (including repairs and maintenance)’, ‘Communication & record keeping’ and ‘End of tenancy issues (e.g. deposits, disputes and damages)’.
Sales statistical highlights:
- 1,220 formal complaints were resolved (27 per cent more than the year before).
- 73 per cent of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman.
- 60 per cent of complaints were made by sellers, while 35 per cent were made by buyers.
- The average sales award was £374.
- The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (26 per cent) followed by South West (13 per cent) then Greater London (11 per cent).
- The top three causes of complaints were: ‘Communication & record keeping’, followed by ‘Marketing & advertising’ and ‘Instructions/terms of business/commission/termination’.
Katrine Sporle, TPO, said: “The number of agents joining TPO has grown by 82 per cent in the last 5 years. 35,374 offices are now signed up and following our approved Codes of Practice. Importantly, these figures show that more and more consumers are able to access TPO to have their disputes resolved.
“Being the largest government-approved property redress scheme does mean that we receive a commensurately large number of enquiries every year. In the vast majority of cases, those enquiries are dealt with satisfactorily through TPO intervention to facilitate early resolution between agents and consumers.
“Last year, out of 16,265 enquiries, 3,304 complex complaints required formal review and, a high percentage of those complaints were supported (83 per cent). Overall, this is good news for consumers and redress, but not so great for the reputation of agents who collectively paid out over £800,000 in awards.
My message for those agents is simple; pay more attention to TPO’s Codes of Practice and raise your standards.”
Industry case studies
The annual report also provides a series of example case summaries. Each case is different, but they’re reviewed in the same way by the Ombudsman. TPO’s Codes of Practice, approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), provide the framework for the high standards expected of TPO members and give the Ombudsman the means by which to investigate disputes fairly and consistently.
- Sole agency & sole selling rights agreement
- Undisclosed planning application
- Referencing & rent arrears
- Tenant fees and charges
The full report and all case summaries are available on the TPO website.