Please Note: All references to the masculine include the feminine on TPO website and documents.
The Property Ombudsman came into being on 1 May 2009. Formerly, the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA), the name change was made to reflect the broader jurisdiction in relation to Complaints we are now able to deal with, e.g. Sales, lettings, commercial and overseas.
The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) Scheme was established on 1 January 1998. The Scheme is open to all those firms of estate agents with a principal, director or partner who is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS); to all corporate estate agents, defined as those who are subsidiaries of a bank, building society or insurance company, or are themselves quoted on the Stock Exchange and to other estate agents who are sponsored and seconded by existing member agents. From June 2006, the OEA extended its services to Lettings and Property Management agents.
By dealing with a Member of the TPO, the public may be confident about the agent's approach in its dealings with actual and potential buyers and sellers of residential property or lettings in the UK.
With effect from 1 October 2008, all estate agents are required to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme that has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and which investigates complaints against estate agents. The TPO is one of the schemes approved by the OFT.
Many estate agents have in addition agreed to follow the TPO Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents. Estate agents signing up to this Code of Practice are required to provide additional consumer protection that goes beyond that required by the law. They can be recognised by the blue TPO logo. Registered agents, who do not voluntarily accept the Code of Practice obligations of the TPO Scheme, are not entitled to show the blue TPO logo.
Lettings and property management agents who join the TPO also subscribe to the Code of Practice for Letting Agents.
The Property Ombudsman provides a free, fair and independent service for dealing with unresolved disputes between sales and letting agents who have joined the TPO and consumers who are actual or potential buyers or sellers or landlords or tenants of residential property in the UK. The Ombudsman is a member of the Ombudsman Association and follows the standards and rules of the Association. The Ombudsman is totally independent of agents and reports directly to the TPO Council which has a majority of non-industry members.
The Ombudsman's role is to reach a resolution of unresolved disputes in full and final settlement and, where appropriate, he will make an appropriate award of financial compensation or other action for example make an apology. Therefore, if you feel that you have been disadvantaged by the actions or inactions of a TPO member, you have access to an independent dispute resolution service and can be certain of receiving a fair and reasonable judgment of your complaint.
A Consumer Guide, available in the offices of all sales and lettings agents who have joined the TPO, informs complainants that:
'Your complaint may be considered by the Ombudsman, if you believe that the agent has:
in a way that results in you losing money or suffering avoidable aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience.'
The Ombudsman will not normally review a case until the internal complaints procedure of the agent has been exhausted. If you need guidance on what to do, please contact us and we will be able to assist you.