The Property Ombudsman Scheme

NEW TELEPHONE NUMBER LAUNCHED FOR TPO MEMBERS

The dedicated telephone number for TPO member agents will be 01722 335458 and enables agents to select:

  • Option 1: Membership
  • Option 2: Accounts
  • Option 3: Membership compliance and surveys

Any calls concerning a complaint must be directed through the main switchboard number (which will continue to be 01722 333306) to ensure one of TPO's advisors in the Complaints Operations team can assist.

The Ombudsman scheme started in 1990 and was extended in 1998 to its present form as a voluntary redress body to resolve complaints against residential estate agents and residential letting agents. It is paid for by subscription on a per office basis by the Industry and is free to consumers. However, before a complaint can be referred to the Ombudsman it must be put to the agent's internal complaints procedure. There are no further costs to Members for resolving disputes.

In many cases disputes are resolved without a formal referral but the office in Salisbury deals with over 12,000 enquiries during the year and around 1,000 cases per annum brought to the Ombudsman for resolution.

There are Codes of Practice and Consumer Guides available for agents and consumers. We carry out a monitoring process to establish how consumers view the service they receive from their sales agents.

The Property Ombudsman welcomes you as a Member and is pleased to give advice to you whenever it can and provides newsletters on industry related matters.

Bill McClintock, Chairman of the Board

Bill McClintock, Chairman of the Board

Bill McClintock

Latest from the Property Ombudsman Board » Bite-size best practice: Adhering to the new Consumer Contracts Regulations

Membership Information

Applies to agents offering property buying services. Please note: This Code of Practice is effective from 1 January 2014. To view the Code please click here. To view the press announcement please click here.

Client Money Protection Insurance

This is relevant to agents who deal in residential lettings.

What is Client Money Protection (CMP) insurance?

CMP insurance schemes reimburse tenants or landlords where their rental monies or deposits have been misappropriated by the letting agent.

Where can I obtain quotes for CMP?

If you are a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) or The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) you will already be part of a Client Money Protection Scheme.

If you are not a member of any of the above organisations please find details of CMP insurance providers below.

Lonsdale Insurance Brokers
0207 4694989
pi.cmp@lonsdaleib.com
www.lonsdaleib.com

*Please note: Lonsdale Insurance Brokers offer a combined Professional Indemnity (PI) and CMP policy however for agents that are unable to cancel their existing PI cover Lonsdale can offer CMP only until their PI is due for renewal.

Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007

The Property Ombudsman Limited is approved under the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 which came into force on 1st October 2008. The Act requires estate agents to belong to an independent approved redress scheme which will determine disputes between estate agents and buyers or sellers of residential property in the UK. The Act also strengthens the regulation of estate agents through measures such as:

  • allowing trading standards officers to inspect those records and
  • expand the circumstances in which Trading Standards can take regulatory action against estate agents
  • anticipates requiring estate agents to keep permanent records for up to six years with effect from April 2011

If you would like to view the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 please click here.

Printed Stationery and Window Stickers

If you require more stationery or window stickers please complete a stationery order form.

Membership Details

On joining the TPO Scheme, your company details will be displayed on our website which is available to the public, and in order to remove confusion for consumers all offices trading under the same company or brand name are required to join. Administrative and headquarters offices that do not deal directly with consumers need to register, but will not be charged.

We are now contacting our members regularly by email with our newsletters and quarterly reports, please check that your firm's details are displayed correctly on the TPO website.

Updating your membership details

If you would like your membership details amending or updating please telephone the Membership team on 01722 333306 - option 3 or email membership@tpos.co.uk.

Monitoring

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) conducts regular surveys on our member agents to establish compliance with the Codes of Practice and to gauge overall levels of client satisfaction.

The Survey Process

The surveys are split into two types, sales and lettings, and the process is the same for both. We have arranged for Referenceline (an independent that specialises in surveys and analysis) to facilitate the survey on our behalf.

Member agents are chosen using a random selection process and, if selected, are sent notification from TPO of their inclusion and to determine whether they want to do the survey online or in writing.

We have tried to keep the surveys as simple as possible and full instructions are given when selected. They consist of 20 questionnaires to be sent to either buyer and seller or landlord and tenant of the last 10 sales or instructions taken within the last 6 months. Completed questionnaires are returned directly to Referenceline by the consumer using the freepost address.

Although it is mandatory for member agents to take part if they are selected, we are aware that there are exceptions, so if you have any queries regarding the surveys at any time you can contact Kathryn Blanchard on 01722 335458.

The individual results are published on our website under 'Find a Member' and at http://www.referenceline.com/tpos.

What benefits are there for agents?

  • Your participation enables TPO to carry out the customer satisfaction research needed to retain Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Code approval for the Sales Code of Practice and for those agents that deal in sales they can use the TSI approved code logo.
  • It is part of our application to TSI to apply for the same approval for our lettings code of practice.
  • The ratings and reviews can be printed and used in your marketing appraisals
  • Satisfaction scores are broken down by how professional, knowledgeable, friendly and helpful an agent is
  • The results provide agents with an unrivalled and powerful marketing tool

Agents may also subscribe to Referenceline's ongoing service which enables them to invite all of their customers to give their feedback. To find out more, please email TPOsurvey@tpos.co.uk.

Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme

It is a legal requirement for any tenancy deposit to be registered with an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme. This only applies to deposits taken under assured shorthold tenancies in England and Wales and Short Assured tenancies in Scotland. Please find below the various schemes available in the UK.

England and Wales

This only applies to deposits taken under assured shorthold tenancies.

www.depositprotection.com
www.mydeposits.co.uk
www.tds.gb.com
www.capita-tdp.co.uk (no longer accepting new deposits)

Scotland

www.lettingprotectionscotland.com
www.safedepositsscotland.com
www.mydepositsscotland.co.uk

Northern Ireland

www.tdsnorthernireland.com
www.mydepositsni.co.uk
www.capita-tdp.co.uk (no longer accepting new deposits)
www.lettingprotectionni.com

Other Professional Organisations

ARLA - Association of Residential Letting Agents

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) is the leading trade association for firms that manage private residential leasehold blocks of flats in England & Wales. ARMA promotes high standards of leasehold management by providing advice, training and guidance to its member firms of managing agents. ARMA also produces guidance materials for leaseholders and Residents Management Companies. With over 300 firms in membership, ARMA also campaigns for improvements in the legislation governing the leasehold sector.

www.arma.org.uk

ARP - Association of Relocation Professionals
GUILD - The Guild of Professional Estate Agents
ICBA - Institution of Commercial and Business Agents
NAEA - National Association of Estate Agents
NALS - National Approved Letting Scheme
NAVA - National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers
RICS - Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
SAFE - Safe Agent
UKALA - UK Association of Letting Agents

Avoiding Complaints

Below is a general guide to help avoid potential complaints that you may find helpful.

  1. Record keeping - it may seem obvious but it is really important to document everything about a transaction.
  2. Terms of Business - Clearly explain your Terms of Business including your fees to potential clients. (If you click on Terms of Business it takes you to the tab above. Text for this below)
  3. If you have a letting complaint establish if the complaint is against you or the landlord.
  4. References - explain to landlords that it is their choice who they want to let their property to based on references received.
  5. Communication. This is key to the success of a transaction/tenancy. Ensure you keep in regular contact with your client and provide updates in a timely manner.
  6. Lastly, if a complaint is received - deal with it! It won't go away and the complainant is still able to refer the matter to The Property Ombudsman after 8 weeks if a Final Viewpoint Letter has not been received. The Ombudsman is able to consider your in-house complaints procedure in his review.

Agency Agreements

The Ombudsman has prepared a guidance sheet regarding Agency Agreements and what to include to ensure you have covered the requirements in the TPO Codes of Practice. Please click here for further information.

Trading Standards Institute

The Property Ombudsman's Residential Sales and Lettings Codes of Practice has been approved by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI). TSI operate the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) which is committed to promoting codes of practice that meet their core criteria and have obtained TSI approval. For more information about TSI, please visit their website at www.tradingstandards.gov.uk

What are the benefits to business?

  • Members of an approved code can display the TSI approved code logo. This will help you promote your business as one that consumers can trust, giving you a commercial advantage over competitors
  • By adhering to an approved code, your business can demonstrate a higher level of customer service and customer protection, such as a robust and legitimate customer complaints procedure and clear pre-contractual information. This will help you to attract and retain customers
  • Being part of an approved code can help drive up customer standards within your sector and so raise consumer trust.
  • Members of an approved code will also have their business details shown on the TSI's website, and in addition will be displayed on the following two websites:
    • My Local Services, who hosts and manage TSI's Consumer Code Online Directory
    • Citizens Advice Bureau.

TSI Logo

The TSI Logo is subject to specific conditions so please make yourself familiar with the following guidelines on its use:

For use on your marketing and printed paperwork, please email membership@tpos.co.uk

For use on your website

The TSI logo is protected to ensure its security and prevent misuse by non-member agents. In order to use the logo on your website please follow TSI's Website Logo Guidance which includes step-by-step instructions.

Describing approval of TPO Code in other documents

If you wish to draw attention to our code being approved by TSI CCAS in other documents without using the logos you may do so by following the link to page 9 of the TSI Approved Code Brand Guide.

View the latest news from The Property Ombudsman Board.

Best practice guidance for estate agents seeking to charge fees to buyers, commonly known as 'sale by tender'. To view the guidance click here.