FAQs for Consumers

Can I complain?

Making a complaint to the agent

How and when to refer your complaint to the Ombudsman

Once your complaint has been sent

Before your complaint is allocated

When your complaint is allocated

Outcome of your complaint

Outstanding fees and court

Awards

Oral hearings

Client Money Protection (CMP)

1. Why do I have to complain to the agent first?

It is only fair and reasonable to allow the agent the opportunity to resolve the complaint themselves.

The role of the Ombudsman is to consider disputes that cannot be resolved through the agent’s in house complaints procedure. As such, she can only become involved in the complaint once you have completed this process and the issues remain unresolved, or if the agent persistently fails to engage with you.

2. The agent is not listed as a member, what can I do?

The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 came into force on 1 October 2008, requiring all estate agents (UK only) to register with an approved redress scheme. 

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 came into force on 1 October 2014, requiring all letting agents and property managers (England only) to register with an approved redress scheme.

TPO is one of those schemes.

If the agent you are dealing with is not registered with TPO it may be that they are registered with an alternative redress scheme.

3. What if the agent has ceased trading?

If an agent has ceased trading, it is unlikely that this office will be able to obtain the documentation necessary to review your complaint. If we do and an award is made by the Ombudsman, it will not be possible to pursue payment of that award through TPO’s usual procedures. TPO would not be in a position to enforce payment. However, should you decide to accept the decision, you may use the review to pursue your complaint through other means.

4. Can someone help me with my complaint?

Making your complaint to the agent – if you require assistance, you may wish to ask a friend, family-member, or other third-party, such as an advisor from the Citizens Advice Bureau to help. An agent should deal with any third-party you ask to act on your behalf.

Referring your complaint to TPO – We will also deal with any third-party you ask to act on your behalf. You can give a third-party authority to act on your behalf by completing a letter of authority. The letter of authority template is available to download below.

TPO can also provide assistance by supplying our documentation in formats such as large print and Braille, and can assist you in completing the paperwork needed to refer your complaint. For further information, you can telephone us on 01722 333306 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

5. How should the agent deal with my complaint?

TPO agents are obliged to maintain and operate in-house complaints procedures. The procedure must be in writing and explain how you can complain to the agent and if you remain dissatisfied, to the Ombudsman.

TPO agents are required to:

  • Provide a copy of their complaints procedure on request (this may be available on their website).
  • Abide by the timescales set out in the Code of Practice.
  • Produce a final viewpoint letter if they cannot resolve your complaint.

6. The agent is not responding to my complaint, what can I do?

We recommend that you send all correspondence by recorded delivery or set a delivery receipt if sending by email. If you do not receive a reply, contact the agent to enquire about the status of your complaint.

If the agent persistently fails to correspond with you, please contact us. It is important to note that you will need to provide us with evidence of your attempts to contact the agent before we are able to assist.

7. What if the agent has made me an offer?

The Ombudsman will always encourage any opportunity to settle the dispute quickly. This may be possible through mediation, helping you and the agent towards a settlement that you can both agree on.

You should consider the following points when deciding whether to accept the offer:

  • Once the Ombudsman formally reviews a complaint all offers lapse.
  • If you reject the offer, there is no guarantee that the Ombudsman will make a decision which results in an award being made. You may wish to contact us to discuss this.
  • If the Ombudsman does not support your complaint, the agent is not required to reinstate their previous offer.

8. Should I pay the agent's fees?

There is an expectation that you should pay the fee, or any uncontested part of it, on a ‘without prejudice’ basis, to avoid legal action being taken by the agent.

If you have not paid the agent’s fees, the agent may have the legal right to take you to court. Some agents will be prepared to wait until the Ombudsman has reviewed the complaint but no agent is obliged to do so.

If the agent does commence legal action, and a court date is set that falls within three months, the Ombudsman will suspend the review pending the court’s decision.

You could apply to the court for an adjournment on the grounds that you wish to use TPO. However, if the court hearing does proceed and a judgement is made, we would need you to provide us with a copy of that judgement so that the Ombudsman can determine whether we are able to resume the consideration of the dispute. Please be aware that in making this decision the Ombudsman will also take into consideration what was submitted to the court as evidence.

9. Can you consider my complaint without a final viewpoint letter?

The Ombudsman must allow an agent the opportunity to resolve the dispute. However, if you can show that you have attempted to chase up your complaint and the agent has persistently failed to respond, we will contact them to find out why. We may then decide to progress your complaint without a final viewpoint letter.

10. What level of proof do I need to provide?

When considering a complaint, the Ombudsman will need to be convinced that there is some reasonable substance behind any claim. Any proof that can be provided will help support your complaint. It will not be sufficient for you to merely make an unsupported allegation against an agent.

A list of documentation which is commonly required to review complaints is listed here. Please ensure that you send copies of these documents as we are unable to send back originals.

11. When will I know if my complaint has been accepted?

Once your complaint has been assessed and we have determined if the dispute is something that the Ombudsman can consider, we will write to you to confirm this and explain our process.

We will always acknowledge receipt of your paperwork and let you know the estimated timescale in which we will aim to reply.

If you have submitted your complaints form or enquiry and more than 15 days have passed, please contact us.

12. Late complaints

Your complaint should be received by TPO within twelve months of the date of the agent’s final viewpoint letter. However, if you were not made aware of this timescale, or if there are exceptional reasons why you were unable to meet this deadline, you should enclose a covering letter explaining these reasons along with any relevant evidence.

13. Can I send further evidence to support my complaint?

The Ombudsman will base the decision on the evidence that you have submitted. Therefore, all documents that you would like to have considered should be sent as soon as possible and before the review gets underway.

Please be aware that after the Ombudsman has issued her proposed decision, she will not usually consider any documents at the representation stage that you could have submitted previously, as these would not constitute ‘new’ evidence.

14. Can I add new complaints?

The Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference excludes complaints that have not been subject to the agent’s in-house complaints procedure. However, if you have a new complaint write to us with the details so that we can consider the best course of action and advise accordingly. 

Please note that in some instances we may be required to put the review of your original complaint on hold whilst we obtain comment from the agent. Alternatively, we may have no option but initiate a separate review process or refer you back to the agent.

15. What if the agent does not send in their company file?

If the agent fails to submit their file by the time your case is due to be allocated to a case officer, they will undertake the review without it. In doing so, the case officer will rely on the evidence provided.

16. Can I see a copy of the agent’s file?

Documents provided to this office by the agent cannot be released unless it is fair and lawful to do so. However, when you are advised of the outcome of the Ombudsman’s review of your complaint, she can, where the law permits, provide copies of relevant documents not previously seen by you which she considers necessary for you to understand the reasons for her decision.

17. How will the Ombudsman judge my complaint?

The Ombudsman considers the evidence presented to her based on legal principles, the relevant Code of Practice and what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

For agents who do not subscribe to a TPO Code of Practice, the Ombudsman will make a decision based on best practice, legal principles and what is fair and reasonable.

18. What happens if the Ombudsman supports my complaint?

If the Ombudsman has supported all or part of your complaint, she will write to the agent in the first instance. They will be given 14 days within which to consider the proposed decision and either accept, or appeal if they consider that there is a significant error in fact or can produce significant new evidence that has a material effect on the decision.

The Ombudsman will then write to you detailing her proposed decision and you will be given 28 days in which to reply. You will be able to accept, not accept or make your own representation.

19. If the Ombudsman supports my complaint, what can he do?

If the Ombudsman supports the complaint, she can make an award of compensation under the TPO scheme (to be paid by the agent).

Although the Ombudsman can make awards up to £25,000 (£5,000 for search providers), this amount is rare and only where it is established beyond doubt that significant financial loss has been incurred. Most awards are for aggravation and are modest.  The Ombudsman cannot make punitive awards.

Awards will be made if the Ombudsman is persuaded that you have suffered:

  • Actual, proven financial loss as a direct result of the actions or inactions of the agent
  • And/or avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience.

The average award for complaints in 2014 was £524 for lettings and £374 for sales complaints.

In some cases, the Ombudsman may report a serious breach of the relevant Code to the TPO Disciplinary and Standards Committee (DSC).

Further information is contained within our Annual Reports.

20. What if the Ombudsman does not support my complaint?

If the Ombudsman does not find in your favour we will write to you in the first instance. You will be given 28 days in which to appeal if you can show that there is a significant error in fact or where you can produce significant new evidence that will have a material effect on the decision.

Having considered any representation, the Ombudsman will make a final decision and advise you accordingly.

Please note, that having had the opportunity to make a representation if you do not accept the final decision, there is no opportunity for you to continue your complaint by means of further appeals.  However, your legal rights are not affected and you are free to pursue your complaint through the courts, as would the agent to pursue their claim for any outstanding fees.  

21. What if the agent does not respond to the proposed decision?

The agent is given two weeks to accept or appeal the Ombudsman’s proposed decision. If they do not respond within this time, the Ombudsman will assume their acceptance and forward a copy of the decision to you. If you decide to accept, the decision will become binding on the agent.

22. What if I do not agree with the Ombudsman’s decision?

If you do not accept the decision, your legal rights are not affected and you are free to pursue your complaint through the courts, as would the agent to pursue any claim for any outstanding fees if relevant. 

Having not accepted the Ombudsman’s decision will no longer be valid and cannot be used to support any further action that you may decide to take.

23. What if a court date has been set?

In accordance with the Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference she is not permitted to consider aspects of a complaint that a court has ruled on. Therefore, if an agent commences legal action and a date is set for within three months the Ombudsman will suspend her review pending the court’s decision.

You could apply to the court for an adjournment on the grounds that you are trying to pursue alternative dispute resolution. However, if the court hearing does proceed and a judgement is made, we would need you to provide us with a copy of that judgement so that the Ombudsman can determine whether she is able to resume her consideration of the complaint/s. Please be aware that in making this decision the Ombudsman will also take into consideration what was submitted to the court as evidence.

24. Can the Ombudsman still review my complaint if it has been to court?

In accordance with the Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference she is not permitted to consider aspects of a complaint that a court has ruled on.

You must provide a copy of the judgement so that the Ombudsman can determine whether she is able to resume her consideration of the complaint. In making this decision the Ombudsman will also take into consideration what was submitted to the court as evidence.

25. Can I use your review and findings in court?

If you accept the decision, you do so in full and final settlement of all the complaints against the agent upon which the Ombudsman has made a formal judgement. Therefore, after you have accepted, the Ombudsman would not expect you to pursue your complaint any further.

Alternatively, if you have not accepted the decision it will no longer be valid and cannot be used to support any further action that you may decide to take. 

26. What happens if I accept the award?

Upon receipt of your acceptance we will write to the agent advising that they pay the award to you within 28 days.

If you have asked that the agent pay the award by bank transfer, you must provide them with your account details (for data protection reasons we are unable to pass these on for you).

We will also request that you inform us when the award has been received, so that we may close the case.

If there are outstanding fees or invoices, the award will only become payable if these have been settled in full within 15 days of your acceptance of the Ombudsman’s decision and award. Alternatively, you can offset the award against the monies owed.

Please note that if you have accepted the Ombudsman’s decision and award, you have done so in full and final settlement of all the complaints against the agent upon which the Ombudsman has made a formal judgement. Therefore, after you have accepted, the Ombudsman would not expect you to pursue your complaint any further.

27. How will the award be paid?

The agent will be asked to make payment to you within 28 days. If you have asked that they pay the award by bank transfer, you must provide them with your account details (for data protection reasons we are unable to pass these on for you).

We will request that you inform us when the award has been received, so that we may close the case.

If there are outstanding fees or invoices, the award will only become payable if these have been settled in full within 15 days of your acceptance of the Ombudsman’s decision and award. Alternatively, you can offset the award against the monies owed.

28. What if the agent is late or refuses to pay the award?

In the first instance we will contact the agent reminding them of their obligation to pay the award.

If after one week payment has still not been received, the Ombudsman will write to the agent directing them to make payment immediately. They will be given a further week to make payment but if this is still not received the Ombudsman will report the matter to the Disciplinary and Standards Committee (DSC) of the Property Ombudsman Council.

29. Can I accept the award and still go to court?

If you accept the decision, you do so in full and final settlement of all the complaints against the agent upon which the Ombudsman has made a formal judgement. Therefore, after you have accepted, the Ombudsman would not expect you to pursue your complaint any further.

30. Is my award safe if I represent?

Until the Ombudsman’s final decision has been made an award could be subject to change.

31. Can I ask for a hearing in front of the Ombudsman?

In the majority of cases the Ombudsman will resolve complaints on the basis of the written evidence submitted. However, she will consider requests for oral hearings made in writing, setting out the issues you wish to raise, so that the Ombudsman can consider whether they are material to her final decision.

The request for an oral hearing will be considered by reference to the nature of the issues to be determined and, in particular, to the extent which the complaint raises issues of credibility or contested facts that cannot be fairly determined by reference to documentary evidence and written submissions. In deciding whether there should be a hearing and, if so, whether it should be in public or private, the Ombudsman will have regard to the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Ombudsman will give reasons in writing, if she declines to grant a hearing.

Please note that the Ombudsman is not able to treat orally presented accounts or ‘test’ evidence like a judge. The process of reaching a decision is not adversarial as the Ombudsman will not have the power to question or cross examine witnesses under oath.  A personal representation intended to give a more robust tone to an argument is not likely to be of value unless it is supported by documentary evidence (which should have previously been submitted to this Office). As the Ombudsman is unable to take evidence under oath any oral representation can only be considered as one person’s version of events and it would be inappropriate for her to form a view based purely on an unsupported statement. That is not to doubt that individual’s honesty or integrity but simply because the Ombudsman cannot decide a situation where it is one person’s word against another’s.

32. How do I notify a CMP claim?

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact The Property Ombudsman scheme with the name of the letting agent who was managing the property. If the letting agent is not covered under the PI + CMP scheme (an exclusive product for TPO member agents), the following schemes should be contacted: ARLA, NALS, UKALA, RICS or CM Protect.