FAQs for Consumers

Complaining to the agent
Contacting us about your complaint
Working together to settle the dispute
Our formal review of your complaint
Our proposed decision and representing
Our final decision and compensation
Client Money Protection
Is there someone else I can contact if I have concerns TPO cannot deal with?

Complaining to the agent

Why do I have to complain to the agent first?

We can help you with complaints the agent has not been able to resolve through their complaints process. So it’s only fair to give them the chance to respond to and resolve any complaints you have about them before you contact us.

We can start to help you when:

  • the agent has taken you through their internal complaints process and sent you a final viewpoint letter – and you are not satisfied with their reply
  • the agent has not responded to or resolved your complaint within eight weeks of your original letter or email to them, and you have chased them for a response

If you’re ready to contact them, you can download an Initial Complaints Letter Template here.

Can someone help me complain to the agent?

Yes, you can ask a friend or family member to help, or a third party such as a legal representative or someone from Citizen’s Advice. Your agent will also be able to deal with the person you choose instead of you throughout the process if you prefer.

How should the agent deal with my complaint?

Agents must have an in-house complaints process. They have to make it available in writing and it must explain how you can complain to them and, if you are then not satisfied, how to refer the matter to us.

Agents must:

  • give you a copy of their complaints process if you ask for it (it may be on their website)
  • follow the timescales set out in our codes of practice
  • send you a final viewpoint letter if they cannot resolve the issues through their complaints process

Why do I have to give the agent eight weeks to respond to my complaint?

It’s only fair to give them the chance to respond to and resolve any complaints you have about them before you contact us.

Many complaints processes allow eight weeks, and this is in line with our Terms of Reference. It gives agents enough time to:

  • acknowledge your complaint
  • investigate the details thoroughly – including checking any details with third parties which can take a long time
  • consider any offers to put things right
  • get back to you with a full response

The agent is not responding to my complaint – what can I do?

We recommend you send all complaint correspondence to the agent by recorded delivery or set a delivery receipt if you email them. That way you know if they’ve received it.

If you have not heard from the agent about your complaint, please contact them again. If they consistently fail to respond to you, and it’s been more than eight weeks since you first contacted them, please get in touch with us. We will need to see evidence that you have been trying to contact them. As soon as we have that, we can help.

Contacting us about your complaint

The agent is not listed as a member of your scheme – what can I do?

You can contact the scheme they belong to.

If they’re not a member of any scheme, this may be illegal, however some property agents are not required to be members of a redress scheme in devolved nations e.g. letting agents in Scotland. You should contact your local council so they can investigate.

What if the agent has stopped trading?

What we can do depends on what stage your complaint was at when the agent stopped trading. We’ll let you know when we have all the details.

We may not be able to get the documents we need from the agent, but we will still review the complaint. If we award you compensation, we would not be able to make the agent pay, but you may, in certain circumstances, be able to take them to court and use our review to help your case.

Why do I have to fill in your Complaints Form?

Our Complaints Form is an essential tool to help us gather and properly investigate the details of your complaint. It also gives us your permission to start our investigation.

If you have already written to us with details of your complaint, we will fill in the form for you if we can. Then we will ask you to check everything is right, and sign the form to agree the contents and give us authority to go ahead with your complaint.

Can someone help me complain about my agent to you?

Yes, you can ask a friend or family member to help, or a third party like a legal representative or someone from Citizen’s Advice.

We can deal with them instead of you throughout the process if you prefer – we just need a letter of authority from you so we know we have your permission.

Download a letter of authority template here.

Can you consider my complaint without the agent’s final viewpoint letter?

Yes, we can. We have to give the agent the chance to resolve your complaint through their own complaints process. However, if you can show us you have chased them for a response and they haven’t replied at all or sent you a final viewpoint letter within eight weeks, we will contact them to find out why. We may then go ahead with a review of your complaint without their final viewpoint letter.

What evidence do I need to support my complaint?

When we look at any complaint, we need to know it is genuine and that the allegation against the agent is backed up by evidence.

You can see what evidence we usually need to review complaints – at https://www.tpos.co.uk/consumers/completing-the-complaints-form.

We only need to see copies of your evidence. Please don’t send originals because we cannot send them back to you.

I need documents in a different format – can you help?

If you need us to provide documents in a different, more accessible way for you – like large print or Braille – let us know. We can also help you fill in the paperwork you need to pass your complaint to us. For more details, call us on 01722 333306 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Are there timescales for raising a complaint with you?

You need to complain to us within 12 months of the date of the agent’s final viewpoint letter. However, if they didn’t tell you about the timescale, or there are other reasons you couldn’t meet the deadline, please let us know in writing and include any evidence you have to support the reasons for the delay. We will then decide if we can consider your complaint outside the normal timescales.

Can I send extra evidence to support my complaint?

We use the evidence you send to make our decision. Before our review, we need to see the complaint correspondence between you and the agent. We may also ask you for other evidence if we need it.

After the proposed decision, we can only consider ‘new’ evidence for a representation – which means evidence that wasn’t available before the review.

Can I add new complaints to the review?

In line with our Terms of Reference, we usually only consider complaints that have gone through the agent’s in-house complaints process. However, if you have a new complaint, let us know. We will consider the details and decide the best way to handle it.

We might:

  • put our review of your original complaint on hold while we ask the agent for their comments
  • start a new review for the new complaint
  • ask you to contact the agent so they can respond to the new complaint.

What if the agent doesn’t send their file?

If the agent doesn’t send us their file by the deadline, we will do the review without it; using the evidence we have.

Can I see a copy of the agent’s file?

We can only show you documents if it is fair and legal to do so. When we send our proposed decision we will include copies of any relevant documents you haven’t seen if it will help explain the decision, and if we can do it legally.

Working together to settle the dispute

What if the agent makes me an offer?

We always encourage you and the agent to settle the dispute between yourselves, so we recommend considering any offer they make. You don’t have to accept it, but as soon as we start a formal review their offer expires.

If you reject their offer and we do a formal review, there is no guarantee our decision will include awarding you compensation. If it does, the award could be higher than, the same as or less than the agent’s previous offer. If we decide we do not support your complaint, the agent doesn’t have to make or reinstate any offers.

If you’re not sure whether or not to accept an offer, please call us on 01722 333306. We will be happy to tell you more about your options.

Should I pay the agent's fees?

If your agreement with the agent includes you paying their fee, we recommend you pay it – or at least any part of it you accept you need to pay – ‘without prejudice’. This means it can’t be used against you if your dispute goes to court.

We would always request a property agent withhold from court action during the review process, however we cannot enforce this.

Our formal review of your complaint

When will I know if you are going to review my complaint?

When you first contact us with your complaint, we will let you know we have received it and when we expect to confirm if we can review it. We aim to let you know within 15 working days, so if you don’t hear from us in that time, please get in touch again.

How will you judge my complaint?

When we consider a complaint, we look at evidence of disputes from both consumers and agents. We use our codes of practice to help us decide whether the agent has acted fairly and in line with our scheme. These codes set the standards we expect from them – you can see them on our website here or ask the agent for a copy. We also use best practice and common sense to help us come to a fair decision.

Can I ask for a hearing in front of the Property Ombudsman (an oral hearing)?

In most cases, we resolve complaints using the written evidence you and the agent send us. However, we will consider an oral hearing. This is when you give your side of the story face to face, rather than providing everything in writing.

If you ask for an oral hearing, we will consider your circumstances and your case. We may use an oral hearing if it will make the process more accessible for you – for example if you have difficulty providing or understanding written evidence. We may also consider it for other reasons, for example if your complaint brings up issues of credibility or you and the agent disagree on facts and we cannot decide the best way forward with written evidence. Depending on the circumstances either one or both parties will be present at the oral hearing.

An oral hearing is not like a court hearing. We cannot treat evidence like a judge would. For example, we can’t question or cross examine people under oath. So we take what each party says as their version of events. This means you need to be able to back up what you say at the hearing with the evidence you send us, so it is not just one person’s word against another’s.

We use the European Convention on Human Rights to decide whether the hearing should be public or private.

If you would like an oral hearing, please write to The Property Ombudsman, Milford House, 43-55 Milford Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2BP. Please explain your reasons so we can decide whether or not they could affect the final decision. If we don’t agree to an oral hearing, we’ll write to let you know why. 

Can you still review my complaint if it has been to court?

In line with our Terms of Reference, we cannot consider complaints or parts of complaints that have been through the courts.

If you have been to court about your complaint, or any part of it, we will need a copy of the judgement to see if we can do our review. If we can, we will only consider the elements the court didn’t cover. For example, if the court case was about an unpaid fee, we can still review the service you received from the agent if it was not included in your defence.

What if a court date has been set for the agent’s claim for their fees?

In line with our Terms of Reference, we cannot consider complaints or parts of complaints that have been through the courts. If the agent does make a court claim for your payment and the hearing is set for more than three months away, we will carry on with our review. If the hearing is set for less than three months away, we will have to suspend our review.

You could apply to the court for an adjournment on the grounds you want to contact us. However, if the hearing goes ahead and a judgement is made, we will need a copy of it to see if we can carry on with our review. If we can, we will carry on after the court case, but we will only be able to consider the elements the case didn’t cover. For example, if the court case was about an unpaid fee, we can still review the service you received from the agent if it was not included in your defence.

Our proposed decision and representing

What happens when a decision has been made on the case?

We will send the proposed decision to you and the agent at the same time. It may include relevant documents to show you how we have come to our decision. You both have 21 days to either accept or represent against the decision.

If you represent, there is no guarantee it will affect the final decision. In fact, representations normally only affect the final decision if:

  • you can prove we have made a significant mistake that makes a difference to the outcome – for example if we missed a complaint letter or misinterpreted the facts
  • you have significant new evidence that will affect the decision.

You need to send your explanation about any mistakes and any new, relevant evidence to us within 21 days of the date you receive the proposed decision.

What if the agent doesn’t respond to the proposed decision?

The agent has 21 days to accept or represent against the proposed decision. If they don’t respond in that time, we will assume they accept the decision and let you know. If you accept the decision, the agent will have to keep to the decision and any recommendations. 

What if I don’t agree with the proposed decision?

If you do not agree with the proposed decision, you can either reject it or represent against it. If you want to represent, and can prove we have made a significant mistake or you have new evidence, it may change the decision. If you reject the decision, it will expire and we will close the case.

You need to represent within 21 days of the date you receive the proposed decision. We will then make our final decision and write to let you know.

How do I represent against the proposed decision?

When we send our proposed decision, we will include all the details you need about how to represent.

Is my award safe if I represent against the proposed decision?

The decision and award can change right up until we make our final decision. So your representation, or the agent’s representation, could change or cancel the award.

Our final decision and compensation

If you support my complaint, what can you do?

If we support your complaint against one of our member agents, we can make them take action to put things right. For example, by giving a formal apology, changing their procedures or paying you compensation up to £25,000. (If we resolve a dispute for a different body – like a search provider – the compensation limit can vary. We will let you know the maximum amount relevant to the type of organisation when we receive your complaint.)

Amounts over £500 are not awarded very often – only when there is absolutely no doubt that an agent has caused you significant financial loss. Most compensation is less than £500 and we award it for any aggravation, distress or inconvenience the agent has caused you.

We cannot make agents pay penalties or take any legal or regulatory action against them. If an agent seriously breaks our code of practice, we can report them to our Compliance Committee, who will decide what action to take next.

What if I don’t agree with the final decision?

If you don’t agree with the final decision, you cannot appeal against it, as you would have already had the chance to represent when you received the proposed decision, but you can take your complaint to court or find another organisation who may be able to help. The agent can also take you to court to recover any fees you haven’t paid.

Can I use your review and findings in court?

Whether or not you accept the decision, we would not expect you to take your complaint to court or to a different organisation, however there are some exceptional circumstances where the review may be used in court.

What happens if I accept the compensation?

If you accept the final decision and compensation, you do it in full and final settlement of all the complaints against the agent we have formally reviewed.

When you accept, we will let the agent know and ask them to pay you within 28 days. If you would like a bank transfer, please give them your bank account details directly – for data protection reasons we cannot pass these on for you.

If there are outstanding fees or invoices you need to pay the agent, please pay them within 15 days of the date you accept the compensation. The agent does not have to pay until you have paid what you owe them. Or, if you prefer, the agent can deduct the compensation amount from their fees. So, if the compensation is more than what you owe them, they can pay you the rest or, if it’s lower, they can amend the amount you need to pay them.

When you have received the compensation, please let us know so we can update our records and close your case. Also, see “What if the agent is late or refuses to pay the compensation?” below.

How will the agent pay my compensation?

When you accept, we will let the agent know and ask them to pay you within 28 days. They may send a cheque, or if you would like a bank transfer, please give them your bank account details directly – for data protection reasons we cannot pass these on for you.

When you have received the compensation, please let us know so we can update our records and close your case. Also, see “What if the agent is late or refuses to pay the compensation?” below.

If there are outstanding fees or invoices you need to pay the agent, please pay them within 15 days of the date you accept the compensation. The agent does not have to pay until you have paid what you owe them. Or, if you prefer, the agent can deduct the compensation amount from their fees. So, if the compensation is more than what you owe them, they can pay you the rest or, if it’s lower, they can amend the amount you need to pay them.

What if the agent is late or refuses to pay the compensation?

If the agent is late paying, we will contact them to remind them they have to pay you. If they still haven’t paid within a week, we will write to tell them that if they don’t pay within the next week we will report them to the Compliance Committee of the Property Ombudsman Board who will decide what action to take.

Can I accept the compensation and still go to court?

If you accept the final decision and compensation, you do it in full and final settlement of all the complaints against the agent we have formally reviewed. So we would not expect you to take your complaint to court.

Client Money Protection

What is client money protection (CMP)?

CMP is only relevant for people who deal with residential letting agents. It is insurance that reimburses tenants or landlords if their deposit or rental income is stolen or misused by their letting agent.

How do I make a client money protection (CMP) claim?

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact us with the name of the letting agent involved. If the agent is not covered under our Professional Indemnity Insurance + CMP scheme, you can try the following schemes:

Is there someone else I can contact if I have concerns TPO cannot deal with?

If we can’t help you, you can try the following agencies.

Advice for tenants

Shelter is a housing and homelessness charity that also provides advice for tenants who live in rented accommodation. Each country in the UK has its own website, which is listed below. You will need to select the website for the area that covers the property you live in.

Shelter England:

england.shelter.org.uk

Live chat is available on the website

Helpline: 0808 800 4444

Emergency Telephone: 0808 1644 660

Shelter Northern Ireland:

www.shelterni.org

Telephone: 028 9024 7752

Shelter Scotland:

scotland.shelter.org.uk

Live chat is available on the website

Telephone: 0808 800 4444 

Shelter Cymru (Wales):

sheltercymru.org.uk

Telephone: 0345 075 5005 

Advice for landlords

Landlord Action (England and Wales):

www.landlordaction.co.uk

Telephone: 0330 311 4366

There is a fee for this service.

Landlord Expert:

www.landlordexpert.co.uk

There is no membership fee. 

Advice for freeholders, leaseholders and park home owners

The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) England and Wales:

This is a Government- funded, independent scheme.

www.lease-advice.org

www.lease-advice.org/wales-page

Advice for residential sellers and buyers

HomeOwners Alliance:

hoa.org.uk

There is a membership fee to pay.

HomeOwners Helpline (members only):

033 0088 2050 

HOA service enquiries:

033 0088 2051

Advice for newly built or converted properties

Each scheme will consider complaints against their own membership so it’s worth checking the membership before contacting them.

Consumer Code for Home Builders: (buying a new or newly converted property)

www.consumercode.co.uk 

Consumer Code for New Homes:

www.consumercodefornewhomes.com

NHBC: (building warranties)

www.nhbc.co.uk

General consumer or legal advice

Citizens Advice:

Citizens Advice is a free service that offers assistance for a wide range of issues. Each country in the UK has its own website, which is listed below. You will need to select the website that covers the area where your problem has happened. For example, if you live in Scotland but have a problem with a used car you bought in England, you would need to visit the English website.

Citizens Advice England:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Citizens Advice Northern Ireland:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland

Citizens Advice Scotland:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland

Citizens Advice Wales:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales 

Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 04 05 06

Textphone: 18001 03454 04 05 06

To contact a Welsh-speaking adviser: 03454 04 05 05

Textphone to contact a Welsh-speaking adviser: 18001 03454 04 05 05

Which? Legal:

Which? Legal is an independent consumer champion that can help you resolve your legal problems for a small monthly membership fee.

legalservice.which.co.uk

LawWorks:

LawWorks is a charity working to connect volunteer lawyers with people in need of legal advice, who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford to pay for legal services. The website has a search facility to find a service in your area.

www.lawworks.org.uk

Some universities run limited free legal advice clinics. It may be worth checking their website and searching for legal advice or legal clinic to see if they can help.