FAQs for Agents

If you receive a complaint
Your initial response
Investigating and dealing with a complaint
Your final response
Outstanding fees and court
When we receive a complaint
When the complaint is allocated
Outcome of the complaint
Awards
Further things to consider
Data Protection

If you receive a complaint

What counts as a complaint?

This could be something a complainant thinks that you may have done wrong, or something that you should have done but did not do. They may notify you of their complaint verbally or in writing.

Even if you believe there is no basis or justification for complaint, any complaint received should be treated seriously and in accordance with your in-house complaints procedure.

Why do I need an in-house complaints procedure?

You are obliged under your terms of membership to maintain and operate an in-house complaints procedure. This must be in writing and should explain how to complain to you and, if they remain dissatisfied, to the Ombudsman. The procedure must be made available to the complainant upon request.

Procedures may vary from agent to agent, however if you have agreed to abide by a Code of Practice there are specific timescales to adhere to. We will use these timescales as best practice when reviewing complaints against those agents registered for redress.

How should I deal with a verbal complaint?

If you receive a complaint either by telephone or in person, ensure that you make a record, noting important details such as the date and time.

At this point you should:

  • Give the complainant a copy of your in-house complaints procedure and request that the complaint is put to you in writing.
  • Tell the complainant the name of the individual to whom the complaint should be addressed. Explain that this is necessary to assist with the matter being investigated.

Follow and explain the timescales set out in our codes of practice.

Should I notify my insurers?

Yes, any complaints which might subsequently be referred to the Ombudsman should, at the earliest opportunity, be notified to your PI Insurers, as there may be a potential claim in line with the extension to the policy required to deal with any future award that may be made against you.

Your initial response

Who should acknowledge the complaint?

Ideally, the person who receives the complaint should acknowledge it.

What if I am unable to meet the required timescales?

If you are unable, for practical reasons, to respond within the required timescale, you should advise the complainant and provide an estimate of when you expect to be able to complete your investigation.

Investigating and dealing with a complaint.

Who should investigate?

Initially, a complaint should be dealt with by a senior member of staff not directly involved in the transaction.

If the complaint is not resolved, a second review should be carried out by the Managing Director or Senior Partner or Principal. Such person should have had no previous involvement in the handling of the complaint.

In the case of a sole practitioner firm, it is recommended that the Sole Practitioner should investigate all complaints. Where the Sole Practitioner has not been personally involved in the transaction, there will be a degree of impartiality in the in-house review. Where the Sole Practitioner has been directly involved, this must be clearly stated to the complainant in writing and subsequently (if necessary), to us.

We have seen complaints where final viewpoint letters have been issued prematurely by members of staff who are not authorised to do so. You should have safeguards in place to ensure that final viewpoint letters are issued only by authorised staff, in most cases the nominated complaints contact.

The complaints contact should inform us in writing if they wish to nominate additional or alternative contacts.

I want to make a goodwill offer to resolve the complaint

We will always encourage any opportunity to settle the dispute quickly. You may therefore wish to make a goodwill offer in full and final settlement of all complaints raised.

If the complainant accepts this in full and final settlement of all complaints, the Ombudsman will consider the matter settled.

If a complainant rejects the goodwill offer and refers the complaint to us, we will come to our own conclusion as to whether or not the offer made represents appropriate compensation.

Sometimes, it may be possible for us assist by mediation, helping you and the complainant towards a settlement you can both agree on. You do not have to accept this and if you choose, the complaint will proceed to a formal review.

What if the complainant does not engage with our complaint procedures?

If a complainant contacts us and we establish that they have not engaged with your complaint procedures, in most cases we will refer them back to you, allowing you to complete your internal investigation.

Your final response

What is a final viewpoint letter?

Once you have fully investigated a complaint, you should issue a final viewpoint letter to the complainant. This provides a written statement which clearly expresses your final view on all the complaints raised, and should include any goodwill offers made. It should also refer the complainant to us if they remain dissatisfied with your decision and advise them of the timescale for bringing a complaint to us.

A final viewpoint letter should therefore:

  • Fix the date when the complainant has completed your in-house complaints procedure;
  • Clarify the issues considered by you under that procedure;
  • Advise the complainant of the timescale for bringing a complaint to TPO.

The final viewpoint letter should be headed as such, so it is clear to the complainant that they have completed your procedure.

Find a copy of a final viewpoint letter in our complaints handling toolkit here.

Can you consider the complaint without a final viewpoint letter?

Within our Terms of Reference, if more than eight weeks have elapsed since the complaint was first made to you in writing, and it is evident that no response has been made, we can take a complaint forward to be reviewed.

On most occasions, we will contact you first to ascertain the situation. However, if you are unable to offer a response to the complaint, as explained above, a final viewpoint letter may not be required for us to consider the dispute.

Outstanding fees and court

What if there are outstanding fees?

In cases where there are outstanding fees, we will make the complainant aware that you have the legal right to legal action. We will suggest that they pay the fee, or any uncontested part of it, on a “without prejudice” basis.

If you are intending or are taking legal action to recover fees under a contract, we may contact you to ask if you are prepared to place this action on hold until we have reviewed the complaint.

Should you agree the case will be allocated for review on receipt of your company file.

If, however, you are not prepared to do this and a court date is set within three months, we will suspend our review pending the court’s decision. The Ombudsman would then only be able to consider aspects of the complaint not determined by the court.

Alternatively, if we consider that we have enough time to complete our process before the hearing is due, we may escalate the case for review.

What if a court date has been set?

If a court date has been set we may contact you to ask if you are prepared to place the action on hold until we have reviewed the complaint.

If you are not prepared to do this and a court date is set within three months, we will suspend our review pending the court’s decision. We would then only consider aspects of the complaint not determined by the court.

Alternatively, if we consider that we have enough time to complete our process before the hearing is due, we may escalate the case for review.

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

In accordance with the Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference, we are not permitted to consider aspects of a complaint that a court has already ruled on.

In view of the above, we would need to be provided with a copy of the judgement so that we can determine whether we are able to consider the complaint/s. In making this decision we will also take into consideration what was submitted to the court as evidence.

When we receive a complaint

What if the complainant has added new complaints when referring the matter to TPO?

Our Terms of Reference exclude us from considering complaints that have not been subject to your in-house complaints procedure.

However, if you believe that the complainant has not already raised a particular complaint, and you wish to comment, please do so within your submission letter. We will take your comments into account during our review.

Why do I need to send the company file?

If you do not send your company file by the deadlines we will continue our review without it; using the evidence we have. By sending us your company file you will be providing us with more information which will help us see both sides of the complaint.

A list of documentation which is commonly used to review complaints is listed here.

If you are experiencing difficulties in submitting your file, please contact us for further guidance.

Does the complainant see a copy of the file?

Documents provided to this office will not be released unless it is fair and lawful to do so. However, we can, where the law permits, provide copies of relevant documents not previously seen by the complainants which we would consider necessary for them to understand the reasons for the decision.

Can I meet the resolution requested on the complaints form?

The complainant may request a resolution which you are willing to agree to or negotiate on. If so, you should contact us at the earliest opportunity to discuss this. We can relay your offer to the complainant and, where we consider appropriate, provide a recommendation that they accept the resolution in full and final settlement of all complaints raised.

When the complaint is allocated

What if I have further evidence?

You have a responsibility to provide all documentation relevant to your defence, at the time of submitting your company file.

If you have further evidence which has not been submitted at this stage, you should contact us at the earliest opportunity.

Please be aware, after we have issued our proposed decision they will not usually consider any documents at the representation stage that you could have submitted at the review stage, as this would not constitute ‘new’ evidence. It is therefore within your interests to provide all relevant documentation at the outset.

How will the Ombudsman judge the complaint?

We will carry out our review based on evidence presented to us. We arrive at our decisions by taking into account legal principles, the relevant Code of Practice and what in our opinion is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

For agents who do not follow a TPO Code of Practice, we will make a decision based on our best practice guidance and TPO’s general membership obligations.

Outcome of the complaint

What happens when a proposed decision is made?

We will send the proposed decision to you and the complainant at the same time. You will be given 21 days to either accept or appeal 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.

If you provide a representation it will be necessary to allow the other party the opportunity to comment on the representation (within 14 days) and such decision will be taken into account before issuing a Final Decision to both parties at the same time.

What awards will the Ombudsman make?

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

Although we can make awards up to £25,000 (£5,000 for search providers), this amount is rare and only in cases where it is established beyond doubt that significant financial loss has been incurred. Most awards are for aggravation and are modest (so as not to be punishment of an agent).

Awards will be made if we are persuaded that the complainant has suffered:

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

Information on average awards can be found in our Annual Reports.

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

If you do not agree with our proposed decision you are able 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, we will respond to you advising accordingly. At this stage, and having provided both parties with the opportunity to represent, we will be in a position to send a copy of our decision to both parties for their consideration and response.

Following on from this, should the complainant accept the decision, it will then become binding on you.

What if the complainant does not respond to the proposed decision?

If we have not heard from the complainant by the due date, we shall assume their non-acceptance and advise you accordingly. Any award will then lapse and the case will be closed. If you submitted an original company file this will be returned to you.

By not responding and effectively not accepting our decision, the complainant’s legal rights are not affected and they will be free to pursue their complaint elsewhere.

Having not been accepted, our decision will no longer be valid and cannot be used to support any further action.

What if the complainant does not accept the decision?

If the complainant does not accept the decision, we will write to you advising accordingly and the case will be closed. If you submitted an original company file this will be returned to you.

By choosing not to accept our decision the complainant’s legal rights are not affected and they will be free to pursue their complaint elsewhere.

Having not been accepted, our decision will no longer be valid and cannot be used to support any further action.

Awards

What to expect when an award is accepted

Upon receipt of a complainant's acceptance we will write to advise you accordingly. In accordance with the Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference we will ask that you make payment within 28 days. If the complainant has asked that the award be paid by bank transfer, we will ask that they contact you direct to provide their account details (for data protection reasons we are unable to pass these on for them).

We will request that you inform us when the award has been paid, 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 14 days of the complainant's acceptance of the Ombudsman’s decision and award. Alternatively, they are able to offset the award against the monies owed.

How should the award be paid?

Unless we have received any specific instruction from the complainant regarding payment of the award, then this should be sent directly to them within 28 days.

What if I do not pay the award?

Failure to make payment will be reported to The Compliance Committee of the Property Ombudsman Board. They will consider your non-compliance and determine any disciplinary action in accordance with its terms of reference.

Can the complainant accept the award and still go to court?

If the complainant accepts our decision, they do so in full and final settlement of all the complaints upon which we have made a formal judgement. Therefore, we would not then expect them to pursue the matter any further. 

However, the complainant is free to pursue their complaint through the courts if they have rejected our findings or if we were unable to come to a judgment on the matters alleged within the complaint that they considered.

Further things to consider

How long does the review process take?

Our aim is to provide a proposed decision within 16-18 weeks of a complaint being accepted for review. However, these timeframes may differ depending on the number of complaints we are dealing with.

Can I request an oral hearing?

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

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.

Publication of the decision

Our case reviews and decisions remain confidential between you, the complainant and us. Details of complaints may (in accordance with the requirements of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013) be provided to other consumer redress schemes or any person/organisation exercising a regulatory function. No personal details or specific aspects of the complaint will be given to anyone outside of TPO without your consent.

We do, however, publish abridged and anonymised case summaries on our website and in our interim and annual reports and via other sources to assist agents to understand the common pitfalls and mistakes and encourage best practice.

Data Protection

What is the difference between data controller / data controller agreements and data controller / data processor agreements? 

There are two ways for organisations to share personal data.  The appropriate type of agreement will depend upon the relationship between the organisations.

Data Controller / Data Controller agreements

The relationship between TPO and its Members is classified as a data sharing arrangement between data controllers.  This means that both organisations determine the purposes for which and the manner in which the personal data is processed.  This relationship has been documented in our Data Sharing Agreement with Members.

Data Controller / Data Processor agreements

The other form of data sharing arises where a data controller shares data with another party that processes personal data on its behalf. Under data protection legislation, those organisations are known as ‘data processors’.

We recommend that if you have not done so already, you should be reviewing your data sharing arrangements with third party suppliers and service providers.

For more information, please see the ICO website:

What do I do if an individual asks to be forgotten?

Individuals have the right to request for their personal data to be deleted, also known as the right to be forgotten.  An individual has the right to request to be forgotten data if one of the following applies:

  • The personal data is no longer necessary for the purpose you originally collected it for.
  • The individual withdrew their consent to the data processing activities and there is no other legal justification for processing applies.
  • The data subject objects to processing for direct marketing purposes.
  • You unlawfully processed the personal data.

Steps to follow:

If you receive a request to be forgotten, you will need to consider whether you can agree to “forget” the individual by deleting their personal data from your organisation (both in electronic and paper format).   The answer will depend upon your relationship with that individual. 

For example:

  • Former client

    If the request is received from a former client, you will need to consider whether you can comply with their request or not.  When handling their request, you will need to consider why you hold their personal data and whether you have a legal justification for retaining their personal data.  It may be that you need to retain the personal data for the purposes of your data retention policy.  For example, it is not uncommon for organisations to retain certain information about a transaction with an individual on the basis that the information may need to be maintained due to regulatory requirements (eg: health and safety / as required by HMRC).   

    Commonly, organisations will want to retain personal data in order to defend future legal claims being brought against them – for example breach of contract / negligence.  Accordingly, the organisation would be entitled to rely on the statutory limitation period as the reason for refusing a request to be forgotten.

    Meanwhile, when considering the request, you may be able to reduce (but not delete completely) the amount of personal data that you hold about the individual.

  • Existing client

    Where the request is received from an existing client, you will be able to explain to the client the consequences of agreeing to comply with their request. In this case, you need to process their personal data in order to perform the contract with them to provide the services.  You would need to explain that if you were to exercise their request, you would no longer be able to continue to act for them. 

    It will then be up to the individual to decide whether or not they wish to continue to instruct you.  Nevertheless, in the event that you have provided a service to an existing client, you may not be able to agree to exercise the request to be forgotten entirely, based on the potentially legitimate purposes of defending future claims (as set out above).

  • Current / prospective / former employees

    A similar rationale will apply in the case of employees who seek to exercise their right to be forgotten – whether current, prospective or former.

  • An individual you send marketing materials to

    In the event that the request to be forgotten relates to marketing activities, we anticipate that the individual’s personal data will need to be deleted from your marketing mailing lists (“forgotten”).

    However, it might be that the individual is an existing / former client and therefore you will need to apply the above tests to establish whether you can agree to forget the individual in their entirety or whether in fact you have legitimate interests in retaining some of their personal data relating to the services delivered and the statutory limitation period.


For more information, please see the ICO website:

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/individual-rights/right-to-erasure/  

Establishing a retention policy - what do I need to do?

It is advisable to implement a document retention policy that determines the reason and period of retention for the personal data that you process within your organisation.

You need to:

  • Establish and adhere to standard retention times for categories of information held on the records of individuals (e.g: employees (former / current / prospective)); customers (former / current / prospective); suppliers (former / current / prospective) etc.

In doing so:

  • Base the retention times on business need taking into account relevant professional guidelines and a risk analysis approach;
  • Assess who in the organisation is responsible for the retention of the records;
  • Make sure no one retains information beyond the standard retention times unless there is a sound business reason for doing so;
  • If possible establish a computerised system which flags information retained for more than a certain time as due for review or deletion.

For more information, please see the ICO website:

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/documentation/how-do-we-document-our-processing-activities/

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. 

TPO Conference 2018

Key note speakers | Workshops | Networking | Expo | Industry Panel Debate 

TPO hosted its National Conference for property agents on Wednesday 13 June 2018

TPO’s 2018 Conference was held at The National Conference Centre in Solihull, which brought together agents, industry leaders and a host of leading names to debate the latest issues concerning regulatory reform, law enforcement and the practical application of TPO’s Codes of Practice to protect consumers and raise industry standards.

Property Industry EYE once again supported the event as media partner.

Next year’s event will have keynote speakers, exhibitors, industry panellists and a series of agent workshops and seminars.

There was a strong emphasis on learning and development, where delegates will receive a complaint handling toolkit and can claim CPD* credits for attending the conference.

* N.B. TPO’s Conference is an accredited Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event. CPD is a term used to describe the learning activities professionals engage in to develop and enhance their abilities. Most trade bodies require member agents to undertake CPD activity each year, and the TPO Conference is geared towards helping delegates further their professional development.

Conference Programme and Event Photos

To view photos from TPO's 2018 Conference please click here and use the password TPO2018.            

Complaint Handling Toolkit

chtcht scotland

TPO’s Complaint Handling Toolkit includes a white labelled complaints procedure and letter templates to help agents deal with complaints in a structured and timely way. It also provides guidance on how to handle complaints better.

The toolkit forms part of the TPO ‘Complaints Handling and Reputation Management’ training module which deals with all aspects of complaint handling – from front-line staff to those tasked with investigating and responding to complaints. The training module can be accessed on the TPO Training page.