TPO Annual Report 2014, TPO Scotland, VAT advertising advice for property professionals and introduction to compliance surveys
This edition covers the release of our much anticipated annual report and the launch of two new versions of the Codes of Practice for sales and letting agents operating in Scotland. This edition also includes important guidance from the Committee of Adveritising Practice and an introduction to compliance surveys.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Vice Chairman, TPO Board.
TPO Annual Report 2014
We recently released our much anticipated annual report which revealed a continuing upward trend in new referrals, 42% against the previous year. This is indicative of both the general trend in the consumer world to challenge when something does not give satisfaction, as well as the growing number of agents (28% more than at the start of 2014) now signed up as members of TPO.
Six months on from the introduction of new legislation, making it a legal requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to join a government approved redress scheme, the report indicates the number of letting offices now signed up to TPO scheme has reached a record level of 12,915. This brings the total number of sales and lettings offices offering TPO's free, independent route to resolve disputes to 26,735, a figure we’re very proud of.
Statistical highlights featured in the report include:
- 19% increase in registered membership letting offices
- 40% rise in lettings cases received
- 33% increase in cases resolved via mediation
- 10% increase in cases resolved via formal review
- 11% of lettings issues reported to TPO related to repair and maintenance
- 54% of complainants were landlords versus 44% tenants
- The average lettings award has risen 27% from £411.97 to £524.10
- 23% of complainants were from the South East, followed by Greater London (21%) the South West (9%) on par with North West (9%).
- 14% increase in registered membership sales offices
- 43% rise in sales cases received
- 21% increase in cases resolved via mediation
- 13% increase in cases resolved via formal review
- 20% of sales issues reported to TPO related to communication failure
- 59% of complainants were sellers versus 39% buyers
- 23% of complainants were from the South East, followed by Greater London (13%) & South West and Eastern Region both (11%)
To read the whole report click here.
TPO Scotland established with Codes of Practice for Scottish sales and lettings market
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme recently launched two new versions of its Code of Practice for sales and lettings agents operating in Scotland, and to officially mark the launch of TPO Scotland, we invited individuals from leading industry associations, agents and local journalists to join the Scottish Board and the Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, for a celebration.
The event took place at the Offices of Braemore Lettings in Edinburgh and proved to be a great success with guests enjoying a buffet lunch and a glass of wine.
TPO Scotland is an independent scheme and has been launched to ensure industry best practice through its new and approved Codes of Practice. Members of TPO Scotland must adhere to the Codes, while their customers have access to a robust dispute resolution process if things go wrong. Although membership for letting agents is currently voluntary, although a significant number of agents in the country are already registered with the scheme, there are major benefits that come from being associated with TPO Scotland which represents a mark of quality and reassurance for buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords. Our aim is to help agents develop their staff in industry standards to come in line with current laws. The property industry is continuously changing and the Private Rented Sector in particular is growing at a rapid pace. There is a drive to set standards in progress through the Scottish Government with a consultation recently launched which will see a major overhaul of legislation in the Private Rented Sector. The industry itself sees the value of regulation and both our Codes have been created to go hand in hand with recent improvements and the changing nature of the Private Rented Sector.
The new Codes, which came into force on 1st March 2015, are unique to TPO and were written with input from the industry with representatives of The Scottish Government, Shelter, The National Association of Estate Agents, Association of Residential Letting Agents and several property agents.
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme has been operating throughout the UK for 25 years and its Codes of Practice have received Consumer Code Approval from The Trading Standards Institute (TSI). The new TPO Scottish Sales and Lettings codes have also received indpendent accreditation from TSI emphasising that the Codes set a standard for consumer protection. Our Codes are comprehensive and cover all aspects of the latest property and consumer laws, and we therefore urge consumers to use an agent who is a member of TPO Scotland in order to safeguard themselves as much as possible. More than 500 estate agencies and lettings firms are TPO Scotland accredited and TPO encourage tenants, landlords and property owners to seek out these agencies.
TPO’s new Sales and Lettings Codes for Scotland are now available here.
VAT Advertising Advice for residential property professionals
You may have recently received communication from us informing you that the ASA has published a ruling that states advertisements for residential property services should now quote VAT.
The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing Code (the CAP Code) requires that quoted prices include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. In most cases where a fee is expressed as a percentage or as a flat rate, the fee should be advertised inclusive of VAT.
Percentage sales fees should be adjusted, as per the ruling, to include the current rate of VAT e.g. a sales fee of 2.5% + VAT should be advertised as 3%. Adding an “inclusive of VAT” type statement is optional.
Flat-rate sales fees should also be adjusted to include the current rate of VAT e.g. a sales fee of £495 + VAT should be advertised as £594. Adding an “inclusive of VAT” type statement is optional.
All tenant and landlord fees should be advertised inclusive of the current rate of VAT e.g. a tenant reference fee of £200 + VAT should be advertised as £240. Adding an “inclusive of VAT” type statement is optional.This guidance applies to ads across non-broadcast media including posters, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, mailings, commercial emails, ads on websites, text messages and those on advertisers’ own websites, including social media spaces that they control.
However, while letting agents are obliged to show fees along with rents, there is no legal obligation on sales agents to show their fees. The Committee of Advertising Practice ruling therefore only applies to sales agents who advertise their fees.
An introduction to compliance surveys
As a feature of Trading Standards Institutes’ approval of our Codes of Practice, all of our member agents should complete a compliance survey every 3-5 years. This is a new requirement that was introduced in November 2014 and replaces the previous Referenceline Consumer Feedback scheme.
In order to provide a high standard of service to the consumer we survey all members to ensure that they are compliant to both the sales and/or lettings codes of practice. By doing this we ensure that we as a redress scheme can maintain our approval with Trading Standards and thereby offering added value to you as a member of our scheme.
Some of the keys areas we look at are Sales and Lettings Agreements, internal complaint procedure, use of clients account, professional indemnity insurance, vulnerable consumer training, correct TPO literature within the branch etc. On receipt of evidence received from an agent we will report back to with any areas that we feel could be improved and give guidance if needed.