Today (3.30pm), at the House of Lords, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) launches its latest annual report, which reveals an increase in the number of formal complaints resolved by the scheme and a record total of compensatory awards paid by agents.
Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle confirms that the number of complex complaints reviewed by TPO grew by 7.5% to 3,553 - so too did the number of sales and letting agents joining the scheme, while the overall number of awards TPO instructed agents to pay in 2016 reached in excess of £1 million for the first time
Highlights of the report confirm that TPO:
- Received 14,218 enquires from consumers seeking advice
- Resolved 3,553 formal complaints (a 7.5% increase from last year)
- Saw a 6.1% and 7% increase in the number of sales and letting agents joining the scheme
- Instructed agents to pay awards worth £1.2 million (a 51% increase from last year)
Other focus points include key reflections from the TPO Board and Council, top causes of sales and lettings complaints, as well as data concerning disciplinary cases and agent expulsions. Also included are several consumer case summaries providing a snapshot of the work carried out by the Ombudsman.
Lettings statistical highlights:
- 1,997 formal complaints were resolved (1.6% more than the year before)
- 76% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
- 51% were made by tenants, while 45% of complaints were made by landlords[i]
- The highest award issued last year was £21,972
- The average lettings award was £531[ii]
- The regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London (25%), the South East (23%), followed by North West (10%)
- The top four causes of complaints were (1) ‘Management’, (2) ‘Communication & record keeping’, (3) ‘In-house complaints procedure’ and (4) ‘Referencing’.
Sales statistical highlights:
- 1,310 formal complaints were resolved (7.4% more than the year before)
- 73% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
- 61% of complaints were made by sellers, while 35% were made by buyers[iii]
- The average sales award was £397[iv]
- The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (25%) followed by South West (13%) then Greater London (12%)
- The top four causes of complaints were (1) ‘Communication & record keeping’, (2) ‘Marketing & advertising’, (3) ‘Instructions/terms of business/commission/termination’ and (4) ‘In-house complaints handling’.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said:
“TPO works with the industry and consumers to get things right, put things right and set things right. This year, TPO’s Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), have been revised to clarify many of the issues consumers found confusing or misleading, including full disclosure on fees and charges, pre-contract deposits and referencing.
"To help put things right, we resolved a record number of complex complaints, which resulted in total awards reaching £1.2 million. We will continue to set things right by promoting best practice through our regular case studies, regional workshops, industry seminars, and national conferences.
"There are now 38,017 offices and departments following our unique Codes of Practice, demonstrating agents’ commitment to raising standards and providing a better service to their customers. It is evident that the vast majority of consumers are happy with their agent. To help paint an overall picture, the 1,310 sales complaints resolved by TPO in 2016 equates to 0.1% of all sales transactions completed during the year[i].”
Industry case studies
The annual report provides a series of case summaries highlighting examples of the varied and complex cases reviewed by the Ombudsman. TPO’s Codes of Practice provide the framework for the high standards expected of members and give the Ombudsman the means by which to investigate disputes fairly and consistently.
- Commission fees and VAT
- Withholding material information
- Pre-contract deposits
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (CPRs) … and how they still apply after a client changes agents
The case which resulted in the highest award paid by an agent during 2016 (£21,972) features in the report. To view the case in full, please click here.
The Annual Report and all case summaries are available now on the TPO website.
[i] TPO can consider sales complaints from potential Landlords and Tenants Buyers, Sellers, and other third parties affected by the actions of the agent.
[ii] Average Lettings award is based on supported closures with and without a monetary amount
[iii] TPO can consider sales complaints from potential Landlords and Tenants Buyers, Sellers, and other third parties affected by the actions of the agent.
[iv] Average Lettings award is based on supported closures with and without a monetary amount