20% rise in complaints to The Property Ombudsman in 2019 and £2.20 million returned to consumers in compensatory awards

Published on Monday, 11 May 2020. Posted in Press Releases

-      30,365 enquiries (up just 4% on 2018)

-      5,106 became formal complaints (up 20% on 2018)

-      £2.20 million in awards

-      Agents settled 98% of awards made

-      Just 22 agents were expelled from TPO for non-compliance

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has released its 2019 annual report reflecting continued demand from consumers for dispute resolution services.

The report reveals TPO received 30,356 enquiries in 2019, up only 4% on 2018. Of these, 5,106 went on to be formal complaints, a rise of 20%. Despite a significant increase in complaints, compensatory awards paid by agents to consumers only rose by 1.4% to a total of £2.20 million. This is an effective barometer for the sector that progress is being made with agents complying with the TPO Codes of Practice.

The Property Ombudsman dealt with 2,518 complaints relating to lettings, 1,669 relating to sales and 780 for residential leasehold management. The biggest awards were £17,644, £20,200 and £21,439 respectively, and the average awards were £635, £742 and £273 respectively.

Management was the top cause of lettings complaints last year, but communication and record keeping remained as the top cause of sales complaints. The manner in which agents dealt with complaints was again in the top three causes of complaints for lettings, sales and residential leasehold management.

The report also includes eight example case summaries of complaints received by TPO along with the outcome, as well as statistics relating to the minority of cases (0.1%) where agents were referred to TPO’s Compliance Committee for possible expulsion from the scheme for non-compliance. 98% of agents paid the Ombudsman’s award to the complainant and only 22 agents were expelled from the scheme.

Lettings statistical highlights:

  • 67% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
  • 50% of complaints were made by landlords, while 48% were made by tenants (2% received by other)
  • The average lettings award was £635
  • The top causes of complaints were: (1) management, (2) communication and record keeping (3) complaints handling (4) tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits

Sales statistical highlights:

  • 63% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
  • 67% of complaints were made by sellers, while 29% were made by buyers (4% received by other)
  • The average sales award was £742
  • The top causes of complaints were: (1) communication & record keeping, (2) complaints handling (3) marketing & advertising, (4) instructions/terms of business/commission/termination

 

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said:

“2019 was another busy year for TPO. Complaints ascended year on year again and we also saw the complexities of cases increase, particularly in the residential leasehold management field.

As always, I’m proud that the team rose to the challenge of rising complaint numbers. Our Customer Services team responded to a record number of people, over 30,000 initial enquiries raised, with nearly 10,000 of those received through our 24/7 online chat service, a 7% increase on 2018. Just over 25,000 enquiries that did not go on to become formal complaints saw TPO effectively assist consumers in other ways, whether that be signposting them to the correct place or person or giving advice and guidance to promote a local resolution between them and the agent.

In order to further enhance consumer experience, TPO has translated its work in the initial enquiry stage into a self-diagnostic tool. Still in its piloting phase, we hope to promote the online tool this year.

 

Overall, 2019 represented a year of growth and improvement. 2020 has already brought a huge challenge with the outbreak of Covid-19. TPO acknowledges that the current situation is an extremely difficult one, for agents and consumers alike. TPO is here to help as best it can and is operating a full service. Consumers can still make a complaint at this time and the property industry can access information, guides and advice via our website.”

Case Summaries

TPO has over 29 years’ experience advising consumers who contact the scheme when they have exhausted an organisation’s internal complaint’s process but want an alternative to avoid the expense and time taken by going to court. The annual report provides some example case summaries which represent daily life, rather than the more extreme but unusual cases.

The full annual report is available in a PDF [here] and all case summaries are available on the TPO website.

ENDS

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NOTES TO THE EDITOR

Any issues regarding this document should be addressed to the process owner.

Notes to the editor:

What is The Property Ombudsman?

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered agent. The scheme was established in 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose, achieving a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and/or for aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered agent.

TPO is funded through membership subscriptions and case fees and is free to all consumers.

At 31 December 2018 over 15,897 sales offices and 14,746 letting offices were registered with TPO.

Independence

Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Board which is chaired by a member of the House of Lords and with the majority of its members being independent from the industry.

The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered agent. However, registered agents can be referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel agents from the scheme and/or report them to the appropriate authorities, with the power to ban agents from carrying out estate agency business.

Further information

The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, case summaries, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered agents.

For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk