Complaints to The Property Ombudsman rise by 16% in 2018 and more than £2million is returned to consumers in compensatory awards

Published on Wednesday, 08 May 2019. Posted in Press Releases

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has today [8th May 2019] released its 2018 annual report reflecting ever-increasing consumer demand for the service.

The report reveals TPO received a record number of enquiries in 2018 (29,023), up 22% on 2017.  Of these, 4,246 went on to be formal complaints, which also rose significantly year on year by 16%. 

The Ombudsman supported 2782 complaints, of which 2381 required a financial award to be paid.  For the first time, compensatory awards paid by agents to consumers reached in excess of £2million (£2.17m), a total which has more than doubled since 2016.

Other details in the report provide a breakdown of complaints received relating to sales, lettings, residential leasehold management and other jurisdictions, average award amounts, the most common causes of complaints and eight example case summaries of complaints received last year, along with the outcome.

Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle and the newly formed Unitary Board provide a snapshot of the year, describing changes to the scheme as providing a “better, faster service to consumers”. The report also details feedback from TPO’s consumer and agent survey, lists key regional events attended by TPO, as well as reporting on the minority of cases (0.1%) where agents have been referred to TPO’s Compliance Committee for possible expulsion from the scheme.

Lettings statistical highlights:

  • 2,757 complaints were resolved
  • 66% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
  • 54% of complaints were made by landlords, while 42% were made by tenants
  • The average lettings award was £845
  • For the third year running, the regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London (20%), the South East (17%) and North West (11%)
  • The top causes of complaints were: (1) communication & record keeping, (2) management (3) tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits and (4) complaint handling

Sales statistical highlights:

  • 1,465 complaints were resolved
  • 58% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
  • 60% of complaints were made by sellers, while 34% were made by buyers
  • The average sales award was £608
  • The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (16%), Greater London (11%) and North West (9%)
  • The top causes of complaints were: (1) communication & record keeping, (2) marketing & advertising, (3) instructions/terms of business/commission/termination and (4) complaint handling


Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said:

“2018 was an extremely busy year for TPO with increasing demand for the service. This does not necessarily mean that agents’ standards are slipping, but rather that consumers are increasingly aware of their rights, particularly off the back of the Government’s consultation into strengthening redress in the housing market, and subsequent media publicity on the future of consumer protection and driving out poor practice in the industry. TPO now also has 41,421 offices and departments following our Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), 8% more than in 2017, an ever-increasing figure as we look to further extend our role to cover gaps in redress.


I’m proud to say that my team not only coped with this increased workload but enabled the service to go from strength to strength. Our Customer Services team responded to a record number of people – nearly 30,000, who contacted TPO via phone, email, post or online chat service, either by signposting them to the right organisation or giving immediate advice on how to raise a complaint. We also handled more complaints than ever before, identified complaint trends causing rising levels of consumer detriment and took action to combat these, and modernised our processes to provide a faster service to consumers.

Overall, 2018 represented a year of growth and improvement and as we look ahead to 2019, I’m confident that TPO will continue to raise standards, update our Sales and Lettings Codes of Practice to reflect new legislation and meet whatever challenges the industry faces.”

Case Summaries

TPO has over 28 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. Topics include a dual fee dispute, issues with surveying, auctions, referencing and more.

Katrine Sporle will draw on details from the annual report and what this means for the industry at The Property Ombudsman Conference on 10th July. Tickets are available at:

The full annual report is available in an e-book [here], or PDF [here] and all case summaries are available on the TPO website.


For press information, please contact:

The Inhouse Way
Tel: 01276 804411
Helen Evison: 07920 516 577
Holly Addinall: 07979 537 334

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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.


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 (, 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