- 45,007 people turned to The Property Ombudsman for help in 2021 (up 15% on 2020)
- 5,508 disputes were accepted for investigation (up 7.5% on 2020)
- 49% of disputes accepted were resolved through TPO’s early resolution process
- 6,006 disputes were resolved in 2021, of which there was a financial award/settlement for 2,860
- Compliance with Ombudsman decisions remained extremely high at 99%
Demand for help and advice from The Property Ombudsman rose by 15% in 2021 to 45,007 enquiries, and has risen by a staggering 48% since 2019. As well as demonstrating that consumers, more than ever, want access to justice and to feel that their issues are being taken seriously, it also highlights the importance of TPO’s consumer enquiry services in helping to underpin trust and confidence in the sector.
Throughout 2021, TPO’s consumer enquiry services, delivered through its portal and directly by the enquiries team, fielded 45,007 enquiries. 39,499 of these were provided with expert advice and guidance resolving matters before they became formal complaints or, where appropriate, signposted to other organisations. The other 5,508, evolved into disputes accepted for investigation by The Property Ombudsman.
Of the 6,006* disputes that The Property Ombudsman resolved last year, 49% were done so through early resolution, meaning there was no need for a formal investigation. There was a financial settlement or award granted in 2,860 of cases, with just 17 unpaid awards resulting in the expulsion of 14 agents from the scheme. This translates to a 99% compliance rate, with the 14 agents constituting just 0.04% of TPO’s 39,019 membership.
TPO dealt with 2,656 disputes relating to lettings, 1,807 relating to sales, 1,356 for residential leasehold management (RLM) and 187 for other property professionals. The biggest awards were £15,981 (lettings), £18,000 (sales) and £9,681 (RLM), and the average awards were £517, £580 and £415 respectively.
Rebecca Marsh, Property Ombudsman:
“I continue to be astonished by the volume of enquires TPO receives and the growth we have seen over the last few years. When comparing the volume of enquiries to the number of disputes which go on to become formal investigations, it is clear to see the value that our enquiries team is providing. Firstly, to consumers who can speak to someone who will listen to their issues and provide expert advice to resolve matters before they become formal complaints. Over the last few years we have seen call lengths nearly double with issues becoming more complex. Secondly, to member businesses who are saved time, resources and costs associated with having to deal with the complaint themselves.
Following the release of the ‘Fairer Private Rented Sector’ white paper, a collection of reforms built on the principles that everyone has a right to a decent home and that everyone should be treated fairly, and the current economic situation, I anticipate our enquiries will continue their upward trajectory. As an independent Ombudsman, our role in these reforms will be to help to facilitate discussion between industry and consumer stakeholders and use our evidenced based insight to help them and policy makers reach outcomes that have a balanced and positive impact. We will of course continue to provide advice, guidance and signposting to consumers and members alike, as the industry and the country as a whole goes through this period of change.”
The full annual review is available on the website HERE and in PDF HERE and all case summaries are available on the TPO website. The annual review has been released later this year due to national events over the late summer and early autumn.
*The sum of ‘cases resolved by early resolution ‘and those ‘resolved by Ombudsman decision’ total more than ‘cases accepted’ as some of those resolved in 2021 have been carried over from 2020
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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) offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered property business. 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.
Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the independent 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 business. However, registered businesses 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.
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 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