The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has today released its 2017 annual report.
Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle confirms the number of complaints received rose by 3% to 3,658. TPO made financial awards to consumers in 2,408 instances which totalled £1.36 million, an increase of 11% on the previous year.
The report reveals the top causes of sales and lettings complaints, results from TPO’s consumer survey review, a snapshot of regional events attended by TPO, as well as data concerning disciplinary cases and agent expulsions. The annual report also provides reflections from the TPO Board and Council.
In addition to the level of complaints, the Annual Report highlights:
- A 68% increase in consumer enquiries, following the introduction of an “open all hours” online service with Yomdel. 6,458 online chats led to 946 new complaints being received.
- The Customer Service team helped 14,671 people with their enquiries, either by signposting them to the right organisation or giving immediate advice on how to raise complaints direct with their service provider.
Lettings statistical highlights:
- 2,212 formal complaints were resolved (11% more than 2016)
- 67% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
- 49% of complaints were made by landlords, while 45% were made by tenants
- The average lettings award was £625
- For the second year running, the regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London (23%), the South East (20%) and North West (11%)
- The top causes of complaints were: (1) management, (2) communication & record keeping, (3) tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits and (4) in-house complaints procedure
Sales statistical highlights:
- 1,098 formal complaints were resolved (16% fewer than 2016)
- 62% 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 £532
- The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (23%) and Greater London (14%) following by North West and South West (both 10%)
- The top causes of complaints were: (1) communication & record keeping, (2) marketing & advertising, (3) instructions/terms of business/commission/termination and (4) inhouse complaints handling
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said:
“Our primary focus has always been on providing expert advice and quality outcomes. Our early advice plays a key role in empowering consumers by equipping them with information so they can try and resolve the issue directly with their agent. Our Early Resolution approach seeks to resolve straightforward disputes quickly and our Adjudication Service is wholly focused on fair and reasonable outcomes. TPO takes a continuous improvement approach to the services we provide, enabling us to meet the needs of consumers more efficiently, and to raise standards in the industry through information, education and advice on systemic issues arising in what is a dynamic industry.
With 38,272 offices and departments now following our Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), I think it is encouraging that complaints have risen by just 3% and that 10% fewer agents had to be referred to our Disciplinary and Standards Committee.
We agree with Government that there are gaps in the current provisions of consumer redress within the property sector which need addressing and, together with industry and consumer partners, we are keen to play our part in regulation and redress reform.
Overall, 2017 represented a positive year of innovation and improvement, which will reassure consumers and the industry that there is an alternative to costly and lengthy court proceedings that can be relied on to provide timely, fair and reasonable remedies.”
Industry case studies
TPO has over 27 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 highlighting the varied and complex cases reviewed by the Ombudsman. Topics include a dual fee dispute, insufficient tenant referencing, agent obligations under CPRs and more.