More than 12,000 lettings offices registered with the UK's largest redress scheme have become approved traders under the Trading Standard Institute's (TSI) Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) after The Property Ombudsman scheme's (TPO) Lettings Code of Practice was given the green light by the Consumer Codes Approval Board.
CCAS is distinct from other trader approved schemes in that individual traders cannot sign up to it – the only way a trader can display the TSI-approved code logo is through membership of an organisation whose code of practice has passed a stringent two-stage process to gain approval. The high standards of the approved codes are maintained by a robust system of annual onsite audits by TSI-appointed trading standards professionals.
Across the UK, tenants and landlords can now look out for the TSI-approved code logo to see if their agent is registered with TPO, the largest government-approved property ombudsman scheme in the UK.
With more than 30,000 sales, lettings and property agents registered with TPO, the scheme offers consumers free, fair and impartial redress service to resolve disputes with registered agents.
TSI's chief executive Leon Livermore said: "We are delighted to welcome the Property Ombudsman's scheme's Lettings Code into our family of Consumer Codes, a hallmark for excellent consumer protection and customer service.
'Approved lettings agents will now be able to proudly display the TSI-approved code logo to distinguish themselves from competition, and consumers dealing with TPO lettings agents can be reassured they're working with a business determined to deliver high customer satisfaction.
'Moreover should any issues arise, the Lettings Code of Practice will give the consumer and the lettings agent an avenue for fair, objective redress.'
TPO's Lettings Code of Practice is unique in the property industry, as it offers registered agents guidance on all aspects of property and consumer law, while also outlining industry best practice, covering topics including marketing and advertising, viewings, offers, rent collection, tenancy agreements, deposits and termination of a tenancy.
TSI's approval of TPO's Lettings Code of Practice follows the implementation of new legislation that requires every letting agent in England to register with a government-approved redress scheme. This came into force last month (1 October 2014) with 12,000 offices already registered and following TPO's Lettings Code of Practice.
TPO vice chairman Gerry Fitzjohn said: 'Winning Code approval for TPO's Lettings Code of Practice is a major milestone for the industry, which follows our Sales Code approval last year.
'This latest approval will enable letting agents following our Code of Practice to display the TSI logo for the first time. The timing couldn't be better with thousands of landlords and tenants that use letting agents now having a legal right to redress, following the new legislation that came into force last month. With more than 12,000 lettings offices following TPO's Code, they can all display the TSI Consumer Code Approval Scheme logo to assure consumers that they are following the highest industry standards.”
Approximately 75 per cent of the UK lettings market are registered with TPO and following the scheme's Lettings Code, while 95 percent of residential sales agents follow TPO's Sales Code of Practice, which was approved by TSI last year.
The TSI-approved logo is hallmark of excellence, which enables consumers to feel confident that any approved business that they choose will have a proven commitment to the highest customer service standards.
Consumers that are dissatisfied with the service of a registered agent have a right to refer the dispute to TPO's Ombudsman who has the power to direct awards of up to £25,000 for Code breaches. TPO's latest Interim Report* confirmed a significant increase in the number of complaints against letting agents and the number of cases it was able to uphold, with 74 per cent of all landlord and tenant complaints being supported by the Ombudsman.
The new code is part of the TSI's CCAS, which has 28,086 member businesses who voluntarily agree to participate in TSI's 13 approved codes.
*Data based on TPO's 2014 Interim report, which was published 1 October 2014
Notes for Editors:
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In April 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) invited TSI to establish a successor to the Office of Fair Trading CCAS on a self-funding basis from April 2013. The management of the scheme has now transferred to the Consumer Codes Approval Board (CCAB) operated by TSI.Further information about CCAS can be found on the TSI website and in our magazine TS Today. TSI run an online directory listing all members of a TSI approved code, so consumers can search for a trader they can trust.
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. TSI's members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.