Lettings agents across the UK are continuing to show their support for The Property Ombudsman scheme (TPO), with more than 300 offices joining this year to take the total past 9,000.
'The Government continues to ignore pleas for residential letting agents to be regulated in the same way as sales agents, which we believe would raise standards across the industry,' says Gerry Fitzjohn, chief operating officer of TPO.
'But letting agents are showing themselves to be increasingly ready to commit to the TPO Lettings Code of Practice, which now has Stage 1 approval under the OFT Consumer Codes Approval Scheme and is fast moving towards full approval as we undertake monitoring of agents.
'When you consider that TPO only started offering redress for lettings six years ago this month, to achieve 9,068 letting offices within the scheme is phenomenal. We have enrolled around two thirds of all letting offices in the UK.
'TPO also has 11,623 sales offices, more than 90 per cent of the UK total, the highest-ever number and still rising. TPO is now the largest membership body in UK estate agency. It reflects the steady move within the industry towards the higher standards encouraged by our Codes of Practice.
'Members have gone far beyond the legal requirement, even for sales agents who are compelled by law only to register for redress. Registered agents give a vastly weakened undertaking that does not make them sign up to higher standards.'
TPO is a not for profit company owned and operated by the industry, with an independent council overseeing the appointment of the Ombudsman and the operation of the scheme itself.
'Our primary purpose is to offer a complaints resolution service but TPO is not a regulator, as some believe,' added Gerry, a former director of Countrywide who has been in the industry since 1974.
'TPO is here purely to resolve disputes between agents and buyers, sellers, landlords, or tenants, and ensure fair play, although members who commit serious breaches of our Codes are reported to the OFT and Trading Standards. This is a very rare event as the vast majority of agents abide by the standards defined in the Codes and are committed to offering consumers greater protection by being members of TPO.'