For new members, renewals and new branches from January 2020, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) will implement a ‘fair usage’ policy, meaning that members which consistently generate the most Ombudsman supported complaints will pay more towards the costs of the scheme. This comes as TPO also announces its first increase to membership fees in six years.
With the Government’s focus firmly fixed on creating a culture of consumer protection, the future expansion of redress in the property sector is under the spotlight. Since 2014, enquiries and complaints to The Property Ombudsman have risen by 73% and 40% respectively. As a result, increased costs of running the scheme, together with planned investment to enable ongoing improvements to the efficiency of the process, have made it necessary for TPO to review and adjust its membership fees. The basic fee will increase from £195 to £225, however, discounts will be available to organisations either based on continued membership of Propertymark, as is the case now, or by size*.
Property Ombudsman Chair of the Finance & Performance Committee, Gerry Fitzjohn, comments: “TPO is a not-for-profit Ombudsman scheme, therefore the revised fee structure is based on Ombudsman principles of fairness, effectiveness, openness and transparency, rather than profit-making principles. We understand that agents’ costs have been stretched over the last few years, so increasing fees is not a decision which has been taken lightly but is absolutely necessary to ensure a properly resourced scheme is in place.”
In addition to the increased annual fee, TPO membership will support a ‘fair usage’ policy which will enable up to three Ombudsman supported complaints per branch, per renewal year. Branches which generate more than three Ombudsman supported complaints will pay more towards the cost of the scheme. There will be no additional charge for cases which are not supported, or those which end at early resolution.
“We believe that by introducing fair usage, agents will pay to use the scheme proportionately. In reality, current complaint figures show that this will only impact 0.23% of our single branch members, but we hope it will act as incentive to drive better service to consumers and encourage agents to resolve complaints at an earlier stage. We understand that some agents may say that they have never had a complaint brought against them, but redress is mandatory and it is common practice for Ombudsman schemes to levy a basic subscription fee.
TPO continues to offer members increased value for money with discounted tickets to its annual conference, buy one get one free training packages, as well as access to technical workshops, assured advice and toolkits specifically designed for TPO members. Being a TPO member also gives agents the opportunity to ensure they are compliant, preventing enquiries from Trading Standards.
The new fee structure will reflect the true cost of dealing with complaints and in future, annual reviews will take into account inflation to avoid significant periodic increases.
For press information, please contact:
The Inhouse Way
Tel: 01276 804411
Helen Evison: 07920 516 577
Holly Addinall: 07979 537 334
NOTES TO 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.
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 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 www.tpos.co.uk