The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme has reported a sharp increase in the number of consumer complaints for the residential lettings sector, ahead of the requirement for all letting agents in England that comes into force this week (1st October 2014) for every letting agent to register with an approved redress scheme.
The figures, published in The Property Ombudsman's 2014 Interim Report reveal that 1,187 complaints were resolved in total about both sales and lettings issues between 1 January and 30 June 2014, with 721 complaints (61%) made against letting agents – a 37% increase on the same period last year.
The Ombudsman upheld 74% of the complaints made by landlords and tenants against letting agents.
Christopher Hamer, the Property Ombudsman explained: 'Up until now there has been no legal requirement for any letting agent to register with a redress scheme, which has left thousands of tenants and landlords unable to access our free, fair and independent dispute resolution service. That is shown by the fact that around 20% of the initial consumer enquiries we received in this period related to lettings agents that were not signed up to TPO. I am pleased to note that the new legislation will change that and we've already seen nearly 1,000 firms register this year, making us the largest redress scheme with 11,744 lettings offices under my jurisdiction and following our Code of Practice, which sets out what service consumers should receive from member firms.
'The sharp increase in the number of lettings agents registering for redress with TPO, combined with TPO's increased profile and the ever-growing number of households renting goes some way to explain why we've seen such a significant increase in the number of lettings complaints, with more than half of our total enquiries now coming from landlords and tenants that feel they have been treated unfairly. The new legislation will make it an offence for any ‘rogue' agent that has not registered to trade and they will a face of up to £5,000.'
Key highlights from TPO's latest Interim Report reveal that:
- Registered agents (p7): more than 4,000 additional agents registered with TPO, with sales and lettings representing the biggest growth areas. A total of 30, 128 agents registered with TPO across all jurisdictions – a 15% increase on the same period last year
- Consumer enquiries (p8): More than 8,474 consumers contacted TPO regarding a property dispute (a 4.6% increase on the same period last year). More than half of all the enquiries received were regarding lettings disputes with 4,759 enquiries logged (56.1% of all enquiries)
- Complaints (p9): Complaints grew by 37% overall with 1,187 cases reviewed, of which 721 were against letting agents (up 37%) and 544 were against sales agents (up 42%). The Ombudsman upheld 74% of all lettings complaints while 61% of all sales complaints were upheld
- Consumer case studies (p10): The Ombudsman hand-picked a selection of case studies to highlight issues varying from death and inventories, owed rent, visas, pets, ex partners, planning permission and fraud to share an insight into the cases reviewed and awards given