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Demand for Ombudsman services continuing to rise

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) recently released its annual report, revealing figures and results for 2017. The number of lettings complaints was up by 8% on the previous year, and the value of financial awards to landlords and tenants was a huge 18% higher than in 2016, to an average award of £625. Significantly, since the introduction of a 24/7 online customer service facility, there was a 68% increase in enquiries across both sales and lettings. All in all, it’s clear that more and more people are reporting issues with their letting and estate agents and more of those agents are being held to account.

49% of complaints received were from landlords, with 45% made by tenants, and two-thirds of all complaints were supported by the Ombudsman. The three regions with the most complaints were Greater London (23%), the South East (20%) and the North West (11%) – unsurprising, as these are broadly where there is the highest density of rented housing. At the other end of the scale are Scotland and Wales, each contributing 3% of complaints, and Northern Ireland generating just 1%.

Top causes of complaints in 2017:

1. Management
2. Communication & record keeping
3. Tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits
4. In-house complaints procedure

In terms of serious enforcement by TPO, 28 agents were expelled from The Property Ombudsman last year, 17 of which were lettings, and another eight agents have been expelled so far in 2018. The length of time varies, but the longest expulsion period was 10 years, handed out in January this year to an agent in Luton, who had outstanding rent payments on 31 properties and owed substantial awards, including compensation for aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The total amount owed was over £181,000. In the vast majority of cases, where letting agents are expelled, they’ve racked up debt through a combination of unpaid awards and rent owed to landlords.

So, if your agent misses any rent payments to you, get on to them right away before the debt mounts up.

While there are currently two other redress schemes (The Property Redress Scheme and Ombudsman Services: Property), they are unlikely to accept an agent that has been expelled from TPO and the Ombudsman Services is closing on So these agents will probably be forced out of business, as registration with a redress scheme is mandatory in order to trade legally.

Is it worth complaining to TPO?

As a landlord, this latest report should encourage you that any complaint made about an agent will be taken seriously and is more likely than not to be upheld. So, if you’re unhappy with any aspect of the service you’re receiving from your agent and you don’t seem to be getting anywhere with their own internal complaints procedure, it’s worth contacting TPO.

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “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.”

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