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42% rise in complaints to The Property Ombudsman

tpo-annual-reportThere has been a significant increase in complaints made to The Property Ombudsman (TPO), partly due to a growing trend in the consumer world to challenge when a product or service does not offer satisfaction, and partly due to a sharp rise in the number of agents signed up to the TPO.

Six months on from the introduction of new legislation, making it a legal requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to join a Government approved redress scheme, the report shows that the number of letting offices now signed up to TPO scheme has reached a record level of 12,915, up 28 per cent year-on-year. This brings the total number of sales and lettings offices offering TPO’s free, independent dispute resolution service to 26,735.

Commenting on the report, Christopher Hamer (left), The Property Ombudsman, said, “In 2014 we saw continued and significant growth in the Private Rented Sector. With an estimated 1.6 million private landlords, many of whom have limited experience and understanding of their responsibilities, and large numbers of consumers seeking tenancies, the role of letting and managing agents in providing quality customer service based on a comprehensive knowledge of relevant legislation, is more important now than ever before.”

Mr Hamer is now calling for a properly structured regulatory regime for the lettings sector. He continued, “Over the past year we have seen numerous pieces of legislation being passed which deal with aspects of the Private Rented Sector. Whilst any controls must be welcomed I feel an opportunity has been missed to bring all such legal obligations into a coherent and sensible single law to avoid the potential for inconsistency and misunderstanding of what is required.”

Statistical highlights of the report include:

Lettings:

19% increase in registered membership letting offices

40% rise in lettings cases received

33% increase in cases resolved via mediation

10% increase in cases resolved via formal review

11% of lettings issues reported to TPO related to repair and maintenance

54% of complainants were landlords versus 44% tenants

The average lettings award has risen 27% from £411.97 to £524.10

23% of complainants were from the South East, followed by Greater London (21%) the South West (9%) on par with North West (9%).

Sales:

14% increase in registered membership sales offices

43% rise in sales cases received

21% increase in cases resolved via mediation

13% increase in cases resolved via formal review

20% of sales issues reported to TPO related to communication failure

59% of complainants were sellers versus 39% buyers

23% of complainants were from the South East, followed by Greater London (13%) & South West and Eastern Region both (11%)

The report also provides a series of case studies to share industry best practice, highlighting some of the most common complaints and how they were dealt with, such as disputes over sales particulars (accounting for 13 per cent of all sales related issues) and management failure (accounting for 4 per cent of all lettings related issues).

Read the full report here: http://www.tpos.co.uk/downloads/reports/TPO-Annual-Report-2014.pdf

rajeev_nayyar_fixfloRajeev Nayyar, Managing Director of Fixflo, highlighted that the two largest areas of dispute for the lettings sector were “miscommunication and repairs”.

“Time is running out for lettings professionals to get their repairs processes in order before the Deregulation Act takes effect in October,” said Nayyar. “Those agencies that fail to do so, leave themselves open to litigation and to reputational damage as tenants take advantage of their operational failures to successfully defend a Section 21 notice.”

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