The Property Ombudsman

  • Regulation & Law
    Regulation & Law

    Not happy, not paying!

    Chris Hamer (left), The Property Ombudsman, discusses agents, commission fees and legal action. A feature of many sales complaints referred to me is the seller’s belief that the commission fee should be waived, in whole or in part, due to the perceived shortcomings in the agent’s service. Agents’ fees can be a significant part of the costs in moving house, so I understand why a seller may reason that the level of service received does not reflect the level of fee charged. It’s not unusual that a seller may apportion what they consider to be a fair amount and paid that, expecting the agent to accept it; that rarely happens. When considering a commission fee complaint, I always explain that it is not my role to re-write the agreed contract terms to reflect the complainant’s perception of the service. If the contract terms are unambiguous and the fee clearly stated (as per section 3, TPO Code of Practice), I will usually uphold the agent’s contractual entitlement to the stated and agreed commission fee. Should I uphold a service complaint and make an award, it will reflect the actual financial loss and/or my assessment of the aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused…

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    Regulation & Law

    When is a purchaser really a ‘cash buyer’?

    When, says Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman, can a prospective purchaser be described as a cash buyer?

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    Regulation & Law

    Guide to cancellation of contract regulations

    THE CANCELLATION OF Contract Regulations (CCRs) came into force in October 2008, but there is still a lack of understanding of their implications. Trading Standards enforce the regulations and any offence carries a fine up to £5,000. The regulations are clear. If the contract to engage an agent’s services is signed by the consumer away from the agent’s premises, there is a seven day cancellation period in which the consumer can decide not to proceed. Cancellation rights still apply where the consumer enters the contract as a result of the visit but signs at a later date. The regulations apply to sales and lettings agents where contracts allow them to sell a property or find a tenant and/or let a property. When the contract is made, the agent must give the consumer written notice of their right to cancel within the cooling off period. Regulation 7 of the CCRs specifies the information that must be in the notice: • the identity of the trader including trading name (if applicable) • the trader’s reference number, code or other details to identify the contract • a statement that the consumer has a right to cancel and that this right can be exercised by…

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  • Features
    Regulation & Law

    Landlord’s intention to sell obligations

    I have recently seen an increase in complaints by tenants alleging that the letting agent was aware of their landlord’s intention to sell the property but had neglected to make them aware of these intentions. Obviously, many tenants would not wish to rent a property if they knew that they may be faced with uncertainty as to a new owner’s plans. If faced with such a situation, an agent will appreciate that they need to ensure that they comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which places an obligation on them to disclose any material information to a consumer. If a landlord client tells an agent that they will be placing the property on the rental market but are also intending to sell, it would be sensible to advise them that a potential tenant must be told of the situation to allow the tenant to make an informed choice as to whether to proceed with a tenancy. Furthermore, the TPO Code of Practice obliges agents to ensure that, while their duty and obligations are to their client landlord, applicants and tenants are regarded as consumers and customers and are treated appropriately, which I consider encompasses an obligation to be treated fairly and in accordance with best practice, with the disclosure of all relevant information. ‘Many tenants would choose not to rent a home if it was up for sale.’…

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  • Features
    Regulation & Law

    Home sale free-for-all!

    Changes to the rules on selling homes could mean that buyers have little protection when using online intermediaries.

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  • Features
    Regulation & Law

    Protecting student deposits

    Anyone living in a university city will be aware of the yearly transition of first year students from halls of residence to privately rented accommodation for the remainder of their studies. Not surprisingly, my office receives an increased level of complaints from students and landlords several months after this transition occurs on the top of protecting student deposits. The current trend is for tenancies to be agreed months in advance of the start date, often with significant sums taken upfront to reserve properties, as students want to secure a property for the next academic year prior to their end of year exams. In the past, under the previous tenancy deposit protection arrangements, where a security deposit was taken, the agent had been able to retain these monies before registering them shortly after the commencement of the tenancy. However, the Localism Act, which came into force on 6 April, changed Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation and now the deposit holder has a 30 day period to register it with a tenancy deposit scheme and provide the prescribed information effective from the date those monies are received. This is an absolute time limit which allows the tenant to make a claim, if needed, 31 days after payment regardless of whether the requirements relating to deposit protection have been met. The penalties for not registering the deposit and providing the prescribed information can be severe; the…

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  • Features
    Regulation & Law

    When is a deal a conflict of interest?

    Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman, discusses the risks.

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  • Features
    Regulation & Law

    Handling complaints

    As The Property Ombudsman I see many complaints referred to me because the complainant feels, justifiably or not, that the agent has not understood or addressed their concerns in the manner they were expecting. Sections 13 and 15 of the TPO Sales and Lettings Codes of Practice set out the in-house complaint procedure all registered firms are required to have in place. These rules are designed to enable agents to manage the complaint from the day it is received to the point it is either resolved or referred to my office. During my six years as Ombudsman, many agents have informed me of their success in resolving disputes early, without referral to me, by acting in accordance with the Codes of Practice. Indeed, approximately 88 per cent of the enquiries received go on to be dealt with by the agents themselves. However, I still see numerous cases where, had the agent dealt with the matter in the appropriate way, the complainant’s grievances would have been resolved at a much earlier stage and often without my intervention. My Initial Enquires team is the first point of contact for potential complainants. Their role is to establish if and when a complaint has…

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  • Regulation & LawChristopher Hamer Ombudsman image
    Regulation & Law

    Getting the message across

    We need to stimulate some healthy debate, says Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman.

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    Associations & Bodies

    Letting agents, consumers and acceptable standards

    Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman, is on a mission to improve standards and awareness.

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