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Referrals To The Property Ombudsman Increase

Referrals To The Property Ombudsman Increase

Huge Rise In Referrals To
The Property Ombudsman

There was a 42% increase in the number of referrals to The Property Ombudsman (TPO) last year, according to The Property Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2014.

The latest publication of The Property Ombudsman’s annual report shows that six months after the introduction of new legislation, making it a legal requirement for UK letting agents and property managers to join one of the three government approved redress schemes, the number of letting agencies and property management companies signed up to the TPO scheme has reached 12,915, a new record level.

The 42% increase in registered property lettings and estate agent businesses brings the total number of UK estate agents and property lettings offices offering free, independent route to resolve property and tenancy disputes to 26,735.

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3 Compulsory Redress Schemes To Investigate Lettings Complaints

3 Compulsory Redress Schemes To Investigate Lettings Complaints

3 Compulsory Redress Schemes
To Investigate Lettings Complaints

The Government have approved three compulsory redress schemes to offer landlords and tenants in the UK private rented sector independent investigation into complaints in the property management and lettings industry, bringing them in line with redress schemes already in operation for residential property sales.

The 3 lettings industry redress schemes are:

  • The Property Ombudsman
  • Ombudsman Services Property
    • The Property Redress Scheme 

The new schemes will consider all complaints made by tenants and landlords including non-disclosed fees and poor service delivery, and as with residential property sales where a complaint is upheld, tenants, landlords and leaseholders could receive compensation.

Two of the three redress schemes have been around for a while and The Property Ombudsman (TPO) is probably the most recognised of the two pre-existing schemes but little is known about the new Property Redress Scheme.

Most letting agents in the UK are already registered with at least one redress scheme, however 40% of the entire lettings industry, estimated to be around 3,000 agents, are to be encouraged to join up before membership is made mandatory later this year.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said that he hoped the new rules would strike the right balance between protecting tenants in the UK private rented sector and not harming the UK lettings industry with excessive red tape. The new redress schemes were just one part of the government’s efforts to secure a better deal for tenants in the PRS, stating: “All tenants and leaseholders have a right to fair and transparent treatment from their letting agent. Most tenants are happy with the service they receive, but a small minority of agents are ripping people off, and giving the whole industry a bad name. That’s why we will require all agents to belong to one of the official redress schemes. They will ensure tenants and landlords have a straightforward route to take action if they get a poor deal, while avoiding excessive red tape that would push up rents and reduce choice for tenants.”

The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer said: “TPO experienced a 34.2% increase in consumer enquiries relating to unregistered letting agents during 2013, which really underlines the importance of mandatory redress. Whilst my role as Ombudsman means that I am not a regulator and I can only review complaints after a dispute has occurred, making redress a legal requirement for lettings is a positive move. Clearly it would be better if complaints did not arise in the first place and robust legislation to enforce controls was in place.”

There are thousands of decent letting agents in the UK but there are also a fair proportion of rogue agents who operate under the radar, that lack the much needed transparency on fees and who are fleecing both tenants and landlords alike.

Landlords should ensure their appointed property managing or letting agent is registered with the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA).

Most UK tenants are unaware that they could be leaving themselves open to exploitation if the agent is not a member of at least one of the regulatory associations.

The Property Ombudsman’s 2011 report, released last week, has shown a large increase in the number of complaints made against UK letting agents managing residential Buy To Let (BTL) properties in the Private Rented Sector, (PRS). .

The Association of Residential Letting Agents, (ARLA) have backed the UK Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, in his call for proper regulation of the UK letting agency industry.

Mr Hamer’s report noted the need for a dedicated council that promotes the importance of using letting agents that are recognised members of either ARLA or the Property Ombudsman Scheme.

However, ARLA want legislation be put in place which demands the registration and licensing of all UK letting agents.

ARLA Operations Manager, Ian Potter, said “As an organisation that strives to achieve the best possible standards within the private rented sector, we are disappointed to see a rise in lettings complaints over the past year. That said, it comes as very little surprise given there is no national regulation in place to stop rogue agents setting up shop and taking advantage of what is a fragile market, 26% of complaints were against agents who did not belong to an Ombudsman scheme.”

Mr Potter then went on to recommend that tenants looking to enter into agreements with letting agents should, for their own protection, ensure they are members of the Property Ombudsman Scheme at the very least.

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