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Fraud Warning Over London Short Let Flats

Fraud Warning Over London Short Let Flats

Landlord Discovers Bogus Company

London Short Let Flats
Trading From His Home Address

A warning has gone out to tenant and landlord consumers to beware of a fraudulent company trading as London Short Let Flats which is displaying a number of industry logos, including TPO and the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).

The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) has posted a warning to consumers on its own website telling them to exercise extreme caution when dealing with the following websites:

NALS Chief Executive, Isobel Thomson told Property Industry Eye: “We reported the original site to Action Fraud and also to Trading Standards and have advised anyone contacting us about the site to also report their concerns to Action Fraud. We also wrote to the registered office address of Londonshortflats and sent it recorded delivery but the letter was refused.”

A spokesperson for the Tenancy Deposit Service also confirmed that the fraudulent website is using the TDS logo without consent or even being registered.

The fraudulent company only came to light after landlord, Martin McGrath, posted on the popular landlord forum, Property Tribes, to say that he had received a letter from TDS at his home address, informing him that London Short Let Flats was using the logo when not entitled.

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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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Political Parties Focus On Housing To Win Election

Political Parties Focus On Housing To Win Election

Political Housing Policies Could Have A
Major Impact On Landlords

The May 2015 General Election could have a major impact on the UK’s private rental sector (PRS), with each political party promising something different for the reform of the UK housing market and the private rental sector.

Each political party has their own propaganda to attempt to influence voter sentiment ahead of the May 2015 General Election, but do they really have landlord and tenant interests at heart?

All political campaigning promises something different for home owners and landlords with some political parties focussing on real issues that could make a difference whilst others continue to apportion blame and responsibility on to local authorities and private rented sector landlords.

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Letting Agent Complaints On The Rise According To Property Redress Scheme

Letting Agent Complaints On The Rise According To Property Redress Scheme

Complaints About Lettings Agents  On The Rise
According To Property Redress Scheme

Due to the fact that more tenants and property owners are now aware of their consumer rights, especially the right to redress, there has been a month on month increase in the number of complaints being made against lettings agents, property management companies and estate agents.

The Property Redress Scheme, (PRS), is just one of three consumer redress schemes set up by the Government to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disputes between the public and property agents.

From 1 October 2014 it became a legal requirement for all lettings agents, property managers and estate agents, as defined by legislation, in England to belong to one of the three Government approved redress schemes, which are:

The number of complaints raised with the PRS is increasing month on month. Of the complaints raised so far,

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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.

How Estate Agents Are Regulated And Who Regulates Them

Currently estate agency as a profession is self-regulated. The Office of Fair Trading has previously stated that it believes self-regulation within the industry serves to relieve unnecessary regulatory burdens. However, research carried out by the Guardian newspaper regarding the consumers view on estate agency shows that;

  • Just one in ten people asked thought that estate agents were trustworthy.
  • 70% of people interviewed were of the opinion that estate agents were prone to giving misleading advice.
  • 41% were under the false impression that estate agents need certain qualifications to enable them to practise.

Despite consumer bodies campaigning against self regulation, estate agents are not currently legally obliged to belong to an industry regulatory scheme. Just one third of estate agents in the United Kingdom currently belong to an industry regulatory scheme, according to the Guardian. This can be disconcerting for consumers as taking action against an agency which is guilty of miscode of conduct  that does not belong to such a scheme is not as straightforward; the complaint must be logged directly to the Office of Fair Trading. Even though estate agents are not legally obliged to belong to a scheme, legally they must abide by the rules set down by the Estate Agency Act 1979, amended for undesirable practices.

Within the confines of this Act a complaint may be registered by a consumer if they believe that the estate agent they have instructed has breached their duty of care; this could mean providing misleading information such as presenting a developer as a first time buyer with no chain or not displaying their terms and conditions clearly. If the estate agent concerned is a member of an approved scheme the complaint may be taken to the Property Ombudsman. They will subsequently  look at the case individually and compensation may be awarded to the affected consumer, compensation can be up to a maximum of £25,000. If the agency is not listed with an approved scheme however, the complaint may only be registered with the Office of Fair Trading; in this case the investigation will not look at the individual complaint, but at the agency as a whole, no compensation will be offered despite the conclusion of the investigation.

The most well-known scheme within the estate agency industry is the National Association of Estate Agents; this was founded in 1962 by estate agent Raymond Andrews. The scheme is only available to agents who pass the necessary exams and must abide by the NAEA code of practice. This practice includes protecting clients from fraud, misrepresentation and malpractice; Noncompliance of these rules can result in a fine of up to £5000 per branch and membership will be revoked. Another approved scheme is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, founded in 1968. It is an independent scheme which regulates property professionals and surveyors; it is suited mainly to agents working with commercial property transactions.

From October 1st 2008, estate agents were legally required to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme. This was an Order made under the Estate Agents Act 1979 by the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Each of these redress schemes must be approved by the Office of Fair Trading for the registration to be legally binding, one of the approved schemes includes the Property Ombudsman. This was created on May 1st 2009 and was formerly the Ombudsman for Estate Agents created in 1998. The title was changed to reflect the broadening of authority in relation to complaints including commercial and overseas property. The scheme is only available to companies whose director or partner is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The Property Ombudsman provides impartial assistance to any customer who feels they have been treated unfairly. For the complaint to be considered by the Property Ombudsman the agent must have either infringed the legal rights of the consumer, breached the terms of any practice that they are working under or be guilty of maladministration. Although this scheme is voluntary, it is recommended to instruct an agent who is registered with The Property Ombudsman, any complaint about an agency which does not belong to the scheme should be submitted to the Office of Fair Trading.

When selling a property, it is recommended that research is carried out before instructing an estate agent. By choosing an agent who is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents the property vendor can be assured that the necessary qualifications will have been obtained.

If in doubt consumers may verify an agency’s NAEA membership by calling 0844 387 0555.

Written by Urban Sales and Lettings Nationwide Online Estate Agents

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