Complaints resolved by Property Ombudsman rise by a third

The Property Ombudsman scheme has reported both a rise in the number of consumers contacting the scheme for help, as well as a large increase in the number of complaints resolved. Almost all the complaints were resolved in favour of the complainant.

It is the first annual report since Katrine Sporle took up her appointment in November last year. This morning she warned agents to pay more attention to the Codes of Practice.

The annual report published today covers 2015, meaning that it almost entirely covers the period of previous Ombudsman Christopher Hamer’s last 11 months in the role.

The annual report, embargoed until this morning, has been published late compared with previous years. For example, the 2014 annual report was published in April 2015. We have asked about the apparently late publication but have so far not received a response.

The new report shows that last year TPO:

  • Received 16,265 enquiries from consumers seeking advice.
  • Resolved 3,304 formal complaints (a substantial 32% increase from the previous year). Of these, 1,965 were lettings complaints and 1,220 were sales complaints, up 33% and 27% respectively. Complaints about other jurisdictions (including leasehold management, buying agents and auctions) numbered only 119, but were up 68%.
  • Instructed agents to pay awards worth £811,134. The highest award was £16,954 for a lettings dispute.

The total number of member offices were 35,372, up 6% from 2014, and also some 10,000 higher than the number of UK estate agency ‘shops’ reported by the Office for National Statistics, which puts the number at 25,485.

There are some interesting case studies, which will be available on TPO site after 9.30am today.

One case study suggests that the remit and power of TPO has significantly extended. The case involves not an agent but a search provider, where the complaint appears to have been referred by the trade association to TPO for resolution.

The brief notes we have so far says the search failed to disclose the possibility of a new town in the vicinity of the property a buyer had just bought. The Ombudsman did not support the complaint, but said that the buyer or their solicitor should have investigated.

Katrine Sporle (pictured) said: The number of agents joining TPO has grown by 82% in the last five years: 35,374 offices are now signed up and following our approved Codes of Practice. Importantly, these figures show that more and more consumers are able to access TPO to have their disputes resolved.

“Being the largest government-approved property redress scheme does mean that we receive a commensurately large number of enquiries every year. In the vast majority of cases, those enquiries are dealt with satisfactorily through TPO intervention to facilitate early resolution between agents and consumers.

“Last year, out of 16,265 enquiries, 3,304 complex complaints required formal review and, a high percentage of those complaints were supported (83%). Overall, this is good news for consumers and redress, but not so great for the reputation of agents who collectively paid out over £800,000 in awards.

“My message for those agents is simple: pay more attention to TPO’s Codes of Practice and raise your standards.”



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  1. RealAgent

    Having had a few cases myself this year I would like to add some perspective here.

    It has seemed to me that although the Ombudsman has found in my favour on every single case to date, they always offer the claimant “something” often just a hundred or so pounds. So is this added to their figures?!

    It seems to me that by doing this they placate the responsibility of saying a case is not upheld by throwing the complainant a crumb which might reduce their workload in terms of quicker resolution but no doubt influences the statistics.

    Also this whole situation is the curse of the small business. Have you tried to complain to BT recently!? With a smaller firm it’s often a complaint straight to the MD, if they don’t get a pay out then it’s easy to go next to the Ombudsman, where they have just got a simple form to fill in and they can wait.

    On that last point I think that’s also something the Ombudsman needs to address. I have seen complaints where they have not even bothered to fill in the 4/5 points for complaint. It must have taken them all of 10 minutes to roll the payout dice. It’s taken me the best part of the day to copy the file, agreements, file notes, correspondence etc. Hardly proportionate amounts of effort!!

  2. Gloslet

    Surely the way that this will end up (it just depends how much time and pain we need to expend to get there) is, as with employment tribunals, complainants need to lodge a bond with their application which will be forfeit if their case is deemed unwarranted or vexatious ?
     The same should apply to tenancy deposit schemes and would immediately reduce the number of spurious referrals. This would allow agents to concentrate more of their time on customers and customer service rather than copying and submitting paperwork to the ombudsman each time a client/tenant with an unjustified gripe wishes to waste more time.

    Or perhaps the Ombudsman and deposit schemes welcome all cases to justify their existence and fees ?

  3. seenitall

    As other have said the work involved for agents is disporportionate.  There must be a fee the claimant has to lodge even if its £30     some token otherwise you will see a rise of complaints many of which are unjustifed.

    We had a lovely complaint in, lucky I over heard the conversation.  Prospective tenant didnt like being asked if she had a UK or EU passport.  found it offensive for people like her with a forign sounding name to be asked this.   We confirmed we ask all prospective tenants as we are required to by law to check their right to rent status – no point showing if they cant rent.

    Nope would not have.  Upset and offended, very rude etc. going to write bad reviews of us etc.  Could not understand why she could not just go and see a property and then answer our questions.    Went through the complaints procedure.   What a waste of our time.

    People get offended over nothing and then its too easy to complain.     Getting sick and tired of it. Compensation is all they are after and TPO makes it too easy for them and hard work for the agent to defend.


    Another one – let a property, taking up references. Landlord then decides to sell.   Inform prospective tenant landlord has pulled out and we refund all of their money – the tenants are unahppy of course but now blame us and start a complaint wanting compensation for the stress and breach of a verbal contract.  Jezz.     Its the Landlord that messed around not us.   Easy to complain and agents get it in the neck.


    1. Woodentop

      Wait till someone trips over just before they get to your shop door … that’s an eye opener.

  4. Woodentop

    Any other statistician care to work out the percentage 3,304 formal complaints relates to agents workload in a year for 35,374 offices.


    One office with one member of staff must do at least 1 job per hour (laughable) = 8 jobs a day (even more laughable) x 364 (closed Xmas day) x 35,374  = 103,009,088 jobs with 3,304 complaints equates to 0.0032%!

    1. Robert May

      Based on  roughly 2 million listings per annum  (3304/2000000)*100 = 0.17%  Probably easier  to understand ; 1 in 605 vendors complain or 1 complaint  to  the average  branch every 5 years.

      1. Woodentop

        Ah but that’s not the story about TPO. You see the code covers vendors, landlords, buyers, tenants (including prospective) and just about everything they have to do with contacting an agent, not necessarily a sale, it could be a property description or omission, a viewing, a promise not kept, a valuation, an inspection, a reference …. the list is endless as that it was agents do everyday if one looks at the code, so the figure is multiplied 10 times per member of staff and with most offices with at least 3 going up to 10 or more ….. my calculator screen couldn’t identify where the 0.0000000000000001% stopped. Not saying one complaint is right but when one takes the blinkers off the number of complaints that are actually upheld, it doesn’t make the industry as bad as many would like to tarnish agents with. Shouting numbers in the media should be put in context.

  5. KByfield04

    Actually disagree- the lettings industry is better than it has ever been and is having to abide by a burgeoning volume of legislation. Whilst we are an unlicensed industry, we are the most regulated letting market on the planet. What is always ommitted in these stats is that this doesnt necessarily reflect a downturn in standards- quite the opposite in fact. It represents a large uptake in membership (in lettings this was largely driven by a regulatiin mandate) but also this reflects the fact that people are becoming more aware of their rights and the support offered by organisations like TPOS. This is bacause agents are educating their clients and Tenants better and promoting organisations like TPOS. It would be really refreshing if people stopped bashing the lettings industry, just for a minute, and actually looked at how much it has improved in the last 10-15 years. As someone who has both worked in the indsutry and been a Tenant during this time as well what we have now is unrecognisable to just 8 years ago- and in a good way.

    Also- if organisations and goverment really want to see change in the sector they should actively and publicly praise good operators. Agent bashing is all well and good but actually does nothing to help the consumer not does it rid the country of rogue operators. The only thing that ultimately does that is money- praise/publicise good intiatives/operators, which will drive business to them and away from the bad eggs. Pretty soon they will have to sort out their act or shut their doors. But of course that wont happen- in today’s world, in any industry, we love to shout eople down and belittle what they do rather than praise the good ones.

    1. Woodentop

      No-one praises in the media, it isn’t juicy reading. All is negative reporting which has a tendency to tar the industry as if it constantly corrupt and still in the dark ages. TPO report while maybe factual for them, it is horrendously misleading.

  6. robertholt97

    I’d like to praise (as a tenant) Simon Karl in Rothwell, Kettering, Northamptonshire for being the best estate agency I’ve ever encountered.

    As a rule I despise estate agents, having also encountered plenty that are money and sales orientated and don’t give a toss about the end customer. (Shiny polyester suit, fake smile and fast car… from my experience avoid).

    If your initial contact with the agent gives you the impression that they aren’t focused on the tenant as well as their commission from the landlord then it’s not a good sign.

    But some are good at their job and actually care about people as well as profits and they need to be praised; SK went out of their way and gave superb customer service.

    If more treated people as human beings rather than £ signs then complaints would decline.






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