Complaints about agents to Ombudsman edge up as awards of almost £1.4m are made to consumers

Letting agents made up the bulk of complaints to The Property Ombudsman (TPO) last year as the number of issues raised by consumers rose.

The TPO’s annual report for 2017, published today, reveals a 3% increase in complaints last year to 3,658, of which 2,212 – up 11% annually – were against letting agents and 1,098 in the sales sector, a 16% drop compared with 2016.

However, the total number of complaints that went to formal adjudication represented a fraction of the 23,841 original enquiries, representing a huge 68% surge from the year before following the introduction of 24-hour live chat service by Yomdel.

Yomdel had 6,458 live chats which led to 946 new complaints being received; the customer service team dealt with another 14,671 queries which were given on the spot advice or signposted to another organisation.

Two thirds of the formal lettings complaints were upheld while 62% were supported in sales, down from 76% and 73% respectively in 2016.

TPO made financial awards to consumers in 2,408 instances which totalled £1.36m, an increase of 11% on the previous year.

The highest award paid by an agent was £25,000 and total awards in sales were up 4% to £360,178 and rose 18% in lettings to £931,092.

The top causes of complaints in lettings – where the average award was £625 – were management, communication and record keeping, tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits and in-house complaints procedure.

Almost half (49%) of complaints were made by landlords, while 45% were made by tenants.

The average sales award was £532, with the top causes for complaints being communication and record keeping, marketing & advertising, instructions/ terms of business/ commission/ termination and in-house complaints handling.

The majority (60%) of complaints were made by sellers, while 34% were made by buyers

The annual report also revealed there were 55 referrals to its disciplinary and standards committee (DSC) where an agent had failed to follow a ruling, down from 61 in 2016.

Of those 55 referrals, 51 were for failure to pay an award or implement recommendations.

The majority of DSC referrals, 36, were regarding letting agents, with the remaining 15 for sales.

DSC intervention led to 14 cases being settled.

However, of the remainder, the agent had already ceased trading in eight cases, TPO said, and in another 18 the agent was no longer a member of TPO or any other redress scheme.

Even though those 26 were unlikely to be resolved, the agent cannot easily re-register for redress unless those liabilities are addressed.

Altogether, 28 agents were expelled from membership last year, of which 11 were sales and 17 were lettings.

The report showed that TPO membership increased by 0.67% to 38,272.

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, used the report to repeat calls for a single Ombudsman for the private property sector and a separate one for the social sector as part of Government plans to regulate agency.

She said: “We cannot see one Ombudsman being effective for the whole of the private and social sector.

“We think there should be a single Ombudsman for the private property sector and a single Ombudsman for the social sector, with clear partnership working between the two.

“Whatever happens this will not take place overnight and we pledge ourselves to finding positive solutions to the needs of consumers and the industry for the foreseeable future, as well as working in partnership with all stakeholders to find the right solutions.”

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10 Comments

  1. jeremy1960

    2200 complaints probably represents less than the total number of tenancies arranged in an average size town over the course of a year. There are over 48,000 towns in the UK. Where are the comparisons with other industries such as car dealers, glazing companies shoe shops and food outlets? On its own this is a pointless statistic.

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  2. David Clark

    I’d like to know the  statistic where the Ombudsman rejected the claim by a member of the public as being unreasonable and non-sensical and an attempt to extort money on a trumped up complaint.

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    1. paul endacott

      I’d like to know what percentage of complaints they actually found in favour of the agent actually, I feel like they inherently like giving your money away even when there is no case to answer.

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  3. CountryLass

    I think it is good that there is an easier way for people with genuine grievances to be heard. I think TPO needs to be aware that there will be ‘chancers’ looking to see if they can get some money if they pull enough sad faces.

    I agree with the comments above about liking to see full figures for ones dismissed and found in favour of the agent though. I feel this shows a slightly unclear version of the truth at the moment.

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  4. TheAgent48

    It is such a shame that there isn’t a Tenant Ombudsman where landlords and agents can complain to, which has the power to make awards for the following:

    Non-payment of rent, eviction costs, damage to property, lack of communication, rudeness, threatening behaviour, abandonment of property, leaving a property without giving any notice, anti-social behaviour, cannabis farms…..the list is endless!!

    The whole industry is far too biased towards protecting tenants these days.

    These Shelter dogooders need to spend a day in the life of a landlord or letting agent to see what tenants are really like.

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    1. CountryLass

      Watch out, Spyguy will be here to have a go at you for slandering his poor defenceless Shelter…

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  5. GeorgeHammond78

    But on the other hand…. there must be some truly awful letting agents out there given 49% of the total lettings complaints were from landlords. By way of example, we took over a small portfolio of managed properties from a very well known (albeit struggling) corporate agent where the overseas based landlord had experienced 2 years worth of their woefulness. 17 properties in total; every single one of them had serious defects in either the paperwork or aspects of the property management (or in most cases, both). Quite a few had rent arrears too; no great surprise as the tenant selection had been dreadful and symptomatic of an agent only worrying about their fees. Hard to calculate the true cost of the agent’s neglect and negligence but must have been over £30,000 in total. Landlord rightly made a formal complaint to the TPO submitting over 30 pages worth of written evidence – been waiting over 6 months for a decision.

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  6. PeeBee

    SO…

    …something like 26% of the total complaints received and investigated were attributable to someone talking to a remote operator – have I got that right?

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    1. Yomdel

      Yes, you have that right. Based on these statistics, 26% of all complaints originated from people initially making contact via our 24/7 live chat service. Not so long ago TPO had limited phone operating hours only, they are now genuinely open all hours. The live chat service only began in mid 2017, so when that is considered the “real” figure on an annual basis could be significantly higher.
      What has been particularly interesting, is that through making the service accessible 24/7 it has opened it up to many more people. In the vast majority of cases they are not anywhere near being able to lodge a formal complaint and our operators are helping explain what they need to do. In many instances, this means going back to the agent and following through the agent’s complaints procedure first. It is particularly interesting that for many people making contact they simply do not understand the process and their rights and through using live chat they have a simple and quick way of finding out what they need to do.

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      1. PeeBee

        There were an additional 9623 “enquiries” in the year – an increase of 68% from previous year.

        But only a 3.5% increase in complaints that required TPOS resolution.

        Yomdel’s contribution, you state, is for part only of the year.

        Couple of questions if I may…

        Why do you think that the enquiries handled remotely seemingly led to a far higher percentage of actual complaints being lodged for resolution?

        Above, you state “In many instances, this means going back to the agent and following through the agent’s complaints procedure first.”

        Who, exactly, carries out this “following through” process?  TPOS or Yomdel?

        Thank you in advance for the answers.

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