The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has partnered with a mediation company to help agents resolve disputes over dual fees rather than consumers having to make complaints or firms having to resort to legal action.
It comes after TPO issued guidance this week that said agents would be able to charge a fee as long as they have shown the eventual buyer around the property less than six months before they, as the first agent, were disinstructed.
Jane Erskine, Deputy Ombudsman, said agents were keen to resolve these sorts of disputes individually, so a company called Mediator Network has been recruited to help where necessary.
She said: “When considering a dual fee case, our view is that the agent who effectively introduced the buyer to the transaction should be the agent who is entitled to the fee.
“Feedback from agents highlighted the need for TPO to clearly define what would in our view constitute an effective introduction.
“TPO will expect to see evidence that the agent who is claiming that they introduced the buyer to the transaction carried out an act that initiated the buyer’s reaction to the property; that act can be clearly demonstrated by the carrying out of a viewing.
“We have also received enquiries from agents who wish to resolve the matter between themselves, without the need for consumers to raise a formal complaint.
“Focused on helping TPO agents to find a mutually beneficial outcome, mediation is effective as both sides of the dispute positively want to find a solution to the disagreement.
“We have been working with Mediator Network and believe the company is an ideal provider of mediation for dual fees disputes.
“Mediator Network understands the matters we see and the particular issues that arise in this area and, in sharing our ethos in protecting the consumer and resolving disputes based on fairness and reason, we are confident to recommend agents use Mediator Network to resolve their disputes, rather than pursue consumers for recompense or end up facing expensive litigation.”
The service provided by Mediator Network has been tailored to TPO requirements and the network’s mediators have been trained to work with TPO cases.
The mediators have been trained in TPO values and its terms of reference.
Will Chalmers, co-founder of the Mediator Network, said: “Mediation is growing in popularity and, with courts and tribunals backed-up with case waiting lists, even the legal sector is keen to divert businesses to mediation as a solution for property disputes.
“We are delighted to have partnered with TPO to resolve agent-to-agent disputes in such a forward-thinking way and we’re pleased that TPO is endorsing a more positive experience for participants, all round.”
A spokesman told EYE that the costs for mediation were dependent on the complexity of the issue involved and how easily the two agents agree to participate.
The spokesman said: “Initial discussions take place to establish an outline of the dispute before an agreed approach is identified, with an estimate of time and cost.
“Costs can then also depend on whether the mediation takes place remotely or in person. Essentially, both agents would pay for the mediation.”