The Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) began life as the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) Scheme, created in 1998 to regulate all estate agents acting under the guidelines of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). However, the OEA extended its reach in 2006 to cover lettings and property management agents, and the name change to Property Ombudsman was made in 2009 to reflect the broader powers now at the scheme’s disposal.
The Property Ombudsman also covers dealings with members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Regulation of Estate Agents
The Estate Agent’s Redress Scheme is one that all estate agents are required to register with by law. Many estate agents also with the Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents, which allows them to present themselves to consumers as TPO approved. Of course, this also means that these estate agents are held to higher standards, and are required to go further than simply toeing the line of the law in their business practices.
Estate agents aren’t the only ones that can register with the TPO – for example, over 9000 letting agents are now registered with TPO.
TPO’s Code of Practice also means that they offer a service to anyone who has a complaint about their dealings with a TPO approved estate agent. The Property Ombudsman is independent from the industry of estate agents, and is approved by the Office of Fair Trading to offer a free and impartial voice to settle a dispute between a consumer and a service provider.
Complaining to the Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman can act when you feel a licensed estate agent has failed to follow TPO guidelines satisfactorily, acted in another way that caused you avoidable stress and inconvenience, or caused you quantifiable financial loss.
The Property Ombudsman cannot simply punish the estate agent – enforcing the law is not the responsibility of the ombudsman. The Property Ombudsman works to settle disputes, but the ombudsman can arbitrate and rule that the offending estate agent should pay the complainant compensation. The highest amount that a complainant can win as compensation for a singular complaint is £25,000.
If the complainant is unhappy with the decision made by the Property Ombudsman, he or she does have the option of rejecting the ombudsman’s ruling and going on to court – however, bear in mind that there is a good chance that a court will see your complaint in much the same way that the ombudsman did. Once you have accepted the ombudsman’s ruling, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to take the offending company to court for the same complaint.
Contacting the Property Ombudsman
43-55 Milford Street
Wiltshire SP1 2BP