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Complaints about Estate Agents rise 25% in a year

Consumer complaints about estate agents made to The Property Ombudsman are on the rise. Check out our top tips and guides to avoid joining the growing numbers falling fowl of bad estate agent practices

April 22, 2014

The Property Ombudsman’s annual report published this month shows that they have seen a 25% increase in complaints from people about estate agents. Most of these complaints are upheld, with 70% being supported by the Ombudsman.

The Property Ombudsman scheme has been offering an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who are dissatisfied with the service provided by registered firms since 1990. Once members of the public have tried and failed in complaining directly through the estate agent, The Property Ombudsman provides a redress system.

Over 6000 issues were referred to the Ombudsman by consumers. The majority of these complaints were to do with service issues, including communication failure and general duty of care issues. 11% of issues reported to the Ombudsman related to estate agent fees and charges.

Commenting on the annual report, Paula Higgins Chief Executive of the HomeOwners Alliance said, “It comes as no surprise that the number of issues and complaints coming to the Property Ombudsman about house sales has gone up by 25% in the past year. Our mystery shop of 150 agent websites and 45 offices earlier this year found a real lack of openness by agents about things like fees and contracts.”

Paula Higgins went on to say, “Estate agents are handling the biggest transaction in most people lives, yet they can’t give a clear upfront answer to the question, what are your fees, how much will you cost me?

They are far too secretive about the fees they charge, and too often include blatantly unfair terms and conditions in their contracts. The result is that homeowners routinely pay thousands of pounds more in fees than they need to, and too often end up in disputes with their agents, adding massively to the cost and stress of moving home.”

She continued: “Estate agents do deals every day, putting them at a massive negotiating advantage to homesellers, who often have limited experience and don’t know what they should expect or what to watch out for. If estate agents were serious about cleaning up their industry, they would be more open and transparent, ensuring a more level playing field between themselves and their customers.”

Disputes with estate agents is the biggest single cause of complaint to the HomeOwners Alliance. We advise consumers to shop around before putting their house on the market: find an agent who is open about their fees and contract terms and if the contract contains something that you don’t like the look of, ask for it to be deleted. For more advice and top tips, see our free unbiased advice guides below.

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