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Property Ombudsman: making a complaint

Having an issue with your estate agent, quick sale firm or lettings company? Been treated badly but have found that complaining to them has gotten you nowhere? That’s where a Property Ombudsman can step in. We take a look at how they work and how they can help you...

property ombudsman

Whether you’re buying, selling or renting a home, we all know things can and do go wrong in the property world and that’s sometimes because someone messes up. But what can you do if you find yourself out of pocket or seriously inconvenienced because of a property professional? Well, if they aren’t listening to you, you could take your case to the courts. On the off chance you haven’t got a few thousand pounds and a few free months to spare, you may be looking for an easier option. And that’s where an Ombudsman comes into it.

In short, these redress schemes provide consumers with a free alternative to going to court and should independently resolve your complaint about a company.

Who are Ombudsmen and how do they work?

There are now two redress schemes for the property industry: The Property Omubudsman (TPOs) and The Property Redress Scheme. There was a third called Ombudsman Services: Property, but they are no longer operating in the property sector.

Which Ombudsman you go to depends on which redress scheme the company you are complaining about is a member of

The Property Ombudsman (TPOS)

The Property Ombudsman Service is the largest scheme and was established in 1990.

TPOS will do everything possible to offer you advice and guidance and will undertake early resolutions wherever possible.  If a complaint is complex, the Property Ombudsman  will consider all the evidence from both parties  (it’s vital that you include as much supporting information as possible).  If the Ombudsman thinks you have a point, it will contact the company you’re complaining about with a decision. The company then have 14 days to accept that decision or appeal against it.  They can only appeal, however, if they can prove there is an error in the Ombudsman’s findings or if new evidence has come to light. The Ombudsman will then write to you with their decision and you’ll have 28 days to respond to it.

If TPOS supports your claim, it can make a financial award to you of up to £25,000, although it’s unlikely you’d ever get that much. The Ombudsman says average claims are usually closer to £500 for lettings complaints and £350 for sales.

TPOS says the most common complaints relate to communication, record keeping and marketing.

The Property Redress Scheme

The Property Redress Scheme was launched in 2014 and is part of HF Resolution LTD which also runs the tenancy deposit scheme, My Deposits.

When you complain to the Property Redress Scheme, a case assessor will first assess the validity of the claim. The company is then given the chance to resolve the complaint or send a rebuttal within 10 working days. After this time period, the case assessor will decide if the complaint should progress.

Once again, any decision made by the Scheme can only be changed if an error has been made. Once confirmed, you’ll have 15 working days to confirm whether you agree with the decision and, if you do, the company in question will have 10 working days to comply with it.

If you don’t agree with the Ombudsman’s decision you can take your case to the courts

What powers do the Property Ombudsman have?

All two schemes can make a financial award of up to £25,000, although awards tends to be much smaller.

If the scheme member does not comply with what has been ordered of them, they’ll be expelled from the scheme. This may sound a bit of a non-punishment (like being told you’re no longer allowed to follow the rules at work) but it does actually have consequences. You see, in order to operate as a property business, firms must be a member of one of these authorised redress scheme bodies. If they’re not, they can no longer carry on trading. If a company is kicked out of one scheme for not following the rules, it’s unlikely either of the other two schemes are going to be welcoming them with open arms. In short, it’s game over for that company.

There is an agreement between the redress schemes that if an agent has not honoured the decision of one of the schemes, they cannot join another scheme until that obligation has been met.

Can I complain to a Property Ombudsman straight away?

No, both schemes will require you to complain directly to the company first using their internal complaints procedure. It’s only once you have exhausted this and still not got anywhere that the Property Ombudsman will step in. You must give the company eight weeks in order to respond to your complaint before contacting an Ombudsman.

As part of this process make sure that if you accept any offer or reduced fee from the agent, that you do so on a “without prejudice basis” and not in full and final settlement of the dispute.  To do otherwise could mean you are no longer permitted to take your complaint to the Ombudsman.

I can’t work out which Ombudsman to complain to?

As we mentioned, which one you go to depends on the which redress scheme the company is a member of. If it isn’t displayed in their shop window or website, ask the firm with which you have a dispute. Otherwise, you could check the websites of the three schemes where member firms are listed. In the event that the company in question is not a member of any of the schemes, you can complain to the trading standards.

 


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33 Comments

  1. We have talked to are solicitor they won’t sign it of until the vendors solicitor gives it in writing that they have searched the land registry on the property yet they have let us sign contracts we are just stuck in the middle of two solicitors.

    Comment by Shirley — November 1, 2019 @ 3:07 pm

  2. Dear Shirley – Sorry to hear you are having these problems. It may be a good idea to talk to your own solicitor and ask them exactly what they are waiting for and why they need it. That way, you can talk to them about what your options might be and how long this may take. Please also consider becoming a member of the HomeOwners Alliance https://hoa.org.uk/join-us/

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — November 1, 2019 @ 2:43 pm

  3. We put an offer in on a property on the3rd of may it was accepted we were told the Halifax have lost the deeds then they found the and lost them again we have now signed contracts so has the vendor but still haven’t been given a date to move in the house has been empty all this time we have sold are house and have been living with my daughter since July we are cash buyers now there saying there looking into the land being registered the vendor solicitor is saying are solicitor won’t sing it off until they have it in writing what can we do we are so stressed out.

    Comment by Shirley — November 1, 2019 @ 1:18 pm

  4. Hello Maria, if you need some legal advice, please consider becoming a member so that we can set up a legal call for you.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — October 21, 2019 @ 11:14 am

  5. I am I feel am being bullied into going with a Out Of Town Estate Agency, after my Local Estate Agency Sold the business. The first I heard of this sale was when I got a pre printed response on 30th September stating that Leftmove have sold out to Tiger and will now be taking over property sales and rentals. I have Both. I have a set of keys for each property which was at Leftmove, After I repeatedly asked Tiger where my keys are they are not disclosing this information, they now say that if I want out of the contract for leaving Tiger with my rental property they want 6 months fees as I have signed a contract with Leftmove, but as I have told them several times I have signed Nothing with Tiger Estates I have not been given Any Of there T & Cs or nothing, I feel that I have NO contact with Tiger as I have not signed anything. Could you give me some advice please, my biggest worry is where are my keys for both properties. Thank You Kind Regards Maria

    Comment by Maria Low — October 21, 2019 @ 7:08 am

  6. Hello Anna, all estate agents will have an internal complaints procedure. You may have to ask them for it as not many publish their complaints procedure.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — October 14, 2019 @ 2:43 pm

  7. Is it possible to make a complaint about the seller’s estate agent – where i believe they have misled and lied to the seller. I am the buyer in this situation and the agent was not acting for me. Thank you

    Comment by Anna Bushell — October 11, 2019 @ 11:53 am

  8. Hi C Saunders – No I am afraid it is for United Kingdom Properties only

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — October 8, 2019 @ 1:33 pm

  9. I am living in South Africa,Jeffreys Bay and wonder if this is the correct Ombudsman to use for difficulties I am experiencing with the Kouga Muicipality who have not done the necessary as marked on the original Housing Plans and prevent me from improving my property, secure property walls etc. and the failure of my attorney from doing positive reprisal schemes.

    Comment by C Saunders — October 8, 2019 @ 1:19 pm

  10. Hello Lesley, this isn’t unusual. Maybe your neighbours negotiated on the price of the property – just because a new build is advertised at x price, doesn’t mean that this is what you have to offer to pay for it, there’s often scope for negotiation. You’ll also find that properties of the same design on the same development will be advertised at different prices, for example, one property might be on a bigger plot, or have a more favourable view.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — September 23, 2019 @ 12:35 pm

  11. We purchased a new build 2 years ago from Taylor Wimpy £390,000
    Our deadline for issues / snagging has just gone.
    However we have learnt that our next door neighbours who bought and completed at pretty much the same time (Taylor Wimpy home) bought there’s for £380,000. Same house.
    Can you advise if this is right …. seems incredibly unfair?

    Comment by Lesley Dodds — September 23, 2019 @ 11:18 am

  12. Hello Linda, we’re very sorry to hear this. Even after an offer has been made and accepted by the seller, it is not legally binding on either side (in England and Wales; there are different rules in Scotland). Until the exchange of contracts either party can still pull out (although the buyer might lose their holding deposit).
    1 in 10 people have experienced the seller pulling out of the deal after accepting their offer because they have received a higher offer from elsewhere. This is called “gazumping”, which is more likely if your offer is on the low side.
    If you are “gazumped” you can potentially lose hundreds or even thousands of pounds in pointless survey fees, land search fees and solicitor’s fees
    There is not much you can do about it apart from counter-gazump (putting in a higher bid than the gazumper).
    To avoid gazumping, once a seller has accepted your offer, ask them to take the property off the market, which they should do if they are serious about accepting your offer. They do not have to, but if they do this will prevent other potential buyers butting into your purchase. If they don’t, then ask why they are still marketing their property, and be careful about spending thousands of pounds on surveys, solicitors and arranging mortgages.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — September 23, 2019 @ 12:40 pm

  13. I’m two thirds through a purchase .Have pain my conveyance money .Now the person selling to me ,has taken an offer ,from another party .This has now left me with a bill of 2.000 .She has blatantly asked to to get in a bidding war .is this legal Regards Linda Challinor

    Comment by Linda challinor — September 22, 2019 @ 12:11 pm

  14. Brilliant thank you

    Comment by Vicki Longman — September 12, 2019 @ 4:00 pm

  15. Hi Vicki,
    If your agent is signed up to The Property Ombudsman (most agents are) then it states in their guidance to members about canvassing that “In your canvassing material, if you seek to use a property you
    have recently sold and where completion has occurred, you
    must obtain the new owner’s prior permission in writing”
    So you would have grounds to lodge a formal complaint to them if you didn’t give permission in writing.
    Please see this link to their guidance https://www.tpos.co.uk/images/documents/guidance/TPOE11-3_Canvassing_for_New_Business.pdf

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — September 11, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

  16. Hi,

    At the time of signing the contract for the sale of our property, I specifically asked the estate agent to not market the sale of our property locally (i.e. No board outside our property, no marked cars, no as in local paper, etc) which the guy agreed to but didn’t sign anything to agree to this, they stuck to my wishes primarily but then they suddenly decided to do a leaflet drop to a few of the streets surrounding our property with an A5 colour postcard with a photo of the front of our property (door number not pixellated) informing all of our neighbours that they have “recently sold this property near you & are looking for similar properties”

    When I e-mailed the branch manager to ask him if I had agreed to this being done he just said that it is automatically done when a property goes under offer.

    Do I have grounds to complain about the breach of our privacy or is it just a case of having to put up with all of the neighbours constantly asking intrusive questions now that they know we have sold?

    Thank you for reading.

    Comment by Vicki Longman — September 11, 2019 @ 11:51 am

  17. Michael – This does seem unusual. Please consider making a formal complaint to the Estate Agent asking them to show why this is the case and then onto the Insurer. If neither of these prove to be satisfactory then look at making a complaint to the Financial conduct authority.

    Comment by HomeOwners Alliance — July 29, 2019 @ 10:31 am

  18. Please can you help. I purchased a small buy to let property in October 2018. Via a letting agent, I let the property a month later. They took care of references etc. I heard no negative remarks. I took out a well advertised insurers landlord insurance policy with rent guarantee. Three months in, the tenant stopped paying rent after ‘ad-hoc rent payments’. I am going down the s21/order route, but I cant claim rent guarantee from the insurer as the agent refuses to pass them the references because of ‘GDPR. Can you help? I am now thousands out of pocket.

    Comment by Michael Clark — July 26, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

  19. Hi there
    I wish to raise a dispute against the management company looking after my flat but I cannot see which scheme they are listed with. Can you point me in the right direction? Their details are Northleach Property Management Ltd, 252a High Street, Bromley, Kent, BR1 1PG. I understand that I can go to trading standards if they are not listed anywhere,
    Many thanks.

    Comment by Lynn Robertson — June 3, 2019 @ 11:56 am

  20. All offers have to be put to the vendors and it could be that they may wish to proceed with yours as you may be in a better position than the person with the higher offer.

    Comment by Marianne Cole — March 7, 2019 @ 3:25 pm

  21. Have put in an offer for a flat, have now been told a higher offer has been received but that the agent has to approach the solicitor for the vendor (a probate sale) to put my offer to them. Why would they bother wasting my time and theirs if they have already had a higher offer?

    Comment by Nadine Pedley — March 6, 2019 @ 2:59 pm

  22. There are legal remedies if your property is being damaged due to the neglect of a neighbour. They have a duty of care towards their neighbours. If the water dripping into your property is causing damage and is directly related to action or non-action of your neighbour, you have a right to act.You could contact your local council Environmental Health Dept or Building Control Department. If the adjoining flat is in a defective state and causes a nuisance, the council can serve what is known as an abatement notice stating that the local authority intends to remedy the defects and have them serve notice on your neighbour to have his defects repaired

    Comment by Chandni Sahni — February 28, 2019 @ 11:24 am

  23. The estate agent Steven Williams, (Brighton) who handles letting the property next to mine, has a history of not responding to phone calls, emails or text messages, it also seems that he is a one man outfit and no longer has an office or landline.
    The owner of the property (Celia Burrows) spends a lot of time out of the country and as long as the rent is paid shows no concern, and there is no way of contacting her except via Steven Williams.
    The wet-room from nextdoor is leaking into my property at the moment, for the third time in six years, and this happened at least once to the previous owners, they had to have the ceiling replaced as did I and the lights replaced in 2016 on my insurance as neither Mrs.Burrows nor Steven Williams responded to any approach from my insurance company
    I do not know what to do, it is 17 days since this was reported this time and it is more than likely that the ceiling will collapse.

    Comment by Catherine B Dickinson — February 22, 2019 @ 12:35 pm

  24. Hello Mohammed, sorry to hear about your situation. I would follow the advice of your solicitor and if you are concerned about your housing situation perhaps look into a short term let until you have a better idea of where you stand. If you were to become a member, we’d be happy to help you with your situation as we can provide you with access to our Home Helpline where you can speak to someone in more detail https://hoa.org.uk/join-us/

    Comment by Chandni Sahni — January 28, 2019 @ 10:13 am

  25. The agent made a deal to sell me a property to move in on 18th Jan since then i found out that the people selling dont own it and my lawyer suggested whats below. “The sellers of the property (Portobello Apartments Limited) do not currently have Title to the Property. The Property currently stands in the names of Dunedin Canmore Housing Limited. The current owners have suggested they will take a Title from Dunedin Canmore Housing Limited and then grant a Title in favour of you. That is not acceptable, because in terms of the loan documentation the Seller has to have owned and have had Title to the Property for at least 6 months prior to them granting a Title in your favour.” Problem is i cannot get any answer if they do this and quick as my move in date is passed and am about to become homeless as can go to property im buying. What shal i do

    Comment by Mohammed z Hassan — January 25, 2019 @ 11:31 am

  26. Hi Thomas, check the detail of the contract you have with the estate agent. It should clearly set out what fees and commission will be charged.

    Comment by Sara Hind — November 21, 2018 @ 11:03 am

  27. Hi. Me and my wife got new house on a fixe price.
    Then me and my wife put our house if for sale with the same estate agent.
    The estate agent told us we be really luck to get a price of over £300000.
    So I change is 0.85% for anything under £300000 and 20% for any sale over the price of £300000. We got offer of £326500.
    So now the estate agent charging us £10000 ot sale other house.
    Can estate agent charge this.
    Thomas

    Comment by Thomas bryan — November 21, 2018 @ 8:12 am

  28. Hi Janis, the answer depends on whether you are changing agents or not. If you’re moving to a new agent that hasn’t listed the property before, it will show as a new listing straight away. If you want something definitive to show your agent, you could contact RightMove customer services and get the answer direct from them – your agent can’t quibble then!

    Comment by Sara Hind — November 19, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

  29. Please, could you advise me how long my property has to be withdrawn from Rightmove before it can be recently added as a new listing?
    The realestate agent says 6 months yet the homeowners alliance states 14 weeks.

    I would like something definitive to show my agent.

    Regrds Janis

    Comment by janis Dobrin — November 10, 2018 @ 10:39 am

  30. Hi Jaqui, the devil is in the detail on this one and to be able to advise we’d need to see the contract the owners had with the agent and clarify with the owners how they went about terminating the agreement. If they had a sole selling rights agreement with the agent then they may well be liable to pay commission. Perhaps you could tell the owners about us – one of the benefits of membership of the HOA is that we will take a look at estate agent contracts and provide advice.

    Comment by Sara Hind — October 3, 2018 @ 11:49 am

  31. I bought a house that had been for sale for over a year until the vendors decided to take it off the market and stay put – tired of viewings that got no further than the front door. They had a contract with an estate agent well-known to be ‘dodgy’ . Their initial contract with him was for 60 days, which he altered by hand to 20 weeks. However they waited for 18 months before deciding to give up, and so ended the contract.
    I happened to be chatting to a mutal friend about downsizing and she suggested I approach the owners of the property to see if they would consider a private sale. To cut a long story short, the purchase went through – 5 months after the cancellation of the contract with the estate agent. He is now claiming commission even though neither he nor anyone in his employ showed me the property. Is this legal ? I have advised my vendors to take the matter further as this estate agent is well known in West Oxfordshire to be a bully and erring on the side of dishonesty and sharp practice!!

    Comment by Jaqui Hill — September 27, 2018 @ 10:54 am

  32. Hello Amanda, you can read our article on this subject here.

    Comment by Sara Hind — September 10, 2018 @ 3:21 pm

  33. Dear Sir/Madam,
    My husband and I bought an old cottage in April 2017. Before purchase we asked for a comprehensive structural survey from a firm with RICS registration. We asked their advice about which survey to perform and followed it.
    The survey did not reveal any significant problems. We bought the property and started to notice problems with damp in August, The surveyor we employed was a “Damp specialist”. The problem became so bad we needed to have extensive re-pointing done costing around £6000. We have gone back to our surveyor and them via a solicitor to no avail. Who can we complain to?

    Comment by Amanda Pegden — August 30, 2018 @ 4:31 pm

 
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