The Property Ombudsman has issued its annual report for 2017 and it makes grim reading for the rental sector - there’s been an 11 per cent increase in formal complaints about lettings agents resolved by TPO.
The actual number of complaints received by the Ombudsman, Katrine Sporle, increased by three per cent to 3,658 but there were around twice as many about lettings agents than sales agents.
Overall TPO made financial awards to consumers in 2,408 instances which totalled £1.36m, an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year - and again mostly because of a rise on the lettings side of the industry.
In addition to the level of complaints, the report reveals there was a 68 per cent increase in consumer enquiries following the introduction of an ‘open all hours‘ online service with Yomdel. This generated 6,458 online chats which in turn led to 946 new complaints being received.
TPO’s customer service team helped 14,671 people with their enquiries, either by signposting them to the right organisation or giving immediate advice on how to raise complaints direct with their service provider.
Specifically on the lettings side, there were 2,212 formal complaints resolved by TPO - this was the 11 per cent rise over 2016.
Of those complaints some 67 per cent were supported by the Ombudsman.
Some 49 per cent of complaints were made by landlords, while 45 per cent were made by tenants. The average lettings award was £625.
The top causes of complaints were about management issues; communication and record keeping; tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits; and then in-house complaint procedures.
For the second year running, the regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London (23 per cent), the South East (20 per cent) and North West (11 per cent).
Please see Estate Agent Today here for a breakdown of the sales complaints.
“With 38,272 offices and departments now following our Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute, I think it is encouraging that complaints have risen by just three per cent and that 10 per cent fewer agents had to be referred to our Disciplinary and Standards Committee” says Sporle.
TPO is one of at least two redress organisations visibly competing to become the single Ombudsman service for the entire housing sector, as requested by government last year. A final decision on the issue is expected later this year.