The Property Redress Scheme, one of the two government-backed redress operators for the lettings and sales service, has outlined its work in 2018 - and it’s given details of its largest compensation award, against a lettings agent.
The identities of the landlord who brought the complaint and the agency about which the complaint was made are not revealed by the PRS.
But in the PRS annual report, released today, the scheme says of the case: “The Landlord claimed for considerable rent arrears, as well as for the costs of a bridging loan which was taken out to cover the shortfall. The PRS Head of Redress found that there were considerable failings on the part of the Agent in respect of their duty of care and professionalism, and in light of the amount of the rent arrears, plus the behaviour of the Agent, made the highest award possible under the remit of the PRS [£25,000].”
The report also outlines which regions its expelled members came from: again, few specific details are given but 48 per cent of those members expelled in 2018 were from the London region, and 14 per cent from the North West of England.
It is impossible to make like-for-like comparisons between the 2017 and 2018 PRS cases and decision because the PRS (along with The Property Ombudsman) saw an increase in members when a third redress service, Ombudsman Services: Property, pulled out of the sector leaving its members obliged to move to an alternative provider.
However, the PRS stats show that of the 9,292 agent offices signed up to the scheme some 76 per cent are registered for lettings and 47 per cent registered for sales (so there are some registered for both). The overall PRS agent membership shows a substantial rise from the 6,787 in 2017.
Last year the average award made was £1,102.83p; of those complaints about lettings agents, 11 per cent concerned a breach of duty of care, 10 per cent were about poor service and complaint handling; and eight per cent were about general communication issues and on agent fees.
On the sales side some 11 per cent of complaints were about misleading or incorrect information, 10 per cent were about general communications, and six per cent were about unfair contract terms.
The PRS’s advisory council chairman, Lord Monroe Palmer, says in his forward to the annual report that “in this industry, the pace and scale of change has been unprecedented.”
He continues: “The number of reforms and level of legislative activity has not been seen in the private rental sector since the 1988 Housing Act. By the time the changes are completed, over the next few years, we will have seen as great an impact, as the then ground- breaking law over 30 years ago. It is also true that all other parts of the property sector are now under scrutiny – sales, leasehold and new build properties.”
Lord Palmer says that while the cause of this change is politics, it is exacerbated by a simple shortage of homes compared to demand.
However, he concludes: “The changes that are being made are probably overdue. Introducing better protection of consumers, who are ultimately customers of us all, is part of a healthy and vibrant market. We are also living in a world of innovation and technology that is impacting our lives, mostly positive but sometimes unpredictably, and with unforeseen detriment. The law is, therefore, struggling to catch up.”