An overwhelming 98 per cent of agents who are members of The Property Ombudsman scheme pay compensation when an investigation is concluded in favour of the complainant.
In recent years significant publicity has been given to so-called rogue agents, many from the lettings side of the industry, who have had awards made against them and in favour of consumers, landlords or tenants. Some agents have gone out of business or refused to make compensation payments, typically prompting their expulsion from TPO.
However, this is very much the exception according to the new Ombudsman, Rebecca Marsh.
She has told Letting Agent Today: “In 2019, 98 per cent of awards made by the Ombudsman were paid by agents and it has been a similar figure down the years.”
She continues: “We often issue press releases when an agent has been expelled from the scheme, usually for not paying an award. Those press releases are sent to local media as well as Trading Standards to ensure that potential consumers and local enforcers are aware that there is an issue with an agent in their area. It also allows Trading Standards to follow up with enforcement action on the basis that an agent is no longer meeting the legal requirement to be registered with a redress scheme.
“It is also perhaps the nature of the job that we see the bad agents more often than the good. However, highlighting where agents have done a good job is an area I wish to focus more on going forwards, especially as this will play its part in the wider objective of helping to increase trust and confidence in the sector.”
Marsh has been in the post for only two months having previously been Chief Ombudsman at the Legal Ombudsman and previously the Deputy Ombudsman and Executive Director of Operations and Investigations at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
She says of her new workload: “TPO is involved in a significant number of initiatives within what is a complex sector and I am already on a steep learning curve. However, I am fortunate to be able to call upon my previous experience as an Ombudsman to have been able to hit the ground running on the core business of resolving complaints. In fact, given that the Legal Ombudsman’s biggest sector of work is in conveyancing complaints, there is a distinct cross over to the complaints TPO deals with.
“I have no doubt that the vast majority of agents provide an excellent service to their consumers. Yes, TPO is dealing with increased levels of enquiries and complaints, but when set against the number of transactions within the sector, the number of complaints is very small indeed.”