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Not Good Enough! Property Ombudsman criticises private rental quality

New figures released this morning from The Property Ombudsman show that the overwhelming number of disputes in the past year involved letting agents.

Issues dealt with at a so-called enquiry stage by TPO numbered just under 14,000 from tenants and landlords about their letting agent; this was double the combined 5,500 buyer and seller issues relating to their estate agent and the 3,000 leaseholder issues about their managing agent.

In addition there were over 1,500 tenant issues about their landlord where no agent was involved - these were dealt with by TPO at the enquiry stage, with tenants being provided with advice and guidance to help them resolve their issues.


Outside of the rental sector there were just under 17,000 further consumers who were provided with advice and guidance through TPO’s self-service portal; another 6,012 disputes were resolved through early resolution or formal ombudsman decision.

Despite these high complaint totals, TPO insists that compliance with Ombudsman decisions remains extremely high at 98.4 per cent.

In total in 2022 some 44,492 consumers were provided with advice and guidance, and the organisation says: “A greater emphasis on educating consumers and providing them with advice specific to their individual situation, coupled with changes to the Scheme’s Terms of Reference, saw TPO help more consumers to resolve their issues without the need to complain to their agent or to TPO.”

There was a financial settlement or award granted in 3,206 of cases, with just 33 unpaid awards resulting in the expulsion of 22 agents from the scheme. 

Top causes of lettings disputes were Tenancy management followed by Complaints Handling and then Instructions, terms of business, fees, charges and termination.

TPO says: “The high levels of enquiries and disputes relating to repair and maintenance issues (which comes under tenancy management) underlines the need to raise the standard of private rented housing stock.”

Rebecca Marsh, The Property Ombudsman, says: “Difficult market conditions will increase competition to gain instructions from sellers and landlords. In both instances agents must strive to ensure that market valuations are reasonable and are supported by comparable properties. 

“For tenants and buyers, clarity around offers will be paramount and agents must communicate these in writing to all relevant parties. 

“Specific to the lettings market, high levels of enquiries from tenants and landlords seeking advice from TPO indicates a real need for consumer education to help them understand the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved. For agents, these enquiries show that regular communication to tenants about the progress of repairs and maintenance issues is a lesson that, if learned, will provide assurance that matters are in hand and, ultimately reduce the potential for complaints to arise.”

  • Billy the Fish

    How many of the 3,206 awards were lettings only?

    It is no real surprise there are more complaints against letting agents generally as the relationships can last years rather than months. I'd imagine there was a huge spike during and following 3 months of near solid rain between november 22 and january 23, which was unprecedented weather. Few landlords and tenants fully understood the impact this had on contractor availability while at the same time every water ingress issue was 'urgent' and most lead to black mould to some degree due to the time of year. Everyone was also on high alert following the unfortunate legal case for the child who died in 2020 coming to an end in november 2022.

    We may well be heading towards another very wet winter - either too much or too little rain in recent years, a sign of things to come no doubt.

  • icon

    Basically pushing the government line. Smearing landlords. Most mould is down to the tenants. Due to high energy costs more tenants will generate mould, ie insufficient heating, drying clothes on the radiator, no ventilation, etc.etc.
    I went to arbitration and got most of the deposit. Tenant who moved nearby told everyone that l had kept the deposit.


    I agree, spoke to a few surveyors I know and yet again mould/damp/condensation in most cases is lifestyle. They said, sadly, there is more in deprived households as they cannot afford to heat and ventilate.
    Treat poverty not bashing landlords

  • Hit Man

    We've had at least a dozen complaints from tenants regarding mould this was shortly after the case advertised on the national news about the young boy in Rochdale who died apparently due to mould... all of the cases that went to TPO were dismissed, lot of it is made up nonsense, I would imagine most the cases as in this one was with social housing or private landlords NOT Agents.

  • icon

    If she thinks PRS is bad, she should get out of her ivory tower and look at Social Housing. All the well publicised examples were with Social Housing.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    There are roughly 4.6m PRS properties, another 3.9m social, around 2m PRS landlords and roughly 12,000 letting agents employing over 100k people. Considering those figures 14k appears low to me- that is a complaint from approx 0.3% of PRS households. Without context, these stats might seem alarming but with context, they actually support the fact that we have a healthy & professional PRS.


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