Consumers net £1.3m in redress for property complaints
In total, the Ombudsman received 23,841 inquiries in 2017, up 68% from 2016. But it handled 3,658 complaints, up 3% from the previous year.
This included 1,165 sales complaints (down 11%), and 2,165 lettings complaints (up 8%). There were also 328 ‘other jurisdictions complaints’, including leasehold management, auctions and removals and search providers.
Over £1.3m was secured for consumer redress, up 11% from the previous year, with the highest award standing at £25,000.
The top causes of sales complaints related to communication and record keeping, marketing and advertising, commission and in-house complaints handling.
For lettings complaints, TPO said it handled issues relating to management, communication and record keeping, tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits, as well as the in-house complaints procedure.
In one case handled by TPO, the property sellers had an asking price in mind of £295,000 which would have attracted an agent fee of £4,560 plus VAT (£5,472). However, the agent was running a promotion that if it achieved less than 95% of the asking price, the sellers would receive a reduced fee of £500 inclusive of VAT.
A buyer made an offer of £281,000, equating to 95.25% of the asking price meaning the sellers wouldn’t receive the discount.
But months later, they discovered that a lower offer of £280,000 had been received by the agent but not submitted to the sellers. This offer would have qualified for the discount, meaning they would have been better off financially if they accepted the lower offer.
Katrine Sporle, property ombudsman, said: “Our primary focus has always been on providing expert advice and quality outcomes. Our early advice plays a key role in empowering consumers by equipping them with information so they can try and resolve the issue directly with their agent.
“We agree with Government that there are gaps in the current provisions of consumer redress within the property sector which need addressing and, together with industry and consumer partners, we are keen to play our part in regulation and redress reform.
“Overall, 2017 represented a positive year of innovation and improvement, which will reassure consumers and the industry that there is an alternative to costly and lengthy court proceedings that can be relied on to provide timely, fair and reasonable remedies.”