What is a Property Ombudsman and how do I use it?
When you need to make a complaint about someone involved in the process of selling your home, there are official channels and people to help you do so. That’s where a Property Ombudsman can step in. We take a look at how they work and how they can help you.
Whether you’re buying, selling or renting a home, things can and do occasionally go wrong. Ultimately, we all make mistakes, but what can you do if you find yourself out of pocket or seriously inconvenienced because of a property professional?
All companies have an internal complaints process, but if this hasn’t worked or solved the issue to your satisfaction, you have further options. One is to take your case to the courts, however, this can be an expensive process and can also take a lot of time. Another option is to use an Ombudsman.
Who are Ombudsmen?
Ombudsmen are free, impartial, and independent schemes that help to resolve disputes. There’s a Financial Ombudsmen Service (FOS), Ombudsmen Services for energy and communications providers and The Property Ombudsmen (TPOS). The services they provide are described as ‘redress schemes’, which means they exist to set things right.
There are now two redress schemes for the property industry: The Property Ombudsman (TPOs) and The Property Redress Scheme. Which one you take your complaint to will depend on the company you are complaining about.
What does The Property Ombudsman (TPOS) do?
The Property Ombudsman Service (TPOS) is the largest scheme, established in 1990. They will offer you advice and guidance and will undertake early resolutions wherever possible.
You provide as much evidence and supporting information as possible so that they can consider it against the company you are complaining about. If TPOS thinks you have a case, it will contact the company you’re complaining about with a decision.
The company has 14 days to accept that decision or appeal against it. However, they can only appeal if they can prove there is an error in the Ombudsman’s findings or if new evidence is found after the initial findings that have already been looked into. The TPOS will then write to you with their decision and giving you 28 days to respond.
The Property Redress Scheme
The Property Redress Scheme (PRS) was launched in 2014.
When you complain to the PRS, you are assigned someone to assess the validity of the claim. The company you lodge a complaint about has 10 days to either refute the claim or resolve the issue. Just like with TPOS, any decision made by the PRS can only be changed if an error has been made in the initial complaint or evidence provided.
When you get the response back from the company you complained about, you have 15 working days to confirm whether you agree with the decision and, if you do, the company in question will have 10 working days to comply with it. If you don’t agree with the decision, it is up to the PRS to decide whether or not there should be further action.
How do I know who to complain to?
This will depend on which redress scheme the company you’re complaining about is a member of. If it isn’t displayed in their shop window or website, you are fully entitled to ask them to provide this information. If the company in question is not a member of any of the schemes, you can complain to Trading Standards.
What can I complain about?
TPOS says the most common complaints relate to communication, record keeping, and marketing. Other complaints may be around:
- Poor or incompetent service
- Infringement of your legal rights
- Failure to follow the rules set for agents under the Code of Practice and membership obligations
- Unfair treatment
What powers do the Property Ombudsman have?
If TPOS supports your claim, it can make a financial award to you of up to £25,000, although this is an unlikely figure. The Ombudsman states that, on average, claims are usually closer to £500 for lettings complaints and £350 for sales.
To operate as a property business, companies must be a member of one of these authorised redress scheme bodies. Without a membership, they cannot continue to do business. If they fail to comply with TPOS, they can lose their membership to the scheme.
There is also an agreement between the different redress schemes that if an agent has not honoured the decision of one of the schemes, they cannot join another until that obligation has been met.
When can I complain to a Property Ombudsman?
Both TPOS and PRS require you to complain directly to the company first using their internal complaints procedure. Only after you have exhausted all other avenues will they step in to help. You must give the company eight weeks to respond to your complaint before contacting an Ombudsman.
Get more help from haart
haart is a member of TPOS for both sales and lettings. If you have any questions about our complaints process, please get in touch.
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