In April this year the Department for Communities and Local Government revealed the three approved redress schemes that all letting and property management agents will be required to join.
The three schemes are The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme. Now that these redress schemes have been confirmed, the Government can now proceed with putting all other measures in place to ensure mandatory redress from later this year.
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: “All tenants and leaseholders have a right to fair and transparent treatment from their letting agent. Most are happy with the service they receive, but a small minority of agents are ripping people off, and giving the whole industry a bad name. That’s why we will require all agents to belong to one of the official redress schemes. They will ensure tenants have a straightforward route to take action if they get a poor deal, while avoiding excessive red tape that would push up rents and reduce choice for tenants.”
What do agents know about the Redress Schemes since very little has been publicised?
Christopher Hamer is the Property Ombudsman and heads the most well-known of the three schemes. The Property Ombudsman Service came into being on 1 May 2009. Formerly, the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA), the name change was made to reflect the broader jurisdiction in relation to Complaints we are now able to deal with, e.g. Sales, lettings, commercial and overseas.
The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) Scheme was established on 1 January 1998. The Scheme is open to all those firms of estate agents with a principal, director or partner who is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS); to all corporate estate agents, defined as those who are subsidiaries of a bank, building society or insurance company, or are themselves quoted on the Stock Exchange and to other estate agents who are sponsored and seconded by existing member agents. From June 2006, the OEA extended its services to Lettings and Property Management agents.
Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith, oversees the Ombudsman Services, an ombudsman service that provides dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property and copyright licensing industries.+
Ombudsman Services was founded in 2002 to provide independent dispute resolution and provides an independent, impartial and cost effective means of resolving disputes outside the courts. +
Ombudsman Services operates under appropriate legislation and regulatory authority, and our governance ensures that we are independent+
Little is known about the new Property Redress Scheme (PRS), not to be confused with the Private Rented Sector. The PRS is a trading name of HF Resolution Ltd which is a wholly owned subsidiary of HFIS PLC. Hamilton Fraser provide insurance solutions through its Total Landlord Insurance and associated products. Since 2007 HFIS PLC has been the scheme administrator for the my|deposits tenancy deposit protection schemes throughout the UK.
How will agents make their decision?
Checking whether there is a flat fee or fee per “complaint” will no doubt feature in the decision making process. It is also important to look at the terms of membership before applying to become a member of a scheme. The only scheme with a proven track record is The Property Ombudsman Service who clearly has a head start on the other schemes. Consistency within the Redress Schemes is paramount, although probably impossible. I will be interesting to see the Code of Practice that will be the starting point for the complainant.