New report reveals 23% increase in enquiries with lettings disputes representing 60% of consumer complaints
The latest Annual Report from The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, reveals a substantial increase in the number of consumer enquiries and complaints against sales and lettings agents, with 16,000 enquiries received in 2013, a 23% increase on the previous year.
In his Report, The Ombudsman provides a summary of the year ending December 2013 with statistical highlights including enquiry volumes, formal reviews, cases supported, complainant analysis and trends concerning the types of issues reported and several varied consumer case studies.
Commenting on his Report, Mr Hamer said:
“2013 was significant year for many reasons with industry consultations, legislation changes and regulatory reforms, including the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act receiving Royal Assent, which will make it a legal requirement for all letting agents to register with a redress scheme.
“With 10,000 letting agents already voluntarily registered with TPO by the end of 2013, 60% of the cases I reviewed resulted from landlord and tenant complaints, and I expect we will see even more in 2014 in light of the changes.”
As the UK’s largest property ombudsman scheme, the number of new cases referred to the Ombudsman has increased by 151% since he came into post seven years ago. The number of new agents registering with TPO during 2013 grew 13%, with 25,988 sales and lettings offices now offering TPO’s free, fair and independent route to resolve disputes. Statistical highlights featured in the report include:

Sales:
• 25% increase in complaint enquiries
• 66% increase in cases resolved via early resolution
• 70% of formal reviews were supported
• 63% of complainants were sellers
• 25% of complainants were from the South East, followed by the Eastern region (14%) & North West (12%)
• 6,815 separate issues were raised – half of which related to service issues
• Did you know? 11% of issues reported to TPO related to fees and charges

Lettings:
• 22% increase in enquiries (double the number of sales enquiries) (double since 2009 lettings)
• 13,877 separate issues were raised – half of which related to service issues
• 76% increase in cases resolved via mediation
• 33% increase in cases resolved via formal review
• 79% of formal reviews were supported
• 50% of complainants were landlords
• 26% of complainants were from the South East, followed by the South West (12%) & Greater London (19%)
• Did you know? 5% of the issues considered by formal review concerned referencing

Consumer case studies
The Report also provides a series of consumer case studies designed to educate and inform consumers about the role of the Ombudsman, covering topics including:

Lettings:
Fraud and identity checks
Holding deposits
Boundaries
Guarantors
Inspections and inventories
Returning security deposits
Switching utility providers

Sales:
Withholding material information
Fixtures & fittings
Listed buildings
Misleading sales particulars
Associated services (agent discrimination)
Planning permission
Flooding

Mr Hamer added: “With new enquiries now at record levels, it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all the team that we’ve been able to help more consumers and agents than ever before while also expanding the scheme’s jurisdiction to welcome new buying agents, auction houses, international, commercial and residential leasehold management agents.”
To view a copy of the Annual Report, please visit: http://www.tpos.co.uk/annual_reports.htm