As I come to the end of my time as Board Chairman at The Property Ombudsman (TPO) I would like to thank all the staff, the Board Members and the Council for all the support they have given me over the last 13 years.
During that time there have been many changes in the agency world with the introduction of a significant amount of legislation and regulation. In recent years much of the attention has been focused on the residential lettings industry and the private rented sector.
It seems to me there is now a disconnect in the agency rules applying to sales as opposed to lettings and management, with differing approaches in each of Scotland, Wales and England. In addition, some local authorities have their own rules about registering residential landlords and letting agents.
As I take my leave I believe it is time to bring these disparate areas together with new legislation rather than continue to hang things on the Estate Agents Act 1979, which is now significantly out of date and was enacted before the electronic age. This will take some time but the industry should begin to plan for it and bring forward sensible proposals to be put to the next Parliament.
In recent years we have seen residential sales agents manage problems and complaints in a more effective way, which has been evidenced by the reduction in the average awards made by the property ombudsman scheme. I have been impressed with the way the industry has improved its consumer relations and made significant strides in training its staff.
Lettings is a rather different story, as it has a much longer relationship with landlords and tenants and can be a great deal more complicated to manage than a single sale. However, staff training and awareness is improving and I hope that the Property Ombudsman scheme can claim that it is helping by using its 25 years’ experience to produce new Codes, guidance and best practice.
There is plenty for my successor, Gerry Fitzjohn and the Ombudsman Katrine Sporle to undertake.
I am of course indebted to Lord Best, Chairman of the Council, for all the guidance he and his team has given me over the years, and for enabling the scheme to maintain such a strong sense of independence and impartiality.
Although I shall leave TPO in capable hands to go forward, I hope that I shall not lose touch with the industry for a while to come.