The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has released its 2018 annual report reflecting ever-increasing consumer demand for the service.
The report reveals TPO received a record number of enquiries in 2018 (29,023), up 22% on 2017. Of these, 4,246 went on to be formal complaints, which also rose significantly year on year by 16%.
The Ombudsman supported 2782 complaints, of which 2381 required a financial award to be paid. For the first time, compensatory awards paid by agents to consumers reached in excess of £2million (£2.17m), a total which has more than doubled since 2016.
Other details in the report provide a breakdown of complaints received relating to sales, lettings, residential leasehold management and other jurisdictions, average award amounts, the most common causes of complaints and eight example case summaries of complaints received last year, along with the outcome.
Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle and the newly formed Unitary Board provide a snapshot of the year, describing changes to the scheme as providing a “better, faster service to consumers”. The report also details feedback from TPO’s consumer and agent survey, lists key regional events attended by TPO, as well as reporting on the minority of cases (0.1%) where agents have been referred to TPO’s Compliance Committee for possible expulsion from the scheme.
Lettings statistical highlights:
2,757 complaints were resolved
66% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
54% of complaints were made by landlords, while 42% were made by tenants
The average lettings award was £845
For the third year running, the regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London (20%), the South East (17%) and North West (11%)
The top causes of complaints were: (1) communication & record keeping, (2) management (3) tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits and (4) complaint handling
Sales statistical highlights:1,465 complaints were resolved58% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman60% of complaints were made by sellers, while 34% were made by buyersThe average sales award was £608The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (16%), Greater London (11%) and North West (9%)The top causes of complaints were: (1) communication & record keeping, (2) marketing & advertising, (3) instructions/terms of business/commission/termination and (4) complaint handling Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said:“2018 was an extremely busy year for TPO with increasing demand for the service. This does not necessarily mean that agents’ standards are slipping, but rather that consumers are increasingly aware of their rights, particularly off the back of the Government’s consultation into strengthening redress in the housing market, and subsequent media publicity on the future of consumer protection and driving out poor practice in the industry. TPO now also has 41,421 offices and departments following our Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), 8% more than in 2017, an ever-increasing figure as we look to further extend our role to cover gaps in redress. I’m proud to say that my team not only coped with this increased workload but enabled the service to go from strength to strength. Our Customer Services team responded to a record number of people – nearly 30,000, who contacted TPO via phone, email, post or online chat service, either by signposting them to the right organisation or giving immediate advice on how to raise a complaint. We also handled more complaints than ever before, identified complaint trends causing rising levels of consumer detriment and took action to combat these, and modernised our processes to provide a faster service to consumers.Overall, 2018 represented a year of growth and improvement and as we look ahead to 2019, I’m confident that TPO will continue to raise standards, update our Sales and Lettings Codes of Practice to reflect new legislation and meet whatever challenges the industry faces.”Case SummariesTPO has over 28 years’ experience advising consumers who contact the scheme when they have exhausted an organisation’s internal complaint’s process but want an alternative to avoid the expense and time taken by going to court. The annual report provides some example case summaries which represent daily life, rather than the more extreme but unusual cases. Topics include a dual fee dispute, issues with surveying, auctions, referencing and more.Katrine Sporle will draw on details from the annual report and what this means for the industry at The Property Ombudsman Conference on 10th July. Tickets are available at: https://www.tpos.co.uk/members/tpo-conference
The full annual report is available in an e-book [here], or PDF [here] and all case summaries are available on the TPO website.