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New Ombudsman report reveals top causes of property disputes

TPO’s 2016 Annual Report is now available to download here, which provides a unique and detailed snapshot of the work carried out by the Ombudsman in 2016.

While the number of complex complaints reviewed by the Ombudsman grew by 7.5% to 3,553, so too did the number of sales and lettings agents joining the scheme, which jumped 6.1% and 7% respectively to 15,316 and 14, 613.

The report also revealed there were 3,553 complex complaints reviewed in 2016, of which 61 cases were referred by the Ombudsman to the scheme’s Disciplinary & Standards Committee for Code breaches and/or failure to pay an award.

The 2016 Annual Report also includes:

• An overview of enquiries, awards, cases received and supported (p14-17)
• The top causes of disputes for sales and lettings agents (p16-17)
• A complaints breakdown by region (p16-17)
• New data concerning disciplinary cases and agent expulsions (p20)
• An update on the number of agents joining the scheme (p19)
• An updated summary of the complaint process for agents and consumers (p6-7)

Industry case studies

The annual report provides a series of case summaries highlighting examples of the varied and complex cases reviewed by the Ombudsman. Case summary topics include:

Commission fees and VAT
Withholding material information
Pre-contract deposits
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (CPRs) … and how they still apply after a client changes agents

The complaint which resulted in the highest award paid by an agent during 2016 also features in the report – to view the case in full, please click on the link below:
You can download a web-friendly pdf version of the report, with interactive links here.

Save the date! TPO Conference returns bigger and better

TPO can exclusively reveal that the scheme will be hosting its next national Conference on Wednesday 13th June 2018.

Back by popular demand, the event will be held at The National Conference Centre in Solihull.

Gerry Fitzjohn, TPO Board Chairman, said: “I’m delighted to confirm we have set a date for our next TPO Conference, which will take place on Wednesday 13th June 2018. Work is underway to make the 2018 event a real show-stopper with new guest speakers and industry panellists discussing hot topics. Our hugely popular workshops will also return, which proved to be a fantastic success last year.”

Gerry added: “I’d like to personally thank everyone who took part in our delegate survey following last year’s TPO Conference – your input and views really informed our thinking and will help us shape the agenda for 2018.”

Agents can email to register their interest for the 2018 event, and further updates will be emailed to members and posted on the TPO Conference webpage.

TPO 2016 Conference: delegate survey highlights
• 98.55% of respondents said they would recommend other agents attend TPO’s Conference
• 97.96% of respondents rated the Conference programme as ‘Extremely good and relevant to my role’ or ‘Good’ 
• 85.29% said ‘Yes I would like the Conference to be held at the same venue’
• 98.53% of respondents said they would like to register their interest for TPO’s next Conference

Tickets and sponsorship

• Please email to register your interest for the 2018 Conference
• Sponsor and exhibitor information: Please email (click here to view the 2016 sponsors and exhibitors)
2017 regional workshops

TPO appoints Baroness Warwick

Baroness Diana Warwick has been appointed Chair of The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme’s independent Council.

Lord Best officially stepped down from his role as TPO’s current Council Chair on 28th April 2017, after his eight-year term came to an end.

Both Lord Best and Baroness Warwick will be speaking at an event to launch TPO’s Annual Report, which was held on 22nd June 2017 at the House of Lords.

Lord Richard Best, said: “I am delighted that Diana Warwick, my well-respected colleague in the House of Lords, has accepted this role. Her wide-ranging experience in managing organisations of different kinds, and her deep understanding of government and parliament, will be of immense value to TPO. I wish her every success.”

As Council Chair, Diana will lead the scheme’s independent Council to ensure the Ombudsman can act independently and impartially when reviewing property disputes.

Baroness Diana Warwick, said: “I am delighted to succeed Lord Best in this important role and hope that the qualities and skills I bring will help to reinforce the commitment to high standards that he has fostered. I share the Property Ombudsman Scheme's values of independence and public service and strongly support its purpose in providing free, fair and impartial service to buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords of property in the UK.”

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “I look forward to working closely with Diana who has spent many years helping the government make and shape laws, and debate public policy matters. She will be a great asset to TPO which aims to raise standards in the industry and protect consumers from unfair practices.”

Diana’s extensive and varied career in public service was recognised in 1999 when she was awarded a life peerage. She is the current Chair of the National Housing Federation and is a Non-Executive Board Member Pension Protection Fund. Diana spent four years as the Chair of the Human Tissue Authority and spent 14 years as the Chief Executive of Universities UK, where she led the body representing the executive heads of 130 universities, both nationally and internationally.

The Ombudsman reports to the independent Council and its members represent the interests of the consumer. The Council has the following key responsibilities:

• Oversight of the work, and protection of the independence of the Ombudsman
• Consider cases referred by the Ombudsman for disciplinary action against scheme members where there has been a flagrant or persistent breaches of the Codes of Practice and protect consumers from unfair practices.

To find out more about the Council and the role of the Chair, please visit the TPO website.

Calling all member agents!

TPO will be hosting a series of workshops during 2017 for sales and letting agents, which are completely free for TPO agents (subject to prior registration).

Agents that attend the workshops can also register to attend Propertymark Masterclasses which are being held immediately after the workshops close.

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman and Jane Erskine, Deputy Ombudsman, will be running the TPO workshops on the dates listed below:


TPO Lettings Workshops


TPO speaker

Thursday 14th September


The Oxford Belfry, Thame, OX9 2JW

Thursday 28th September

West London 

Doubletree by Hilton, 2-8 Hanger Lane, W5 3HN

Tuesday 3rd October

West Midlands 

The Arden Hotel, Bickenhill, B92 0EH

TPO Sales Workshops



Thursday 7th September  


Telford Golf & Spa Hotel, TF7 4DT

Tuesday 17th October

Northern Ireland

Titanic Belfast, BT3 9EP

Monday 6th November


The Cambridge Belfry, CB23 6BW


Booking is ESSENTIAL, if you have not already booked, please call 01926 417 792 or email to register yourself on a TPO workshop. The Propertymark Masterclasses are also open to everyone and TPO members can attend for free, however booking is essential as spaces are limited.

Each workshop will include several real-life consumer studies to highlight the role of the Ombudsman to raise standards in the industry, while also giving agents a chance to interact with each other and learn more about the UK’s largest property redress scheme.

Please note: The timings and format of each workshop will vary – please call the Propertymark events team to find out more about the event(s) you’d like to attend.

Important information:

TPO agents must register by calling 01926 417 792. Any delegates who attend and have not booked / paid will be refused entry on registration.

If you're a member and you need to cancel your place, you must give 48 hours’ notice. (A £15+VAT non-attendance fee will apply if you do not notify the NAEA events team via or 01926 417 792).

Magistrate fines Estate Agent £200k

 You will all have seen the recent news where a Wiltshire Estate Agent was fined £200k by Swindon Magistrates Court for failing to undertake the necessary health and safety risk assessment, after a buyer fell 9m down a well during an 'open house' viewing.

Following the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines, which came into force last year, this is just one example of large fines the sector has faced in recent months.

The Health and Safety Executive led the investigation and the agency pleaded guilty to breaching section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000, and ordered to pay costs of £2,474.

We expect all our member agents to work to the highest professional standards possible, and it is now more important than ever that you take note of the new reforms and consider the effect this could have on your business if you were to be prosecuted.

Along with turnover, culpability plays a key part in the process of calculating a fine, so it is essential that you minimise culpability by ensuring that you have the right systems in place to manage all areas of regulatory compliance.

The Business Regulatory Solution (BRS), delivered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, is an online compliance tool that agents can tailor and use to reduce their risk and improve compliance.

CTSI quote, said: “Many firms in this sector have faced fines for price fixing and fire safety breaches in managed properties and this new solution can help you manage these risks and protect your business with advice, guidance and resources covering health and safety, food, fire, environment, licensing, fair trading, product safety and dealing with customers.

“The BRS can become your central regulatory control system as the intuitive online platform can be tailored to support your existing policies and procedures.”

Find out more
To find out more about BRS and view a demonstration of the tool, please visit the CTSI website.

Press coverage
To read some of the industry reports concerning the Wiltshire agent and the court-ordered £200,000 fine, please refer to the links below:

Estate Agent Today: Guilty agency "deeply distressed" by buyer's 30-foot fall at viewing

Property Industry Eye: NEWSFLASH! Estate agent fined £200,000 after woman fell down well during viewing

New agreement between government-approved redress schemes clamps down on rogues agents

The three government-approved redress schemes; The Property Ombudsman (TPO), Ombudsman Services: Property and The Property Redress Scheme have signed a revised version of their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The MOU ensures that any agent with an outstanding award with one scheme will not be accepted by another until that award is settled.

If an agent is expelled from membership by a scheme due to a breach of its Terms of Business, the MOU will now allow for total transparency and the sharing of information with the press, property portals, The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) as well as the expelled agents’ local Trading Standards office.

Property Ombudsman, Katrine Sporle, says: “Registering with an approved redress scheme is a legal requirement for both sales and letting agents in England. ‘Naming and shaming’ expelled agents that have not fulfilled their obligations and are not able to legally trade is in the public interest. The scheme responsible for expulsion will provide consumer protection by publicising the news via their website and other media outlets, and will inform regulators within the industry.”

Other revisions to the MOU relate to the transfer between schemes. These include:

• To clearly define the actions required if an agent makes an application to one scheme having previously been a member of another, but there are ongoing complaints.
• To identify who is responsible when a company changes redress schemes, but a complaint arises where issues occurred during membership with the previous redress scheme.

Find out more by reading the TPO press release below:

Revised Memorandum of Understanding between redress schemes published