☹️ The Property Ombudsman – How do they review complaints?

All agents are obligated to be part of a redress scheme, unless they are in devolved nations, e.g. letting agents in Scotland where the local council will investigate a complaint. The two redress schemes which are currently servicing the property industry are: The Property Ombudsman (TPO) and The Property Redress Scheme (the PRS). Both are in place to provide alternative dispute resolution to avoid the need for court action to be taken should the consumer have any issue with property agents.

Today we’ll be taking a small glance at the way the TPO handles complaints which have been referred to them.

Initially, and to their credit, the TPO will require the consumer to fully exhaust the agent’s in-house complaints procedure and sets out guidance for agents on the expectations of this here. Should the complainant still not be happy after the agent’s final response, they then have 12 months within which to refer the complaint to the Ombudsman.

The following is a step-by-step guide to show the Ombudsman’s process:

📃 The complainant has to complete a thorough form outlining their complaint, including any evidence, and a desired outcome.

⏱ Upon receipt of the complaint, the Ombudsman will write to the agent with a copy of the complaint and give them 21 days to submit their company’s file on the matter, and a submission letter giving their version of events.

📤 The Ombudsman will then send a copy of the submission letter to the complainant to provide comment, if not then it will go through to review.

👩‍⚖️ They will then complete a review of all the evidence provided, taking into consideration legal principals, relevant Code of Practice and what they deem to be fair and reasonable. They will consider proven financial loss and/or avoidable aggravation, distress or inconvenience.

📄 The Ombudsman will then write to all parties with a final decision, this will include details of any award and the reasoning behind the decision.

If the Ombudsman accepts the complaint, they can make an award of compensation of up to £25,000, although this amount it unlikely and more commonly modest to put the complainant in a position commensurate with their loss, and not meant to be a punishment to the agent.

Once a final decision has been made, the agent has 14 days to either accept or appeal the decision. Although appeals are rarely successful.

The complainant is also expected to respond to the decision. If they do not, or respond and dispute the decision, the Ombudsman will see this as non-acceptance, the award will lapse and they will close the case. The legal rights of the complainant remain and so they are able to pursue the complaint through other means.

Do you have any examples of where an Ombudsman has supported your defence? We’re always interested to talk through the decision making process on these!

Also, if you’re interested in automating maintenance to free up time for your property managers and save money for your landlords, you can book a demo of the Help me Fix video triage service here.