Complaints to the UK Property Ombudsman up 16% last year

Complaints to the Property Ombudsman increased by 16% in 2018 and more than £2million is returned to consumers in compensatory awards, the latest annual figures show.

Overall there was a record number of enquiries in 2018 at 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 2,782 complaints, of which 2,381 required a financial award to be paid and for the first time, compensatory awards paid by agents to consumers reached in excess of £2 million at £2.17 million, a total which has more than doubled since 2016.

The Property Ombudsman dealt with 2,450 complaints relating to lettings, 1,304 relating to sales and 349 for residential leasehold management. The average awards were £845, £604 and £497 respectively.

The Ombudsman’s annual report also shows that the top cause of both sales and lettings complaints relate to communication and record keeping with the highest concentration of complaints coming from London and the South East.

The report also includes eight example case summaries of complaints received by TPO last year along with the outcome, as well as statistics relating to the minority of cases (0.1%) where agents were referred to TPO’s Compliance Committee for possible expulsion from the scheme for non-compliance. Some 97% of agents paid the Ombudsman’s award to the complainant.

In the lettings sector some 66% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman and 54% of complaints were made by landlords, while 42% were made by tenants. The average lettings award was £845 and for the third year running, the regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London at 20%, the South East at 17% and the North West at 11%.

The top causes of complaints were communication and record keeping, followed by management, tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits and finally complaint handling.

In the sales sector 58% of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman and 60% of complaints were made by sellers, while 34% were made by buyers. The average sales award was £608.

The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East at 16%, Greater London at 11% and the North West at 9%. The top causes of complaints were communication and record keeping, followed by marketing and advertising, instructions/terms of business/commission/termination and then complaint handling.

‘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,’ said Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman.

‘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,’ she pointed out.

‘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,’ she added.

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