The property ombudsman was set up in 1990. Its aim is to provide a free, impartial and independent service. This is for estate agents and their customers.
Estate agents, as members must adhere to the codes of practice set out by the scheme. This means that staff of a member agency are trained to develop knowledge of the codes of practice. As a result, they provide a high standard of customer care.
The ombudsman scheme is government approved. They are not allowed to get involved in an estate agent’s business. Nor are they able to create regulations or take legal action. But, it can hear customer complaints against an estate agent. It can also make mandatory awards of up to £25,000 for loss, distress, aggravation and/or inconvenience.
Consumers should use an agency with a property ombudsman membership. They can be assured that any complaints are dealt with by an independent authority. As well as hearing complaints, the ombudsman website also offers guides and informative articles. They are about property purchase and letting.
If you have a case for complaint, you must first put that complaint in writing to the estate agent in question. There is a template of this letter on the ombudsman website. If the agent ignores your correspondence. Or, you have waited a period of 8 weeks and the matter is still not settled. Or, you have the agent’s final viewpoint letter, but you still aren’t satisfied. Then you can put the matter into the hands of the ombudsman.
To do this you will need the following documents:
- Signed agency agreement or terms of business
- All paperwork regarding your complaint
- Commission invoice
- Notes taken when discussing the matter face to face or over the phone
If the complaint is about lettings you may need other documents. This could include a schedule of costs or estimates. As well as invoices, receipts and photographs if possible.
The ombudsman will then send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your complaint. They will give you an approximate time scale as to when you should hear back from them with a decision. If it is decided that your complaint is to be upheld the agency will be contacted. They then have 14 days to accept the findings or to appeal.
If the estate agent accepts your complaint, you will then be awarded damages. Normally the amount of an award is a fair and realistic sum. The upper limit is rarely awarded.
If you do not agree with the ombudsman, you can then take the matter to the courts. This makes any decision made by the ombudsman void. Any comments they have made will not be taken into consideration.