Complaints about letting and estate agents rose by 3% to over 3,500, according to The Property Ombudsman’s (TPO) 2017 annual report. Financial awards jumped by 11% to £1.36 million over the year.
TPO is one of two ombudsman services providing redress for consumers in disputes with property agents. Its recently released annual report revealed that there were twice as many complaints made against letting agents than sales agents.
Over 2,200 complaints against letting agents were resolved in 2017, an increase of 11% for the year. Nearly seven out of ten were supported by TPO. The top causes of complaints were management, communication, record keeping, tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits. The average award was £625.
In the sales sector, complaints dropped by 16% over the year to just under 1,100. Six out of ten complaints were supported by the ombudsman, with the average pay-out being £532. Most complaints were about communication, record keeping, marketing and advertising.
The Ombudsman says that its customer service team helped nearly 15,000 people with enquiries over the year. It credits the 68% increase in enquiries to the introduction of its open-all-hours online service. Around 6,500 online chats led to nearly 950 new complaints being received.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “Our primary focus has always been on providing expert advice and quality outcomes. Our early advice plays a key role in empowering consumers by equipping them with information, so they can try and resolve the issue directly with their agent.”
James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions agrees that early intervention is essential. “Agents should have decent complaint handling procedures in place as a badly handled complaint could easily lead to a TPO referral or even a professional negligence claim. Insurers do look at both claims and complaints, and those with negative correlations will find it harder to secure competitive professional indemnity insurance.”
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