The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has increased its fees for members by 15% from 1 January 2020 and has announced larger rises for the agents which attract the most complaints.
The Ombudsman says it is responding to the increased cost of running the service due to higher levels of complaints. Since 2014, complaints to TPO have risen by 40% and enquiries by 73%.
The basic membership fees will rise from £195 to £225 in the New Year – the first rise for six years. Larger members and those who are members of Propertymark will benefit from discounts but those who attract the highest number of complaints will be hit with greater increases.
The Ombudsman has introduced a ‘fair usage’ policy. The basic fee will cover up to three ‘supported’ claims a year per branch. Members who attract more complaints will pay extra charges. A supported claim is one where the Ombudsman agrees with the customer and makes an award against the member.
There will be no additional charges for complaints which reach an early resolution or are not supported by the Ombudsman.
Gerry Fitzjohn TPO Chair of the Finance & Performance Committee, said: “We believe that by introducing fair usage, agents will pay to use the scheme proportionately. In reality, current complaint figures show that this will only impact 0.23% of our single branch members, but we hope it will act as incentive to drive better service to consumers and encourage agents to resolve complaints at an earlier stage.”
TPO is the largest of the two redress services covering the estate agency market. Around 16,000 sales offices and 15,000 letting offices are members. It is a not-for-profit body and can make awards of up to £25,000 for serious complaints.
“Being a member of a redress schemes is mandatory for estate agents, so they will have little choice but to accept these fee increases,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “Firms which attract few complaints will see relatively modest increases, but those with a poor track record of supported claims will pay more next year. The key for agents is to have effective policies in place so that they can respond to and resolve complaints at an early stage.”
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