The Property Redress Scheme - one of the three government-approved redress schemes handling complaints about sales and lettings agents - has reported a significant rise in complaints registered in 2017.
The PRS annual report shows a 61 per cent rise in formal complaint notifications: these are mostly concerned with fees and charges, general communication, poor service and complaint handling, as well as rent collection as part of the wider increase in disputes received.
Complaints about client money rose 41 per cent from 2016, according to this year’s report.
The PRS redress scheme has 6,787 offices signed up - 39 per cent handling sales, 71 per cent handling lettings and 72 per cent handling property management.
Compensation payments ordered by the PRS were relatively rare: there were just two with compensation up to £99, 35 with payments between £100 and £499, some 14 between £500 and £999, just 13 between £1,000 and £2,999 and 11 with compensation above £3,000.
Over the course of 2017 some 14 letting agents and 13 management agencies were expelled from the scheme.
During the course of the year the scheme introduced a new complaint handling process.
“We now talk directly to a majority of the participants in a complaint, providing a recommended solution to their dispute in the first instance, followed by a proposed formal decision, with the opportunity for a review and final decision if a fundamental flaw in the decision is discovered” says PRS Head of Redress Sean Hooker.
“This has led to a dramatic increase in the early resolution of cases - saving everyone time and money and leading to more satisfactory outcomes. Of course we still have work to do as we are aware that, when disputes occur, any wait seems too long and, whilst we are proud of standards and delivery, we know that the parties in a complaint become more stressed the longer they wait for resolution” he adds.
The government has recently concluded a formal consultation on the creation of a new redress system for customers of agents and others in the property industry.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that dissatisfied owners and tenants should have a clearer version of redress for their grievances and it is thought that later this year he will announced a single Ombdustman covering the whole of the market, including sales and lettings agencies, new build homes and possibly even landlords.