The Property Ombudsman has issued its annual report for 2017 and there’s good news for the estate agency side of the industry - formal complaints resolved by TPO regarding sales issues showed a 16 per cent drop on the 2016 figure.
The actual number of complaints received by the Ombudsman, Katrine Sporle, increased by three per cent to 3,658 but there were around twice as many about lettings agents than sales agents.
Overall TPO made financial awards to consumers in 2,408 instances which totalled £1.36m, an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year - and again mostly because of a rise on the lettings side of the industry.
In addition to the level of complaints, the report reveals there was a 68 per cent increase in consumer enquiries following the introduction of an ‘open all hours‘ online service with Yomdel. This generated 6,458 online chats which in turn led to 946 new complaints being received.
TPO’s customer service team helped 14,671 people with their enquiries, either by signposting them to the right organisation or giving immediate advice on how to raise complaints direct with their service provider.
Specifically on the sales side, of the 1,09 formal complaints resolved (reflecting that 16 per cent drop) almost two thirds were supported by TPO.
The top causes of complaints were communication and record keeping; marketing and advertising; instructions, terms of business, commission and termination; and then in-house complaint handling.
Some 60 per cent of complaints were made by sellers while 34 per cent were made by buyers; the average sales compensation award was a (perhaps rather modest) £532.
The regions with the highest volume of complaints were the South East (23 per cent) and Greater London (14 per cent) following by North West and South West (both 10 per cent).
“With 38,272 offices and departments now following our Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute, I think it is encouraging that complaints have risen by just three per cent and that 10 per cent fewer agents had to be referred to our Disciplinary and Standards Committee” says Sporle.
TPO is one of at least two redress organisations visibly competing to become the single Ombudsman service for the entire housing sector, as requested by government last year. A final decision on the issue is expected later this year.