The Property Ombudsman scheme is increasing its fees in January for the first time in six years - and it’s implementing a ‘fair usage’ policy to ensure that those who generate the most complaints pay the most for membership.
In a statement released over the weekend TPO says that since 2014, enquiries and complaints to The Property Ombudsman have risen by 73 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. As a result the scheme’s running costs and developing a strategy for investment and improvement combine to force an increased in charges.
The basic fee will increase from £195 to £225, however, discounts will be available to organisations either based on continued membership of Propertymark, as is the case now, or by size*.
“TPO is a not-for-profit Ombudsman scheme, therefore the revised fee structure is based on Ombudsman principles of fairness, effectiveness, openness and transparency, rather than profit-making principles. We understand that agents’ costs have been stretched over the last few years, so increasing fees is not a decision which has been taken lightly but is absolutely necessary to ensure a properly resourced scheme is in place” explains Property Ombudsman finance and performance committee chair Gerry Fitzjohn.
TPO’s ‘fair usage’ policy will in future enable up to three Ombudsman supported complaints per branch, per renewal year.
Branches which generate more than three Ombudsman-supported complaints will pay more towards the cost of the scheme. There will be no additional charge for cases which are not supported, or those which end at early resolution.
“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 per cent 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. We understand that some agents may say that they have never had a complaint brought against them, but redress is mandatory and it is common practice for Ombudsman schemes to levy a basic subscription fee” explains Fitzjohn.
TPO says it will continues to offer members discounted tickets to its annual conference, buy-one-get-one-free training packages, as well as access to technical workshops, assured advice and toolkits specifically designed for TPO members.
And it says the new fee structure will reflect the true cost of dealing with complaints and in future, annual reviews will take into account inflation to avoid significant periodic increases.