The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has released its annual report for 2018, showing a 16% rise in the number of complaints made against estate and letting agents last year.
TPO also reveals that for the first time the value of awards paid by agents eclipsed £2 million in 2018. The £2.17 million awards total dwarfs the £1.36 million paid out by agents last year and has more than doubled since 2016.
Last year, TPO received a record number of enquiries (29,023), up 22% on the previous year.
Some 4,246 of these went on to be formal complaints, 2,782 of which were supported by the Ombudsman and 2,381 of which required a financial award to be paid to the consumer.
In the sales market, 1,465 complaints were resolved, with 58% of cases supported by TPO. Some 60% of complaints were received from sellers and 34% from buyers.
The highest proportion of sales complaints were recorded in South East England (16%) and Greater London (11%).
The total sales award for 2018 was £518,981, with £25,000 being the largest award paid by a sales agent. The average sales award made by TPO in 2018 was £608.
The top causes of sales complaints were communication and record keeping, marketing and advertising, instructions, terms of business, commission and termination and complaint handling.
Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle says that the rise in complaints does not necessarily mean that agents' standards are slipping.
"Consumers are increasingly aware of their rights, particularly off the back of the government's consultation into strengthening redress in the housing market, and subsequent media publicity on the future of consumer protection and driving out poor practice in the industry."
"Overall, 2018 represented a year of growth and improvement and as we look ahead to 2019, I'm confident that TPO will continue to raise standards, update our Sales and Lettings
Codes of Practice to reflect new legislation and meet whatever challenges the industry faces," she says.
*Graham Norwood is on annual leave, returning Wednesday May 15. Conor Shilling will be undertaking editorial duties in his absence. Please direct all press enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.