Estate and lettings agents complaints up by a fifth

15 April 2014

Complaints about estate and lettings agents jumped by 23% in 2013 compared to the previous year.

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) – which runs a voluntary redress scheme – received 16,000 enquiries to do with disputes in 2013, of which 60% concerned problems with letting agents.

While the number of complaints enquiries to do with letting agents rose by 22% to 10,179 compared to 8,334 in 2012, the 2013 figure had doubled since 2009 (5,551).

In 2013, the enquiries that resulted in a formal review by TPO were mostly to do with a breakdown in communication between the agent and the landlord or tenant (13%).

Poor complaints handling accounted for 11%, while trouble with deposits (8%), repair and maintenance (8%) and check in/out and inventories (7%) followed closely behind.

Enquiries relating to letting agents that had not signed up to the voluntary code of conduct and redress scheme overseen by the TPO increased by 34.2% between 2012 and 2013.

Legislation reforms

Ombudsman Christopher Hamer said he expects even more complaints about lettings agents in 2014.

He said: "2013 was a significant year for many reasons, with industry consultations, legislation changes and regulatory reforms, including the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act receiving Royal Assent, which will make it a legal requirement for all letting agents to register with a redress scheme."

"With 10,000 letting agents already voluntarily registered with TPO by the end of 2013, 60% of the cases I reviewed resulted from landlord and tenant complaints, and I expect we will see even more in 2014 in light of the changes."

While the Act makes some progress in protecting landlords and tenants from rogue letting agents in England  and will make them all sign up to one of three redress schemes later this year  it stops short of fully regulating the sector. TPO is calling for further legislation and a consistent approach across the UK.

Meanwhile, complaint enquiries to do with estate agents were up 25% year-on-year in 2013. Poor communication, failures in the duty of care and fees accounted for the lion's share of complaints.

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