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Guide to the Property Ombudsman – and what they can do for you

We all know that buying or selling a property can be a challenging experience and your frustrations can be made worse if you’ve also received poor service from an estate agent.

As experts in their field, estate agents are relied upon to guide the purchase of a property to a successful completion and offer fair and honest advice to allow you to make well informed decisions.

Throughout the sale, estate agents should always treat all parties fairly, though it is important to remember estate agents are instructed by the seller, so are required to act in their best interest at all times.

Now, as someone with experience in the property industry, I strongly believe the majority of estate agents are professional, decent and hardworking people who genuinely aim to deliver the best possible service.

However, as with all professions, there are those who can tarnish the reputation of others working in the industry when they haven’t considered the best interests of their client, or the duty they have to fulfil their own promises and obligations.

So, in the unfortunate event you’d like to complain about the service you’ve received from an estate agent, what can do you?

Established in 1990, The Property Ombudsman exists to help resolve your complaint and see the matter through to a final resolution.

You can submit your complaint directly to The Property Ombudsman for consideration, though in order for it to be reviewed, either of the following must apply –

  • You have raised your complaint directly to the agent and have received a final viewpoint letter – but remain unhappy

  • If eight weeks have passed since you first complained to the agent and the issue remains unresolved

Your complaint can’t be raised with The Property Ombudsman if more than 12 months has passed since you received a final viewpoint letter from the agent. In exceptional circumstances, and if you have evidence to support why, they may grant a review of your complaint outside of their standard timeframe.

Your complaint will be considered if it falls into one of their qualifying categories below –

  • You have received poor or incompetent service

  • There has been an infringement of your legal rights

  • The agent has failed to follow the rules set for estate agents under the Code of Practice and membership obligations

Your complaint will not be considered in the following circumstances –

  • If the agent is not registered with The Property Ombudsman

  • Your complaint is being, or has been, dealt with by a court

  • Your complaint is outside their timescales

  • Your complaint occured before the agent was registered with The Property Ombudsman

As mentioned above, the Ombudsman cannot consider your complaint if the agent is not a registered member. However, all estate agents are required by law to be a member of a government approved redress scheme and The Property Ombudsman remains the most popular by far.

What happens once I’ve raised my complaint with the Ombudsman?

You will receive written confirmation that your complaint form has been received.

The Ombudsman will advise whether your complaint has been accepted for review within 15 working days of it being submitted.

You can contact the Ombudsman if you’ve not received a response and the 15 days has elapsed.

If your complaint is accepted, the Ombudsman will write to the agent involved, enclosing a copy of your complaint form. They will request a copy of the agent’s file as well as a statement giving them the opportunity to describe their version of events.

Once the documentation has been submitted by both yourself and the agent, the case is then allocated and assessed by an adjudicator who will present a recommendation to the Ombudsman when making their decision.

How is my complaint assessed?

When assessing your complaint, the evidence provided by all parties will determine if the agent acted fairly and in line with the Ombudsman’s strict code of practice.

The Ombudsman will also apply best practice and common sense when making their recommendation and the final decision is always made by the Ombudsman.

What if my complaint is upheld?

If your complaint is upheld, the Ombudsman will write to you to confirm the outcome and the details of any awards, if appropriate.

If you’re awarded compensation, you accept it on the understanding it is a full and final settlement of any complaints you have raised against that agent with The Property Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman will write to the agent and request they pay you due compensation within 28 days.

It’s important to know that the Ombudsman cannot force the agent to comply with their decision or pay any compensation.

However, the agent could risk being expelled from the scheme if they fail to fulfil their obligations – and agents who are not members of a redress scheme cannot continue to operate.

What if my complaint is not upheld?

If your complaint is not upheld, you can’t appeal against the decision as you would have already had the opportunity to present your case when submitting your initial evidence .

However, you do have the option of taking the case to court if you’re unsatisfied with the Ombudsman’s final decision and want to explore further options to resolve the issue.

The Property Ombudsman has a great self assessment tool on their website which will help you determine whether your complaint is likely to be considered or not. You can access their self assessment tool here.

You can view the estate agents Code of Practice here.

Have you had to raise a complaint with The Property Ombudsman before?

Share your experience in the comment below or get in touch to be featured in a new article!

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Categories:buyer, buying, first time buyer, for sale, guide, selling, tips

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