The Property Ombudsman

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The Property Ombudsman Scheme
Generic TPO Logo.JPG
Formation Operational:1990

Underpinned by Statute: Estate Agency:
December 21, 2007 (2007-12-21)[1]

Letting Agency and Property Management Agents:
October 1, 2004 (2004-10-01)[2]
Type Ombudsman
Headquarters Salisbury
Location
  • United Kingdom
The Property Ombudsman
Katrine Sporle CBE
Website www.tpos.co.uk

The Property Ombudsman scheme

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme is an ombudsman in the United Kingdom. It has been providing consumers and property agents with an alternative dispute resolution service since 1990.[3][4]

The scheme was underpinned by statue in 2007 (estate agents) and 2014 (letting and managing agents) and approved by the UK government to help consumers settle their disputes with property businesses such as estate agents, letting agents and property management agents.[5][6]

Overview

The Property Ombudsman scheme can look at complaints made by consumers against agents registered with the scheme. This may include complaints about poor or incompetent service, including for example: communication and record keeping, marketing and advertising, complaints handling, instructions, terms of business, commission and termination, fees, referencing and inventories.[7]

Before the Ombudsman can look at a complaint against a property business, the consumer must first give the business the opportunity to consider the complaint and attempt to resolve matters. If the business completes its complaints procedure or eight weeks have passed since the initial complaint was made to them, the consumer can take their complaint to the Ombudsman.[8]

Processes

The Ombudsman reaches a decision on complaints based on the evidence presented, legal principles, the relevant TPO Code of Practice[9] and what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

Where a property business does not subscribe to a TPO Code of Practice, the Ombudsman will make a decision based on best practice, legal principles and what is fair and reasonable.[10]

Funding

The Property Ombudsman is a not-for-profit ombudsman scheme, funded through membership and case fees. The income pays for the administration and functioning of the scheme.[11] This model allows TPO to provide a free service to consumers, at no cost to the UK taxpayer.

Impartiality

The Property Ombudsman publishes an annual report which outlines the proportion of total cases supported. In 2017, 62% of sales cases and 67% of lettings cases were supported in favour of consumers.[12]

The Ombudsman is approved by Government,[13] Trading Standards,[14] the Chartered Trading Standards Institute[15] and the Ombudsman Association[16] as an impartial, unbiased and independent body, though decisions will inevitably be criticised by those parties who have lost.[17]

Status of Ombudsman decisions

In 2017, TPO received 23,841 enquiries, with the enquiries team helping 14.671 people with their enquiries.[18][19][20][21][22] An Ombudsman decision was made on 3,658 complaints and awards being made on 2,408 complaints totaling £1.36m.[23][24][25][26][27]

85% of all complaints received by TPO resolved at an earlier stage before an Ombudsman decision was required.[28] The Ombudsman’s decision is the final stage of The Property Ombudsman’s process.[29] If the consumer accepts the Ombudsman’s proposed decision then this becomes a final decision and will be in full and final settlement of the dispute.[30] Should the consumer not accept the proposed decision they have the choice to make a representation or choose to reject the decision.[31] If the consumer does not accept the Ombudsman’s decision their legal rights are not affected and are free to pursue the complaint through the courts.[32]

Accountability

The Property Ombudsman’s Board[33] has four main roles:

  • Appoint the Ombudsman
  • Set the Terms of Reference for the Property Ombudsman Scheme
  • Ensure the Ombudsman’s independence
  • Approve the Ombudsman’s budget

The Property Ombudsman has an independent reviewer who can consider complaints regarding the service provided by TPO. Claire Evans is the current independent reviewer; the independent reviewer for TPO provides the same role to the Legal Ombudsman.[34][35]

Satisfaction surveys are conducted for both consumers and property agents; these are conducted on a regular on-going basis and focus on two main factors: Service and Decision/Resolution Satisfaction. [36]

Ombudsman

  • David Quayle, 1990 – 1999
  • Stephen Car-Smith, 1999 - 2006
  • Christopher Hamer, 2006 - 2015
  • Katrine Sporle, 2015–present

Governance structure

In 2018 TPO changed its governance structure from a separate council and board to a unitary board.[37] [38] The unitary board is chaired by Baroness Diana Warwick who was previously chair of the TPO council.[39]

Approvals

The Property Ombudsman has a number of different approvals it needs to report to either annually or bi-annually.[40][41][42][43][44] These are:

National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) Estate Agents OFT Approval of estate agents redress schemes (April 2008)
National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) Estate Agents The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Letting and Management Agents The Redress Scheme for Lettings Agency work and Property Management, Conditions for approval - Final December 2013.
Chartered Trading Standards Institute All Jurisdictions (excluding estate agents) The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015
Ombudsman Association All jurisdictions Ombudsman Association Rules
Chartered Trading Standards Institute Codes of Practice (Estate and Letting Agents) Consumer Codes Approval Scheme – Core Criteria and Guidance


References

  1. ^ [1] at legislation.gov.uk
  2. ^ [2] at legislation.gov.uk
  3. ^ "Companies House - Free Company Information".
  4. ^ "TPOS - About us page".
  5. ^ "Which? - How to complain about your property agent".
  6. ^ "TPOS - Consumer Frequently Asked Questions".
  7. ^ "TPOS - Annual Report 2017" (PDF).
  8. ^ "Citizens Advice - Complaining about your letting agent".
  9. ^ "TPOS - Codes of Practice".
  10. ^ "TPOS - Frequently Asked Questions".
  11. ^ "TPOS - About us page".
  12. ^ "TPOS - Annual Report 2017" (PDF).
  13. ^ "GOV.UK - Estate Agency Redress Schemes".
  14. ^ "NTSEAT - Consumer Information".
  15. ^ "CTSI - ADR Approvals".
  16. ^ "Ombudsman Association - Member Approvals".
  17. ^ "TPOS - Google Reviews".
  18. ^ "Property Industry Eye - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Property Industry Eye. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Inside Conveyancing - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Inside Conveyancing. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  20. ^ "Letting Agent Today - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". 17 May 2018. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Estate Agent Today - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Estate Agent Today. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Property 118 - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Property 118. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  23. ^ "The Mirror - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". The Mirror. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  24. ^ "The Negotiator - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". The Negotiator. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  25. ^ "Prime Resi - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Prime Resi. 17 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Property Industry Eye - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Property Industry Eye. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Property 118 - TPOS 2017 Annual Report Overview". Property 118. 17 May 2018.
  28. ^ "TPOS - 2017 Annual Report" (PDF).
  29. ^ "TPOS - Consumer Guide" (PDF).
  30. ^ "TPOS - Consumer Guide" (PDF).
  31. ^ "TPOS - Consumer Guide" (PDF).
  32. ^ "TPOS - Frequently Asked Questions".
  33. ^ "TPOS - Unitary Board".
  34. ^ "The Negotiator -TPOS Annual Report 2015" (PDF). The Negotiator.
  35. ^ "Legal Ombudsman Annual Report 2016" (PDF).
  36. ^ "TPOS - Annual Report 2017" (PDF).
  37. ^ "Property Industry Eye - The Property Ombudsman alters complaints process to speed up disputes". Property Industry Eye. 5 September 2018.
  38. ^ "Estate Agent Today - TPO announces key changes as membership nears 20,000". Estate Agent Today. 6 September 2018.
  39. ^ "TPOS - Press Release". The Property Ombudsman Scheme. 5 September 2018.
  40. ^ "Department for Communities and Local Government - The Redress Schemes for Lettings Agency work and Property Management Work Conditions for Approval - Final" (PDF).
  41. ^ "Office of Fair Trading - OFT approval of estate agents redress schemes Criteria - final April 2008" (PDF).
  42. ^ "Statutory Instruments - The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015".
  43. ^ "Chartered Trading Standards Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme Core criteria and guidance" (PDF).
  44. ^ "Ombudsman Association - Rules of the Association".
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