Housing

Independence, knowledge and experience add up to support you can trust

After years of public demand from property agent customers for a redress scheme that they could access, in 1990 an independent, ‘not for profit’ ombudsman was founded. The Ombudsman for Estate Agents – later known as The Property Ombudsman (TPO) – was born

Early steps

Founded as a voluntary scheme, TPO needed to work hard to promote the benefits of membership of an organisation that could highlight a member’s bad practice. So the focus fell on making sure that TPO became part of the property landscape – providing guidance for consumers and best practice for property agents. 

With each new case, new information emerged on issues within the property sector. With each new issue, valuable lessons were learnt by the new organisation. Before long, TPO became an integral part of the property sector, providing independent information for the industry and showing property agents that ombudsman scheme membership can provide consumers with an additional layer of support.

With the initial success of TPO, it became apparent that consumers faced a two-tiered system of customer protection. As consumers look for a property rather than who markets it, consumers soon faced a ‘postcode lottery’ of customer service quality depending on the property agents involved.

While TPO could collect information on cases involving members there was little information on what was happening to those using other agencies, which resulted in the mainstream media unfairly labelling them ‘rogue agents’. These factors led the government to consider whether all property agents should be made to join a redress scheme.

First estate agents…

As the new millennium dawned, TPO’s Annual Reports began to show a large increase in complaints against non-TPO members. This eventually led to the Housing Act 2004 – introducing for the first time a statutory requirement for estate agents to belong to an Ombudsman scheme for certain elements of their service. 

Following successful lobbying for new legislation in 2007, not only was the need for estate agents to join a redress scheme made mandatory but it also saw the creation of a new criteria for approving redress schemes.

The mandatory requirement for estate agents to join a scheme helped ensure all consumers had access to redress and by the end of the decade 95 per cent of estate agents chose to sign up with TPO.

…then letting and managing agents

TPO also began to see an increasing number of lettings related complaints made against non-members. As many agencies offered a variety of services, usually from the same office, in 2004 TPO took the decision to broaden its jurisdiction to offer letting and management dispute resolution to help close the redress gap.

With this substantial growth in the private rented sector making the redress gap ever more apparent, legislation was introduced for letting and managing agents to join a redress scheme by 2014, again seeing the creation of a new criteria for approving appropriate redress schemes, of which TPO was approved to do.

Creating competition

With the introduction of criteria for approving mandatory redress schemes, government departments believed that competition would help reduce costs for agencies and so, in order to encourage more redress schemes to join the market, the bar for approval requirements was set lower than required to be an Ombudsman. 

However, this created a three-tier system, with the Ombudsman, other redress schemes and Alternative Dispute Resolution providers. For TPO, being an Ombudsman means it not only resolves complaints but also provides consumers with advice and guidance relating to problems with agencies while using its knowledge and complaints data to help drive improvements in the sector.

The future

The property sector is going through an exciting period of change, and the introduction of further legislation and regulation to the industry means TPO must evolve and adapt to the world around it.

Thanks to the organisation’s institutional knowledge, the hard work and dedication of its staff, and TPO’s well-deserved reputation for independence, trust, and competence, the organisation can look forward to another 30 years of providing excellent customer protection and membership benefits.

To find out more visit tpos.co.uk

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