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Estate agent complaints hit record high

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  • 16/03/2011
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The property ombudsman has said that the number of complaints against estate agents was “unacceptably high” last year after reaching record levels.

The ombudsman, Christopher Hamer said that he dealt with 1,338 new cases last year – the highest level recorded since the scheme was set up 20 years ago and 28% above the previous peak in 2008, reported the Daily Mail.

He blamed the rise on an increase in disputes involving property sales, with 646 complaints made against estate agents and 672 against letting agents.

Hamer added that the remaining disputes related to home information packs and management of residential leasehold.

The single biggest cause of complaint was a communication failure between the agent and the consumer, which was cited in 214 disputes, followed by the way an agent had handled a complaint in 163 disputes.

Despite the record level of complaints, Hamer said that the Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice was having an affect on the industry.

He said: “The growing impact of the TPO Code of Practice is further borne out by my average award to compensate complainants for the agent’s actions for sales in 2010 being £258 when in 2007 it was £547, an indicator that the gravity of complaints is diminished.”

Hamer also called for the government to introduce better protection for tenants and landlords against rogue letting agents, as letting agents do not belong to the ombudsman scheme.

“Many agents conduct their business by following the code of practice but there are still too many who are operating without that commitment to standards and without any external controls over what they do with client money.”

He added: “While the Code of Practice is not intended to be a substitute for formal regulation it would at least mean all letting agents would follow a comprehensive set of standards designed to protect the consumer.”

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