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Ombudsman Services: Property withdraw from property sector

Monday 30 July 2018

Following an announcement earlier in the year, Ombudsman Services: Property will cease to provide dispute resolution for the property sector from next week.

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) is now issuing a warning to agents that they must be signed up to a valid redress service by 6 August 2018.

From next month, Ombudsman Services: Property will no longer provide a consumer dispute resolution service to the property sector, and as such, any agent using the scheme will have to switch to an authorised redress provider as soon as possible.

It is a legal requirement for estate and letting agents to belong to an independent  government approved redress scheme in order to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disputes with members of the public. The only government backed redress schemes are:

James Munro from the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team said: “Estate agents don’t need to leave it to the last minute to switch – contact either the Property Redress Scheme or The Property Ombudsman today to make the arrangements and ensure that you can continue to trade legally after 6 August. Many estate agents have already switched and any agents who do not switch can expect to be targeted for enforcement action by National Trading Standards.”

The withdrawal of Ombudsman Services follows the launch of a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation earlier this year looking at how all aspects of the housing sector - new-builds, agencies and lettings - could be integrated into just one Ombudsman scheme.

Commenting on the decision, Chief Ombudsman from Ombudsman Services, Lewis Shand Smith, said that a “patchwork” of schemes in the housing sector makes it difficult for ordinary people to navigate, and presents a “really confusing picture” when it comes to getting redress. As such, he said that it made sense to step away rather than to continue to offer a “broken solution to a broken market”.

Mr Smith added that Ombudsman Services fully supports the need for a single ombudsman for housing and that: “Housing is one of the biggest issues we face as a nation and a fair, balanced, redress system will make sure that it serves the whole of society. We want to work to develop a model that works for everyone.”

As a side-note, for any Propertymark Protected agents offering consumer-facing surveying services outside of residential agency, you may use the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) but you are not required to directly register your firm with them. However if you are unclear about what to do next, or if you have any queries about your membership requirements please contact the Membership Team on 01926 496800.