The Property Redress Schemes were set up to provide an independent Ombudsman service for landlords and tenants to use if they are unhappy with the service provided by their letting agent.
Although they have been around since 2014 I spoke to a landlord the other day who had never heard of them. So here is a bit of information.
Who provides the service?
There are three schemes:
- The Property Ombudsman
- The Property Redress Scheme, and
- The Ombudsman Services (Property).
However, the Ombudsman Service has recently withdrawn from the scheme and is no longer open to new members (although it continues to provide a service for existing members).
Who needs to join
At the moment it is only letting agents who need to join a scheme – if they are not a member they are trading illegally and can be fined £5,000.
However, the Property Redress Scheme also accepts members who are involved in the private rented sector in some other capacity such as inventory clerks, removal companies and the like (my Landlord Law Services company is a member).
What can the schemes do?
If you are unhappy about your letting agents service, as an alternative to taking them to court, you can also complain to their scheme who will adjudicate and attempt to resolve the problem.
If this is not possible, they will make a finding and, if the finding is against the agent (or their member if not a letting agent) they can make an award of up to £25,000. Although not all their awards are financial – they can also order the agent to make an apology or explanation to the complainant or do some other act to mitigate any detriment.
So, if you are unhappy about YOUR agent what do you do?
What to do if you have a complaint
- First, you need to have already made a complaint to your agent about the issue. None of the schemes will accept your complaint if you have not tried to resolve it directly with the agent first.
- If your complaint is not resolved, you need to find out who your agents’ Property Redress Scheme are. This should be fairly easy as letting agents are required to state this on their headed paper, website, emails etc.
- If it appears that your agents are not a member of a Redress Scheme then they are breaking the law and you should report them to your local Trading Standards Office.
- Otherwise, go to the Scheme website. You should find there, details of the scheme and what you need to do to make a complaint.
These are the websites:
What if you are unhappy with the Scheme decision?
You can still go to Court. For example, the landlord, in this case, took her claim to the County Court after it was rejected by the agent’ss Redress Scheme and won.
What if the letting agent fails to pay the reward?
Agents are given a period of time to comply with the award. If they fail to do so then they will be expelled from the scheme. This is pretty serious as none of the other scheme’s will accept them as a member until they have complied with the award.
And if they are not a member of a scheme they are trading illegally.
There are occasionally problems where ‘rogue agents’ fail to pay awards and the complainants are left out of pocket. However, this is not the fault of the schemes as their job is to consider the complaint and make a decision – not to enforce it.
That is the job of Local Authority Trading Standards Offices.
However, most agents will comply as they will not want to be trading illegally.
The government has recently announced that it is reviewing the complaints system generally. Proposals include requiring landlords to be a member of a scheme and having just a single ombudsman who operates cross the sector.
No decisions have been made yet. But watch this space!