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Ombudsman services and redress schemes

Consumer redress schemes are government authorised services that offer landlords and tenants the opportunity to escalate complaints which they feel have not been sufficiently dealt with by their letting agent. They also offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees. Where a complaint is upheld tenants could receive compensation.

Prior to 1 October 2014 membership in the UK was optional with approximately 60% of letting agents subscribing to a scheme. Tenants should seek to rent through letting agents that offer the greatest protection with such memberships as opposed to those with the cheapest fees. Letting agents usually display window stickers with the ombudsman service logo, but you should check their validity by visiting the relevant website.

the role of the ombudsman

In this article
• A general overview of government approved ombudsman services
• Benefits of redress schemes for tenants
• How to make a complaint using an ombudsman

Introduction
Consumer redress schemes are government authorised services that offer landlords and tenants the opportunity to escalate complaints which they feel have not been sufficiently dealt with by their letting agent. They also offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees. Where a complaint is upheld tenants could receive compensation.

Prior to 1 October 2014 membership in the UK was optional with approximately 60% of letting agents subscribing to a scheme. Tenants should seek to rent through letting agents that offer the greatest protection with such memberships as opposed to those with the cheapest fees. Letting agents usually display window stickers with the ombudsman service logo, but you should check their validity by visiting the relevant website.

Government approved ombudsman services
The three authorised schemes are The Property Ombudsman (TPO), Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme. Their role is to make fair, impartial and unbiased decisions in relation to complaints that are received. As alternative dispute resolution services, they all have a common goal to improve tenant/landlord relationships.
It is important to note that it is possible to contact each of the redress schemes prior to making an official complaint in order to ascertain whether your case falls within their jurisdiction. The ombudsman services are also open to having an informal discussion about your problem and can advise you whether they may be able to help.
Be aware that if the problem with your letting agent or landlord is the subject of a court case then the ombudsman services will not be able to offer intervention.

1. The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
Contact the TPO if you have already tried to resolve a dispute directly with the letting agent or through a letting agent association and not had a satisfactory response.

Under the TPO scheme letting agents are obliged to:
• Follow a Code of Practice
• Possess professional indemnity insurance and pay compensation if awarded to customers
• Run an in-house complaints system
• Give you details about the ombudsman service and cooperate with any TPO investigation

2. Ombudsman Services – Property
The Ombudsman Services has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading as an estate agent redress scheme and tenants will not be charged for their intervention in resolving a dispute. Common complaints include:
• an apparent breach of obligations
• unfair treatment
• avoidable delays
• failure to follow proper procedures
• rudeness or discourtesy
• not explaining matters
• poor or incompetent service

3. The Property Redress Scheme (PRS)
Designed to resolve consumer complaints against property professionals, the PRS encourages tenants and letting agents to resolve complaints directly in the first instance. If this is not possible then the PRS ombudsman will make a binding decision on how to resolve the complaint. Their aim is to “actively assist in, and contribute to, raising standards in the industry by highlighting best practice and promoting it, and by identifying poor behaviour and helping to eliminate it.”

Where to go for help
See our related articles or use the following links for more information on each service: http://www.tpos.co.uk/
http://www.ombudsman-services.org/property.html
http://www.theprs.co.uk/

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Disclaimer: This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our Rights and responsibilities category.

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