The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has released its 2019 annual report reflecting continued demand from consumers for dispute resolution services.
The report revealed that TPO received 30,356 enquiries in 2019, up only 4% on 2018. Of these, 5,106 went on to be formal complaints, a rise of 20%.
Despite a significant increase in complaints, compensatory awards paid by agents to consumers only rose by 1.4% to a total of £2.20m. TPO said this is an “effective barometer” for the sector that progress is being made with agents complying with the TPO Codes of Practice.
TPO also dealt with 2,518 complaints relating to lettings, 1,669 relating to sales and 780 for residential leasehold management. The biggest awards were £17,644, £20,200 and £21,439 respectively, and the average awards were £635, £742 and £273 respectively.
Management was the top cause of lettings complaints last year, but communication and record keeping remained as the top cause of sales complaints. The manner in which agents dealt with complaints was again in the top three causes of complaints for lettings, sales and residential leasehold management.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “2019 was another busy year for TPO. Complaints ascended year on year again and we also saw the complexities of cases increase, particularly in the residential leasehold management field.
“As always, I’m proud that the team rose to the challenge of rising complaint numbers. Our Customer Services team responded to a record number of people, over 30,000 initial enquiries raised, with nearly 10,000 of those received through our 24/7 online chat service, a 7% increase on 2018.”
She added: “Just over 25,000 enquiries that did not go on to become formal complaints saw TPO effectively assist consumers in other ways, whether that be signposting them to the correct place or person or giving advice and guidance to promote a local resolution between them and the agent.
“In order to further enhance consumer experience, TPO has translated its work in the initial enquiry stage into a self-diagnostic tool. Still in its piloting phase, we hope to promote the online tool this year.”