The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has warned estate agents that they “should not ignore” ongoing issues in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
TPO has instead issued guidelines on how businesses should handle issues that arise during the restrictions around coronavirus and reminds agents that redress scheme membership must continue.
The advice covers staying in contact with clients, vendors, buyers, landlords, and tenants, which it says is still “essential”. It advises:
- Where consumers raise issues, they should be dealt with as normal wherever possible.
- Where issues cannot be dealt with, it is important to manage expectations and communicate why in clear terms. This will help consumers to understand the restrictions placed on you and avoid complaints being escalated to the Ombudsman or the Courts.
- If it is an issue that cannot be addressed until the lockdown has ended, communicate this very clearly to your client.
- Be aware that consumers will know if they are customers on your books (i.e. instructed sales, tenants/buyers looking for properties), or you are marketing properties (on websites or portals), – and will be expecting a response to any concerns raised.
It has also warned that agents must still be registered for redress, which is a legal requirement, and businesses must maintain their membership if they are continuing any work. There are three categories of mandatory redress requirement:
- Estate agency work – introducing a buyer to a seller (or vice versa) and the work done to secure the disposal or acquisition of the land in question.
- Letting agency work – the introduction by an agent of a tenant to a property, or the introduction by an agent of a landlord to a tenant
- Property management work – an agent acting on behalf of a landlord to manage a property being let to a tenant
- If a business stops trading, they will no longer need to be a member of a redress scheme.
- If a business suspends operations, but has customers on its books, or is marketing properties or is collecting rent from tenants, or managing property on behalf of a landlord, they must remain a member of a redress scheme.