Wed, 18 Mar 09
The Ombudsman for Estate Agents has reported an increase in complaints against agents despite a drop in activity in the housing market.
Complaints rose by 20% over the year, with the OEA receiving 1,043 new cases during 2008, split between 743 covering sales and 300 for lettings.
In around two thirds of cases the complaint was upheld, with most compensation awards being between £100 and £499 and totalling £385,000 over the year. Of the compensation awards made 18 were for more than £3,000.
The Ombudsman Christopher Hamer said: “I am surprised that my workload in sales disputes has not reduced. Perhaps it shows that buyers and sellers have still higher expectations of agents' service whilst there are so few properties being sold."
Hamer said that despite the increased use of the service too many people are still confused regarding his role.
Many people mistakenly believe he is the regulator of estate agents, while his main function is to resolve disputes between agents and consumers.
He estimates that the rise in the residential market due to the stagnant housing sales market will mean that lettings disputes will become a major area of activity during 2009.
The Ombudsman also revealed that in 2008 he made the highest ever award to a complainant in the 20 year history of the scheme, with the estate agent involved ordered to pay out £23,880 after conflicting advice had been given by staff and the agent had failed to act in the best interests of the client or negotiate effectively.
Of the total, Mr. Hamer awarded £1,000 to cover the distress, aggravation and inconvenience suffered by the complainant – the rest was an award to recompense for identifiable financial loss. The maximum award he can make under scheme rules is £25,000.
Home.co.uk works closely with the OEA to help raise public awareness and lists all member agencies.
By Joe Lepper
See Also – UK Estate Agency Directory
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