When working with a letting agent, you’ll want to know their credentials stack up and that they practice what they preach in terms of protecting their customers and providing the best possible service they can.
This is where redress schemes and protection services come in handy – helping to rubberstamp an agency’s reputation as a professional, legitimate, compliant and customer-led company.
What is a redress scheme?
All estate agents dealing with residential properties in the UK and all letting agents and property managers in England and Wales must join a redress scheme. These organisations act as the mediator in disputes between an agent and a customer if the customer makes a complaint about the service they’ve received which can’t be resolved amicably between the two parties.
Consumers can make a complaint to the redress scheme, where – depending on the nature of the complaint – further action may be taken.
There are currently two government-approved redress schemes – The Property Ombudsman and The Property Redress Scheme. Those agents who don’t join a redress scheme risk a fine of up to £5,000 and the prospect of having their license revoked.
At Angels Sales & Lettings, we are members of The Property Ombudsman and The Property Ombudsman Lettings schemes, providing our clients with reassurance that they have a means to seek redress if necessary.
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme is a not-for-profit independent firm which has been providing consumers and property agents with an alternative dispute resolution service since 1990.
It’s important to remember that TPO provides redress, not regulation. It’s not, in other words, a regulatory body with the power to take legal or regulatory action against an agent, impose fines or dictate the way agents conduct their business.
It does, though, provide a free, impartial and independent redress service in relation to disputes between consumers and property agencies.
While turning to a redress scheme to resolve disputes is always a last resort, sadly there are sometimes circumstances where it’s necessary. But this is where an independent third party can step in to deal with things in a fair, completely unbiased manner.
Government plans overhaul of complaints system
The government recently announced that private landlords, for the first time ever, will be legally compelled to join a housing redress scheme, while Housing Secretary James Brokenshire also unveiled proposals for a Housing Complaints Resolution Service – which will provide a single point of contact for tenants and homeowners seeking redress.
This, as well as other measures such as the creation of a New Build Ombudsman (to specifically handle complaints about new-builds), forms part of the government’s wide-ranging plans to transform the complaints system for housing and property.
There have previously been calls for a single ombudsman for the whole housing and property sector to make things less confusing and complex for all parties, with a whole host of advice groups, trade bodies, charities and services currently involved in the property redress system.
For the time being, though, it’s only mandatory for agents to be part of an official redress scheme, but we’ll know more once the Redress Reform Working Group – which is being established to improve the complaints process across the housing market – returns with its suggestions for improvements.
The importance of protecting deposits
When it comes to private lettings, deposits are a crucial part of the process. And, equally, so is protecting these deposits in the appropriate way.
Landlords (or letting agents acting on their behalf) must place a tenant’s deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme if the property has been rented out as an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007. It must be placed in the scheme within 30 days of a landlord or letting agent receiving it.
This ensures that tenants get their deposit back if they don’t damage the property, pay the rent and bills they owe and meet the terms of their tenancy agreement throughout.
There are three government-backed schemes operating in England and Wales – the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme - with separate schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
All the schemes offer two options – either a ‘custodial’ scheme or an ‘insured’ one. In the former case, the scheme holds the deposit for free. In the latter case, the landlord or agent keeps the deposit and pays the scheme to insure it.
At Angels Sales & Lettings we are part of the Deposit Protection Service, which works to keep money safe for letting agents, landlords and tenants. It has been operating for well over 10 years, with its free custodial scheme on offer since 2007 and its insured scheme on offer since 2012. In that time it has protected over 5 million deposits and repaid more than £3 billion to tenants and landlords.
We understand the importance of compliance and being on top of all new regulation and legislation, aiming to provide a first-class service to clients in Enfield and across the whole of London.
We employ a customer-led ethos based on the core values of organisation, integrity, communication and adaptability, and also seek to combine the best of traditional agency with forward-thinking digital tech to improve the various services we offer.
For more information about the services we offer, please get in contact with us on: 0800 043 6678.
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