1 Know your agent
This guide covers complaints to estate agents, letting agents and managing agents.
Managing agents act as the manager of communal facilities of a residential block, usually leasehold or share of freehold, on behalf of the freeholder.
Estate agents sell property, usually chosen by and paid for by the seller of the property, by marketing it to potential buyers.
Letting agents arrange the renting of a property on behalf of the property's owner, usually chosen by and paid for by the property owner, and market it to potential tenants.
Sometimes, letting agents also manage the individual property for the owner, acting between tenant and landlord for the duration of the contract.
Read on to find out what to do if you have a problem with a property agent.
2 Complain directly to the agent
As always, you should speak first to the agent directly raising any concerns you may have with them in the first instance.
You should always give the agent a chance to put things right before escalating your complaint.
Be mindful that the agent might not be able to resolve your complaint immediately so it's worth establishing how long they think it could take.
If you're unhappy with the way your agent is dealing with your complaint, you should make a formal complaint and go through the agent's internal complaints procedure.
3 Escalate your complaint
Letting agents and management agents
From 1 October 2014, all letting and property management agents are required to be a member of one of three compulsory redress schemes.
The schemes are designed to ensure tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward option to hold their agents to account.
The three compulsory schemes for letting and managing agents are:
Ombudsman Services Property
The Ombudsman Services Property was discontinued in August 2018.
If your agent was a member of this scheme, it must join an alternative scheme.
The schemes will offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees or poor service.
The majority of letting agents are already signed up with one of the three organisations but the remaining 3,000 agents - 40% of the entire industry - must have signed up by 1 October 2014.
You can check with the different schemes to see if your letting agent is a member. If they are not, you have grounds to complain to your local trading standards department.
However, each local authority has the power to decide whether they apply a 'grace' period or not.
And remember, ombudsmen will not usually deal with a complaint until you've exhausted your agents' own internal complaints procedure, and have been unable to reach a satisfactory resolution.
Estate agents must also belong to an ombudsman scheme so that complaints about them can be dealt with quickly and easily.
This became mandatory in 2007 by virtue of the Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.
You can use our template letter to ask the Property Ombudsman to intervene in your dispute.
4 Complain to a trade association
If you're unhappy with the service or the treatment you've received from your estate agent, members of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) are bound by strict rules.
Check the NAEA website to see if your estate agent is a member.
The NAEA can take disciplinary action on your behalf if your agent hasn't protected and promoted your interests.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) is the UK's professional body for letting agents.
If you have a complaint against an ARLA member, they can investigate this matter for you.
The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) is a trade association for residential property management agents.
This usually applies to leasehold property where the agent manages the whole building on behalf of the freeholder - whereas letting agents may manage individual flats within the building on behalf of individual owners.
All ARMA members must offer access to an independent ombudsman scheme where unresolved disputes can be addressed.
Check the ARMA website to see if your managing agent is a member.
If they are, ARMA can ensure that complaints are handled well by their members, but if your complaint remains unresolved, then you can take the matter to the ombudsman.
See the ARMA guide on how to make a complaint about one of its members for more information.
5 Renting Roulette campaign
Which? conducted research and produced a Renting Roulette report in 2012.
The report found that a significant number of tenants and landlords were experiencing issues with their property agent and many did not have a route to redress.
At the time, 40% of the market was not signed up to a redress scheme.
Which? lobbied hard in 2013 and sought an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which the government accepted.
This has resulted in the new legislation coming into force requiring all agents to sign up to a redress scheme.