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Ombudsman Services withdraws from complaints handling in property sector

Announces plans calling for the creation of single housing ombudsman

keys with house on background

Ombudsman Services (OS) has today announced that it will withdraw from complaints handling in the property sector.

The not-for-profit organisation, which is the largest multi-sector Ombudsman in the UK, says it will work with charities, consumer groups, property professionals and the public on a report calling for the creation of single housing ombudsman.

It’s planning to submit the report to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) in the spring.

In the meantime, OS will begin a managed withdrawal from the current schemes it operates for surveyors, managing agents, estate agents and letting agents by 6 August 2018.

Why is OS doing this?

The OS has said it does not want to continue to add to the complex landscape in housing redress.

Commenting on the announcement, chief ombudsman, Lewis Shand Smith, said: ‘Redress in the housing sector is a really confusing picture for all involved.

‘The patchwork of alternative dispute resolution and ombudsman schemes is a mystery to consumers and therefore is incredibly difficult for them to navigate.

‘Rather than continue to offer a broken solution to a broken market, we are stepping away to listen to what consumers actually want.’

Man on phone making complaint

What if you’ve started a complaint or need to make one?

OS will continue at complaints for the property sector as they normally would. So, if you have a complaint and it hasn’t been resolved by the property firm, you can still use the OS services to take your complaint forward.

OS only considers complaints about property companies that have joined its service – you can check the full list of property companies on its website.

Before you can use the OS service, you must tell the company about your problem and follow its complaints procedure. The firm or company then has up to eight weeks to resolve your problem before you can contact the OS.

The OS will be accepting complaints and resolving cases that it receives up until 6 August 2018. After this time it will continue to run its helpline and ensure any complaints are directed to the right place.

The Property Ombudsman (TPO), which is separate to the OS, is accepting with and dealing with complaints about TPO members as usual.

New ombudsman model planned

OS says it envisages a model similar to that outlined by secretary of state Sajid Javid in his speech to the National House Building Council last November.

The proposed model would echo those which are currently used in the finance and energy sectors and contain a regulator supported by a single ombudsman, and a strong advice and advocacy service for consumers.

To ensure that the new model addresses issues currently faced by consumers, OS wants to consult with the public about the shape of the service.

It would like to understand key ‘pain points’ for renters, tenants and home-buyers and model potential demand.

Further details of the dialogue will be announced in March.

People looking at properties

What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman is an independent service that can help you deal with an unresolved complaint you might have with an organisation.

You need to fully pursue the internal complaints process of the company you’re in dispute with before you take a complaint to the ombudsman.

If the company refuses to do what you ask to sort out the problem, you should ask for a ‘letter of deadlock’ to show you’ve done all you can to resolve your complaint.

Different ombudsmen have different procedures – some may ask you to fill out a complaint form, while for others you need only write a letter outlining your problem.

Visit our guide for more advice on how to take a complaint to the ombudsman.

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