The Property Ombudsman has this week released his latest, interim report detailing complaints made by the public about estate and lettings agents.

Compared to figures for the first four months of this year, the staistics are disappointing for the industry.

With High Street estate agents fees at a high, being pushed ever upwards to cope with soaring premises and staff costs, the consumer is certainly not just financially worse off but is being short changed in respect of service levels too.

Overall enquiries from the public to the Ombudsman were UP 19% at 4914 during May, June, July and August. That’s a pretty significant number considering that there are less than 20,000 estate and letting agency branches in the UK.

Of these initial approaches, of course many complaints do not progress. A handful are withdrawn, some are outside of the Ombudsman’s terms of reference and, tellingly, 18% of issues raised were against agents that had not chosen to be bound by the voluntary scheme.

The nitty gritty is that in the most recent four months there were 288 cases upheld by the scheme and finding for the complainant. That’s UP TEN PERCENT on the January to April figure.

Standards within this industry have always been shoddy. A lack of knowledge and accountability are the reasons for that and these are why we strongly support the case for licensing of estate agents. All estate agents online estate agents included.

There needs to be a professional standard that acts as an obstacle to those that run fast and loose with home buyers and sellers, their money and their stress levels. Given the enormity of the value of a house transaction these days, the ridiculous fees charged by High Street estate agents in return and the protracted length of time that the current conveyancing process dictates, it is vital that estate agency firms and their employees are regulated properly for the benefit of a consumer that may dip their toe into the home moving process, by sale or rental, just a few times in their lives.

Markets should be free and the ethos ‘let the buyer beware’ should ideally previal, I admit. But caveat emptor is an unfair stance to take when you’re pitting ruthless sales people, unchained from much accountability or enforced standard, against an unsuspecting and, sadly, all too trusting public with precious little historic experience of this industry with which to counter the sloppiness and the underhandidness that so exists.

Growing complaints to the Property Ombudsman prove, surely, that Government must now step in and not just a self-regulated profit making alternative from the dusty corridors of the National Association of Estate Agents, an entity that unlike the Ombudsman has no mandate or authority to even compensate the public for a member’s wrong doing.

Financial services, door-step selling, clamping, pyramid selling schemes and so on, all have proper oversight. So why not a property industry that so consistently and clearly fails to improve its standards by way of self regulation and where the consumer has far more to lose?

eMoov.co.uk have been members of the Property Ombudsman Scheme since formation.

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