Two of the three government-approved property redress schemes have made announcements in recent days.
The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPO) has revised its Codes of Practice and the Property Redress Scheme (PRS) has confirmed that it is has been approved to offer alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
From October 1 2014 it became a mandatory requirement that all landlords’ letting agents joined one of three redress schemes approved by the government.
The redress schemes provide landlords and tenants with access to an independent complaints procedure should they fell unsatisfied with the way a complaint has been handled by their agent.
TPO confirmed last week that in order to support the introduction of new legislation that has come into force in the past twelve months it has amended and updated versions of all its Codes of Practice for UK and Scotland.
Among the codes revised are Residential Letting Agents and Residential Letting Agents (Scotland).
“The decision was taken to carry out a full review of the codes to reflect continuing market developments and the obligations now placed on agents by various pieces of legislation that have been enacted, such as the Consumer Rights Act. Changes under the Deregulation Act have also been integrated into the new set of codes,” says Christopher Hamer, the Property Ombudsman.
“The first Code of Practice was enforced in 1990, albeit in a rather shorter form than today. During that 25 year period, the property industry has developed tremendously. As the market changes, we continue to provide as much up to date information as possible through our guidance documents and website to support both members and consumers,” he adds.
Meanwhile the PRS is now able to offer ADR to consumers after it was approved by the Chartered Trading Stands Institute and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team.
As well as having to be a member of a redress schemes, letting agents are now required to signpost their consumers who are unhappy with their service to an authorised ADR provider.
Although the agent is not required to actually engage in the authorised ADR providers’ resolution process, the aim of the new rules is to push ADR up the agenda as an alternative to the parties going to court.
If an agent does not signpost their consumers to an authorised ADR provider then they can be subject to fines of up to £5,000 by trading standards.
In practice, ADR means that disputes between agents and consumers can be looked at in different ways after any attempts at resolving the issue through the trader’s complaints process have failed.
“I strongly believe that ADR provides a quicker and more satisfactory resolution to disputes by engaging the parties and getting to the core of the issues in dispute,” says Sean Hooker, PRS’ head of redress.