The advantages of having more information in advance became clear in the latest annual report from the Property Ombudsman (TPO), which again highlights “communication and records” and “marketing and advertising” as the main causes of relocation complaints.
There was also a significant increase in inquiries in 2020, with a record 39,285 inquiries, 29% more than in 2019. Most were resolved upon initial contact through effective advice, guidance and signage, with 5,122 inquiries from TPO being accepted as complaints.
One case highlighted in the report describes a scenario where a buyer paid a £ 1,000 reservation fee to secure the property after a tour of the market.
On a second visit after paying the reservation fee, they found that the soil at the back of the property was damp and there was a ditch behind the garden fence. This was only behind the property and not the neighboring property.
The buyer spoke to a neighbor who told him that there was a flood in 2007 that severely damaged the original property. They learned that the flood came in from the road and was carried back into the ditch. The buyer also learned that a builder had informed the neighbor that the property had to be reinforced due to the water damage and that it would therefore be cheaper to demolish it and build two new semi-detached houses in its place. So there were now two lots, numbers 19 and 19a.
After discovering these problems with the home, the buyer decided that it would be best to withdraw their offer and seek a refund of their reservation fee. The broker denied his request and the buyer complained about misleading information about the property.
In total, TPO processed 1,656 related sales and donated 1.9 million euros to consumers in 2020.
- 65% of the complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
- 68% of complaints came from sellers and 30% from buyers
- The main reasons for complaints were: (1) communication and records, (2) instructions / terms and conditions / commissioning / termination, (3) marketing and advertising, (4) handling of complaints
Rebecca Marsh, Real Estate Ombudsman commented
“2020 was a year like no other for all companies and everyone had to react quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic. TPO was effectively converted from an office-based service to a remote work operation without any loss of service. I am very proud of the entire team who performed well while facing the challenges of global events.
Our customer service team responded to another record number of consumer inquiries with an ever-increasing number of people choosing to contact us through TPO’s complaints portal launched in February 2020. The pandemic is not over yet so it will be interesting to see if this trend continues or adjusts as we slowly return to normal.
TPO helped over 34,000 unacceptable cases by directing them to organizations that could help or providing advice and guidance to promote a local resolution between them and the agent. Providing a front-end inquiry service is one of the unique functions of an ombudsman. Its importance in helping consumers in such a complex sector, whether or not their issues fall within the remit of TPO, should not be underestimated, as simple guidance and advice can often help prevent disputes in the first place.
Demand numbers in 2021 are already showing another year-over-year increase, and we expect this to continue as the impact of the pandemic on people’s relationships with their homes continues to play out. “
The full annual report is available on the website and in PDF, and all case summaries are available on the TPO website.