For a significant period of time, using an ombudsman has been a successful way of resolving complaints with a property firm without having to go to court.
However, the Ombudsman Services (OS) announced yesterday that it is withdrawing from complaints handling in the property sector.
Instead, it will be launching a dialogue with consumers in an attempt to tackle what it described as an ‘imbalance in power’ in the housing sector.
A managed withdrawal from existing schemes the OS has for surveyors, managing agents, estate agents and letting agents will begin by 6th August 2018.
OS imagines a similar model to that currently used in the Finance and Energy sectors which is an effective regulator supported by a single ombudsman and a strong advice and advocacy service for consumers.
The not-for-profit organisation operates in the communications and energy sectors as well and is one of several services which clear disputes in the property sector, including the Property Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman Service.
OS wants to speak with the public about the shape of the service to understand the key issues for renters, tenants and homebuyers to ensure the new model addresses issues currently faced by consumers.
“Redress in the housing sector is a really confusing picture for all involved. The patchwork of ADR and ombudsman schemes is a mystery to consumers and therefore is incredibly difficult for them to navigate,” said OS’s chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith.
“We are ceasing what we’re currently doing in the housing sector in a professional and planned way, because we believe it is not adding value. Rather than continue to offer a broken solution to a broken market, we are stepping away to listen to what consumers actually want.
“There are models in other sectors that work far better – for instance the single ombudsman model in financial services and the scheme we operate in energy which handles around 40,000 complaints every year.
“We fully support Sajid Javid regarding the need for a single ombudsman for housing – only then will the housing sector be able to restore trust and ensure that consumers get a much better standard of service.
“Housing is one of the biggest issues we face as a nation and a fair, balanced, redress system will make sure that it serves the whole of society. We want to work to develop a model that works for everyone.”