The Property Ombudsman handled more than 4,200 complaints about property professionals last year, 16% more than the year before.

Enquiries to The Property Ombudsman hit a record high in 2018, and consumers have been handed almost £2.2m after making formal complaints about property agents.

The service, which is one of three ombudsmen that handles property-related disputes, received 29,023 enquiries during the year, 22% more than in the previous 12 months.

Out of these enquiries, 4,246 progressed to become formal complaints, 16% more than in 2017.

Two-thirds of these complaints were upheld by the ombudsman, with property agents ordered to make a financial award in nearly 2,400 of the cases.

In a small minority of instances, agents were referred to the ombudsman’s Compliance Committee for possible expulsion from the scheme.

Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “2018 was an extremely busy year for The Property Ombudsman with increasing demand for the service.”

However, she added: “This does not necessarily mean that agents’ standards are slipping, but rather that consumers are increasingly aware of their rights.”

Why is this happening?

The boom in complaints was driven by dissatisfied landlords and tenants, with issues relating to lettings accounting for 2,450 of the total complaints handled.

A further 1,304 complaints related to sales, while 349 were about residential leasehold management.

The rental sector also accounted for the largest financial awards, with compensation averaging £845, compared with £604 for issues relating to sales and £497 for ones about leasehold management.

Who does it affect?

Within the letting sector, landlords were most likely to be dissatisfied with the service they received from property professionals, with 54% of complaints made by landlords and 42% made by tenants.

For the third year running, Greater London accounted for the highest volume of complaints at 20%, followed by the south east at 17% and the north west at 11%.

People were most likely to complain about communication and record keeping, with management, tenancy agreements and inventories and deposits also common areas of grievance.

On the sales side, 60% of complaints were made by people selling a property, with 34% made by those buying one.

Record keeping was the most common cause of complaint in this area as well, followed by marketing and advertising, and instructions, terms of business, commission or termination.

The south east saw the highest number of complaints against estate agents, accounting for 16% of the total, followed by Greater London and the north west at 11% and 9% respectively.

What’s the background?

The Government recently ran a consultation on creating a single ombudsman services for the property market.

The sector is unusual in that it has three different ombudsman schemes, not all of which cover all aspects of buying or renting a home.

Other ideas floated include setting up a New Homes Ombudsman who will handle disputes between homebuyers and housebuilders.

In August last year, the Ombudsman Service, which also handled property disputes withdrew its services, after saying it no longer wanted to offer a “broken solution to a broken market”.

Top 3 takeaways

  • Consumers were handed nearly £2.2m in compensation in 2018 after making formal complaints about property professionals

  • The service received 29,023 enquiries during the year, 22% more than in the previous 12 months

  • Out of these enquiries, 4,246 went on to become formal complaints, 16% more than in 2017.