Trading Standards has warned agents that they must switch to a valid redress service. Agents who do not do so by 6 August will leave customers unable to access free alternative dispute resolution services. And, as such, they will be trading illegally.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) “protects consumers and businesses by enforcing the Estate Agents Act. The team leads investigations, provides advice and guidance and builds expertise in the application and interpretation of estate agency legislation with a view to sharing this with colleagues across the enforcement community”.
In just three weeks, Ombudsman Services – one of the three current official redress schemes – will no longer be providing a consumer complaint provision to the sector. As such, any agent using that scheme will have to move to one that is, and NTSEAT is advising estate agents to do so as soon as possible.
Issuing a message to the industry, NTSEAT said:
“Estate agents don’t need to leave it to the last minute to switch – contact either the Property Redress Scheme or The Property Ombudsman today to make the arrangements and ensure that you can continue to trade legally after 6 August.”
“Many estate agents have already switched and any agents who do not switch can expect to be targeted for enforcement action by National Trading Standards.”
Approved redress schemes are the Property Redress Scheme and The Property Ombudsman.
The announcement that Ombudsman Services was to withdraw from property happened earlier this year. Commenting on the decision, chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said that a “patchwork” of schemes in the housing sector makes it difficult for ordinary people to navigate, and presents a “really confusing picture” when it comes to getting redress.
As such, he said that it made sense to step away rather than to continue to offer a “broken solution to a broken market”.
Mr Smith added that Ombudsman Services fully supports the need for a single ombudsman for housing and that: “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.”