FAQs about Ombudsman Services withdrawing from the property sector
On 6 February 2018 we announced that we will withdraw from handling complaints in the property sector. Read the press release here. Below is some additional information to help participating companies and consumers who may have questions about the announcement.
For Participating Companies
Q. What does this mean for my firm – what do I have to do?
A. This means that nothing will change in terms of Ombudsman Services: Property (OS:P) providing your firm with an independent redress provider immediately. OS will continue to operate OS:P as it does now, accepting consumer complaints and resolving cases, until 6 August 2018. OS will also continue to operate an Enquiries function until the end of 2018 to assist consumers and firms in terms of signposting of complaints. However, ahead of 6 August 2018 your firm will need to pick another approved redress provider in the housing sector to use after 6 August 2018.
Q. How do I contact the other two redress schemes?
A. The contact details are:
The Property Ombudsman Services Limited
43-55 Milford Street
Tel: 01722 333306
The Property Redress Scheme
42 Lytton Road
Tel: 0333 321 9418
Q. My firm has paid its annual subscription – how do we claim half a year back?
A. You are quite right. If your firm has paid an annual subscription to OS then OS will refund back half of your annual subscription. If you provide us with your details then we will arrange for this to be done via our Finance Team. If your firm, as part of its membership of OS:P, is required to pay OS an annual subscription but has not yet done so, then you will only need to pay for the six months that OS:P will handle complaints for 2018- so that will be half the annual subscription cost. The fact that OS will be operating an Enquiries function until the end of 2018 will be done as a goodwill gesture from OS to help ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements that your firm will make.
Q. Why are you doing this – you are adding to the confusion?
A. The decision was not taken lightly. However, OS thinks it is the right thing to do. We are not prepared to continue to add to the complex landscape in housing in terms of redress as we currently do by operating OS:P. OS has long supported the policy position of having in a sector a strong regulator or regulatory model, with a single ombudsman, and clear consumer advocacy. OS operates within this model in the energy sector. We know this model works well in terms of raising standards of businesses operating in the sector and providing good consumer protection. This is the model that also works in the financial services sector and the legal sector.
Q. What does this mean?
A. The government has recently recognised that the property sector needs a similar approach to what works well in other sectors like the energy and financial sectors and we want to help the Government and the sector in terms of doing things differently and helping to work through what a single ombudsman in housing might look like. OS wants to play its part in trying to make the sector work better for both consumers and the businesses that operate in the sector in the long term. OS will be announcing a major dialogue with consumers and businesses to understand how they can be served better.
Our findings will be shared with government in the spring as part of its own consultation into the sector.
Q. How will you make sure this is a smooth process?
A. OS will work with you and your firm to ensure that this is a smooth and professional transition. We will accept cases up to 6 August 2018 and then for any consumer contacts after 6 August 2018 we will ensure the consumer is transferred to the correct point – that may be to your firm or the new independent redress provider that you will be using after 6 August 2018. OS will continue to run the Enquiries function for OS:P for the rest of 2018 to assist with this smooth transition. Clearly, you will need to make changes to your complaint handling procedure and details, such as who you independent redress provider will be after 6 August 2018.
Q. Are the other redress schemes approved like OS:P?
A. Like OS:P both The Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Scheme are approved to cover complaints in estate agency and lettings.
Q. I have seen the news about OS:P, what will happen to my complaint/who should I make my complaint to?
A. Don’t worry. We will still be looking at you complaint as we normally would/or if you have a complaint and it hasn’t been resolved by the firm in question then you can still use our services to take you complaint forward.
Q. This is all very confusing.
A. Please don’t worry. You can still make your complaint to OS:P in the normal way. We will be accepting complaints and resolving all cases that we receive up until 6 August 2018. After that date we will continue to run our helpline and will make sure that any complaints go to the right place.