Estate agent complaints rise


Estate agent complaints rise
The number of complaints made about estate agents to the industry's regulator increased by 41 per cent last year, new figures show.

Buyers and sellers made a total of 8,472 complaints to the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) in 2006, the watchdog revealed today.

Of those 586 cases were referred for formal review or resolution by the ombudsman, an increase of 18 per cent on 2005.

The number of cases where the regulator ruled in favour of the complainant also increased by 61 per cent.

Ombudsman Christopher Hamer said that while the figure was lower than it had been three years ago, it was still too high given that consumers making complaints had already been through agents' internal grievance procedures.

"Agents should be following the standards laid down in the code of practice so that complaints are not necessary, he said.

Nonetheless Mr Hamer stressed that the number of complaints made about estate agents still remained relatively low given the level of property sales made each year.

"When viewed against the number of house sale transactions in a year, frequently quoted at 1.2 million, the number is still thankfully small," said the ombudsman.

The rise in complaints also coincided with a rise in the number of estate agents registered under the ombudsman's complaints scheme, with the number of offices incorporated up 52 per cent to a new high of 7,666.

Mr Hamer also reminded estate agents in England and Wales that they would need to be registered with an approved redress scheme ahead of the forthcoming introduction of home information packs (Hips).

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) has described the introduction of the packs as "total chaos" after communities secretary Ruth Kelly was forced to postpone the implementation of the new scheme.

A shortage of accredited energy surveyors who will be responsible for assessing the energy performance of properties on the market as part of an initiative to be rolled out in conjunction with Hips was responsible for the delay.

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