The Property Ombudsman scheme
What does The Property Ombudsman do?
The Property Ombudsman provides a free, fair and independent service for dealing with unresolved disputes
between PCCB registered firms and consumers. The Ombudsman is a member of the British and Irish Ombudsman
Association and follows the standards and rules of the Association. The Ombudsman is totally independent
and reports directly to the TPO Council, which has a majority of non-industry members.
What has a registered firm agreed to do?
A registered firm is required to have Professional Indemnity insurance to ensure that any compensation
awarded to you can be paid.
A registered firm is required to have an in-house complaints system with written procedures; inform you
how to refer any unresolved dispute to the Ombudsman; and co-operate with any investigation by the Ombudsman.
A registered firm agrees to pay compensation, in full and final settlement of a complaint, if this is
awarded by the Ombudsman and is accepted by you as the complainant. This award must be paid promptly.
The maximum that the Ombudsman can award is £5,000.
In the rare case that a registered firm fails repeatedly to follow the rules of the scheme,
the firm can be subject to a range of disciplinary sanctions imposed by the PCCB
What are the principles that a PCCB registered firm should follow?
Search Code subscribers will:
Display the Code logo prominently on their search reports.
Act with integrity and carry out work with due skill, care and diligence.
At all times maintain adequate and appropriate insurance to protect consumers.
Conduct business in an honest, fair and professional manner.
Handle complaints speedily and fairly.
Ensure that all search services comply with the law, registration rules and standards.
Monitor their compliance with the Code.
What happens if you have a complaint?
You must first refer your complaint to the registered firm/agent who will instigate their internal complaints procedure.
At the end of this process, if you remain dissatisfied, the complaint can be referred to TPO.
When the registered firm has completed their in-house process, they should inform you in writing of the outcome/final decision by
issuing a 'final viewpoint letter. If you remain dissatisfied, you have six months from the date of the letter to
refer the complaint to TPO at the address given at the end of this guide.
If the registered firm persistently ignores or fails to address your complaint within a reasonable time,
you should refer your complaint to the Ombudsman and we will assist you to progress your complaint.
If the registered firm has been dealing with your complaint for 40 days or more, and it remains unresolved,
then you may take it directly to the Ombudsman.
Within 14 working days of receiving all the information and follow-up comments from you and the company,
the adjudicator will publish his or her decision. That decision and the reasons for it will be set out in a document.
The decision is not binding on you, but it is binding on the company if you accept it.
What complaints can the Ombudsman consider?
Your complaint may be considered by the Ombudsman, if you believe that the registered firm has:
infringed your legal rights; or
failed to follow the rules and obligations set for the firm under the HIP or Search Code of Practice; or
treated you unfairly; or
been guilty of maladministration (including inefficiency or undue delay);
in a way that results in you losing money or suffering avoidable aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience.
What complaints cannot be dealt with by the Ombudsman?
Broadly speaking, the Ombudsman cannot deal with your complaint if:
Your complaint is not against a registered firm.
Your complaint is being, or has been, dealt with by a Court or similar body.
Your complaint refers to something that happened before the registered firm was registered with
PCCB or more than 12 months before you complained in writing to the registered firm.
You refer your complaint to the Ombudsman more than three months after the date of the registered firm’s viewpoint letter.
What will the Ombudsman do?
The Ombudsman can consider complaints about a registered firm from consumers. The Ombudsman's office will send you a complaints
form with guidance on how you may present your side of the case to the Ombudsman. At the same time you will receive full information
about how the Ombudsman will try to resolve the dispute between you and the registered firm or, if this is unsuccessful, how he will
reach a fair and reasonable decision.
You can accept or reject the Ombudsman's final decision. If you accept his award of financial compensation, you do so in full and final
settlement of your dispute with the registered firm. If you reject his final decision, it and the award will lapse, and you are free
to do as you wish, including taking legal action against the firm. Your legal rights will not have been affected by the Ombudsman's decision.
Any request for an oral hearing will be considered by the Ombudsman (or his appointed deputy) by reference to the nature of the issues
to be determined and in particular the extent to which the complaint raises issues of credibility or contested facts that cannot be
fairly determined by reference to documentary evidence and written submissions. In deciding whether there should be a hearing and,
if so, whether it should be in public or private, the Ombudsman will have regard to the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Ombudsman will give reasons in writing, if he declines to grant a hearing.
The TPO is accessible to everyone who has a complaint concerning the service provided by registered firms that fall within the Ombudsman's remit. If you have a particular need in the way in which we communicate with you, please tell us and we will do our best to help, depending on your needs.
If you are dissatisfied with the way in which we have handled your complaint, you should bring your concerns to the attention of the Ombudsman. If you remain dissatisfied, you may at the end of the process raise your concerns with the Independent Reviewer. His remit is to consider complaints about our service and not about the merits of the Ombudsman's decision. Full details of the Independent Reviewer's remit can be found on our website or requested from the office.
If you need any more information or assistance you should contact:
The Property Ombudsman
43-55 Milford Street,
Telephone: 01722 333306
Facsimile: 01722 332296
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