Complaints against estate agents on the up

02 May 2003
Complaints against the estate agent industry climbed to record levels in 2002, according to the government watchdog.

The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) in its annual report noted that more than 6,000 buyers and sellers made official complaints last year, signifying a 16.2 per cent rise year-on-year.

Many customers were dissatisfied with the lack of clarity about commission fees, or the financial evaluation of a purchaser's ability to buy property, it said.

The OEA said of the 6,462 complaints in 2002, 583 were fully investigated by the ombudsman.

The OEA said it had to reject over 60 per cent of complaints because many firms had yet to sign up to the voluntary scheme.

Complainants have other routes to express themselves, if the OEA cannot deal with cases. The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also have internal complaints procedures.

But the only means of redress against estate agents outside these schemes is to seek legal action by taking individual action, the OEA noted.

The ombudsman produced a new code of practice governing the sector which came into affect on 1 April last month. The Office of Fair Trading is due to report on the estate agent industry this summer.