There was a 61% rise in formal complaints to the private rented sector’s Property Redress Scheme in 2017 compared with a 40% rise in the previous year.
The annual report from the PRS also shows that more letting and managing agents are joining the scheme with member ship up 38% year on year.
There has been an increase in various types of complaints including fees and charges, general communication, poor service and complaint handling, as well as rent collection. No one specific issue stood out.
Overall, 15% of disputes included issues concerning the service received from the property professional and the way in which an initial complaint was handled. Some 12% related to a member breaching their duty of care and the same amount to fees and charges that were applied and to the management of the tenancy or relationship, while 11% were about holding deposits.
The increase in complaints is a sign that the sector is more accountable, according to head of redress Sean Hooker. ‘Our membership continues to grow at an astonishing rate but it is the increase in complaint numbers which shows the value we are providing to the property industry,’ he said.
He explained that the main purpose of the PRS is to settle or resolve complaints made by consumers where the members’ internal complaints procedure has been exhausted and with changes in the industry, the PRS offers the stability desired by many within the sector.
The report, which is available on the PRS’s website, also lists members who have been expelled from the scheme due to non-compliance with a decision made by the head of redress and failing to adhere to its terms of reference.
Hooker pointed out that there is further change coming to the sector with the introduction of increased powers to impose banning orders on agents as well as a the recently launched rogue agent and landlord database. There will also be major changes to HMO licensing requirements and the banning of letting agent fees.
He also pointed out that there has been a dramatic increase in the early resolution of cases, saving everyone time and money and leading to more satisfactory outcomes. ‘Of course we still have work to do as we are aware that, when disputes occur, any wait seems too long and, whilst we are proud of standards and delivery, we know that the parties in a complaint become more stressed the longer they wait for resolution,’ said Hooker.
‘Our plans for the future are to make our processes even slicker and to provide increased support and advice to everyone who interacts with the Scheme. We will provide more guides and case studies, and plan to do a number of regional roadshows to meet with local agents and work actively with them to make complaints work for them and their customers,’ he added.