Selling or buying a home can be a stressful experience, and the same can be said for renting or letting a property. Matters are only made worse if you’re not happy with your estate agent’s performance. Hopefully, you won’t encounter any problems, and the agent offers exemplary service. But what happens if you need to make a complaint? How to complain about an estate agent you’re not happy with?
Here, we look at how to raise concerns about your estate agent, including what happens if they’re part of a professional organisation like Propertymark.
What are the common estate agent complaints?
The majority of estate agents are excellent at their job and ensure that all parties involved are in the know and kept up to date.
However, just like any industry, there may be occasions where you’re not happy with the service, to the point you feel you’ve made a poor choice of agent and want to make a complaint.
Some of the most common complaints involve:
- Disagreements over sole rights for the agent to sell the property
- Valuation issues, such as over and undervaluing
- Dissatisfaction with the estate agent’s marketing of the home
- Poor standard of photographs for the property
- Hidden fees
- Not showing up for viewings
- Failure to perform the required buyer checks regarding finances
- General lack of communication from the agent
- Pressure to lower the price after the property goes on the market
- Tactics to accept a sale or use other services linked to the estate agent
- Being misled by the agent.
Essentially, most issues come down to communication. When estate agents don’t communicate or aren’t transparent about their fees and services, problems are more likely to arise than if they’re always in touch and outline expectations.
How do I complain about an estate agent?
Estate agents don’t legally need to need to be regulated, so it can be concerning if something goes wrong.
However, there are some laws in place to ensure good practice. For instance, 2013 legislation made it so estate agents can’t deliberately mislead people about a property, and they must comply with stricter measures under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs).
Professional membership organisations like Propertymark, regulate their member agents over and above what the current law requires. This means member agents must meet high standards.
If you are unfortunate enough to experience an issue with your estate agent, you should always communicate the problem with them first.
Keep copies of all communications and ask for a copy of the estate agent’s internal complaints policy and code of conduct. Complaints should be put in writing and detail any issues, as well as supporting documents to back up your complaint.
It may be that you can resolve issues and avoid a dispute. If, however, the agent doesn’t communicate or refuses to take measures to address your complaint, you will need to progress the matter further and make a complaint to an official independent body, like The Property Ombudsman (TPO) or the Property Redress Scheme (PRS).
How to resolve disputes
The Property Ombudsman is an independent not-for-profit company providing consumers with a dispute resolution service since 1990.
The government authorised the PRS in 2014 to provide an impartial service for a wide variety of complaints about property-related matters.
One of these bodies will review your case and investigate fairly and impartially by listening to accounts from all parties involved. They will then decide what action to take (if any) if you and the estate agent can’t agree to a resolution.
What will Propertymark do?
If your agent is a member of Propertymark, and you’re unhappy with the findings from the Property Ombudsman or PRS, you can make a complaint directly to them.
Propertymark will investigate complaints against a member where there is evidence the agent has breached conduct and membership rules.
Propertymark will investigate if their member has:
- Failed to provide a complaints procedure
- Misused their clients’ money
- Failed to uphold high standards of ethical and professional practice
- Failed to protect and promote their clients’ best interests
- Created a conflict of interest
- Failed to answer correspondence
- Acted dishonesty or faces a potential conviction of a criminal offence
Complaints can take up to 130 days because Propertymark fully review all evidence before copying the information to the member agent.
Member agents are required to respond in writing within 21 days. At this point, you are provided with the member’s response, and Propertymark continues its assessment of the case.
What action will Propertymark take?
If Propertymark supports your case, formal outcomes can vary and may include:
- A caution
- A formal warning
- That an independent accounts inspection and report be carried out at the member’s expense
- A fine not exceeding £5,000 for every rule breached (not every sub rule breached), including failure to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation. For the breaches of the specific Anti Money Laundering rules, the maximum level of penalty is €5 million
- Expulsion from membership. Fines may be applied in addition to expulsion.
Trading Standards and other regulatory bodies may also be informed about findings relating to any area of the property sector.
How to avoid complaining about an estate agent
Doing your due diligence and research can help you avoid working with a bad estate agent.
The best way to find high-level agents involves using services like Propertymark, whose members adhere to high standards.
Using a Propertymark member agents reduces the chance of issues arising, and you can feel more assured about the estate agent you’re instructing to handle the transaction of your largest asset.
Last Updated: November 22nd, 2023