When dealing with property agents and the like, there can be issues that may arise, especially in block management. In previous articles we explained that there is help available for those involved in property management. For example, when leaseholders face problems with their properties, or they are claiming the right to manage, problems can be dealt with by the First-Tier Tribunal. Additionally however, there is another entity that needs to be considered with regard to resolving problems; an Ombudsman.
It would be good to enlighten readers of what the primary function of an ombudsman is. According to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau website (www.citizensadvice.org.uk), an Ombudsman is ”a person who has been appointed to look into complaints about an organisation. Using an Ombudsman is a way of trying to resolve a complaint without going to court.” The website goes on to list a number of different types of Ombudsman schemes, including the Property Ombudsman Scheme.
The website continues to mention that Ombudsmen are free of charge, are independent and impartial – so they refrain from taking sides of either party in a dispute. However, before using an Ombudsman, you should raise a complaint with the organisation you are in a dispute with first. An Ombudsman will then recommend what the organisation must do next to correct any issues. As part of their terms and conditions of being members of the Ombudsman scheme the organisation are then required to abide by the Ombudsman’s determination. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau does point out, though, that investigations taken up by Ombudsmen can take a long time, which may be a put off for some.
To be an Ombudsman, an agent needs to be registered with the British and Irish Ombudsman Association (BIOA). The job of the Ombudsman is to investigate cases of maladministration. With relation to property, the Property Ombudsman Scheme is mentioned as one of the Ombudsmen to pursue in relation to dealing with disputes involving estate agents, letting agents, residential managing agents, valuers, auctioneers and other property professionals. Other Ombudsmen schemes are highlighted on the CAB website that deal with other property professionals. The Property Ombudsman can deal with complaints where the organisation in question is alleged to have violated your legal rights, treated you unfairly or be guilty of maladministration. What it cannot deal with is if the complaint has been made in court, or a tribunal; if the complaint is against a registered scheme member; if the complaint was not written first to the registered member; or if the event you are complaining about happened more than twelve months before a formal complaint has been made to the firm or before the firm registered as a member of the scheme.
The CAB website contains more details to be regarded before a decision can be made on whether you need to consider enlisting the services of an Ombudsman. Interested parties should consider all information that is discussed on the site before progressing with a complaint.