The Property Ombudsman: ‘Multiple redress schemes c…

She said: “You don’t need to bring in complication and confusion for individuals and you want consistency in terms of decisions and redress.

“I have had agents say to me, I don’t like your decision, I’ll go to the other party.”

Outlining the differences between the scheme run by TPO and and the rival Property Redress Scheme, Marsh said: “We operate an ombudsman scheme, with an inquisitorial process we are asking questions, interrogating the evidence.

“The other scheme is a basic redress scheme. Alongside that, it offers eviction and other services.

“That is really difficult for us as that damages trust and confidence. It is not a level playing field in terms of equality for the consumer and you are getting a situation where agents can walk if they are unhappy with your decisions.”

Marsh emphasised that an agent threatening to leave would not sway her decision.

Responding to the comments to the committee from Marsh, Sean Hooker, head of redress at the PRS, said: “Whilst we understand concerns about potential confusion that may be experienced by consumers because there is more than one avenue to seek resolution; the track record of the Property Redress Scheme speaks for itself.

“Since we came on to the scene ten years ago, ironically to landscape where there were already two other services in competing operation, we have grown to have a significant presence in what is still an expanding market.

“We brought a wealth of experience and knowhow in dealing with a high volume of complainants and introduced innovation such as mediation and early resolution into the arena, which has led to positive experiences by all the parties we deal with.

“We resolve our complainants quicker and more cost effectively than was experienced by consumers before we were appointed and with a high level of satisfaction.”

Hooker said there are now only two operators in the private housing sector, which is “hardly an overly complicated position especially for what is a diverse sector.”

He added: “We operate robust memorandums of understanding with the other scheme, who were appointed on the same basis as us and we constantly ensure that we both apply consistency and the same standards so there is even-handedness and fairness hard wired in.

“If agents switch to us, it is for the service we provide and the professionalism we display, not because we are an easy touch. The number of agents we have expelled is testament to the seriousness we take compliance in the sector.

“The competition if you like, helps ensure there is not a single point of failure, as has been seen in other sectors where there is a monopoly of a single ombudsman and there is no evidence that the standards are diluted by having choice in the sector.

“We operate strict adherence to the principles and ethos of what we are engaged by the Government to deliver and rather than seek a protected title or be part of a restrictive club, we are accountable to the people who use us and the strict criteria, standards and performance indicators, that we were appointed under.”

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