Do you want to know how to complain about an estate agent?
Then join the queue since one estate agent comparison platform says that 24% of clients would use a different estate agent in the future – but they did not complain officially.
That’s a lot of disgruntled home buyers and home sellers who pay a fortune in fees to get a substandard service they feel they can’t complain about.
If you have a problem with an estate agent, you have the right to make a complaint.
The process of how to complain can be time-consuming and frustrating – but worth it in the end.
Here, the Property Road team explains how to make a complaint about an estate agent in the UK.
The first step when complaining about an agent
If you have a problem with an estate agent, the first step is to try and resolve the issue directly with them.
This step is made clear in the .Gov website and on The Property Ombudsman’s (TPO) site.
It’s also worth checking the agent’s website to see if they have anything on their complaints procedure and check the contract you signed. When you do contact the agent:
- Use a delivery receipt for emails;
- Use recorded delivery for letters.
When making a complaint, you should:
- Explain to the agent why you are unhappy or dissatisfied;
- Explain how you would like your complaint to be resolved.
Most estate agents will be members of TPO, and there is a search function to easily find out.
If the agent isn’t a member or they have ceased trading, then you can try TPO.
What will the estate agent do?
The resolution process with the agent might involve having a meeting or a telephone conversation to discuss your concerns.
It’s also important that when the agent offers their final view on the complaint, and you’re still not happy, then you can move to the next step.
The TPO also makes clear that if the agent fails to respond to a complaint within eight weeks, then you can proceed by contacting a membership body.
However, you’ll need to know which body the agent belongs to. The two main bodies are:
There may be other bodies that an agent can belong to, but these are the two most common. You can usually find this information on the agent’s website or by asking them directly.
The next step on how to complain about an estate agent
Contact the membership body of the agent and find out how to make a complaint.
They will get in touch if they need any extra information – and will contact the agent for their side of events.
It’s important to remember that the membership bodies are independent, and they have a Code of Conduct (which is worth checking out first) for all members to comply with.
It is the membership body or the TPO that will carry out an investigation.
What do people complain about over their estate agent?
There are a variety of issues that people complain about when it comes to estate agents. Some common complaints include:
- The estate agent is not returning phone calls or emails;
- They are not providing updates on the status of the sale;
- They do not follow up with potential buyers;
- They are not providing adequate marketing for the property;
- The estate agent is not negotiating in good faith on behalf of the seller.
Other grounds for agent complaints include:
- The agent’s agreement for sole agent/sole selling rights is not clear;
- Having hidden fees;
- Using pressure sales tactics for buyers to use their in-house mortgage service because they will earn a commission;
- Deliberately undervaluing a property;
- Overvaluing a home to attract potential sellers – before slashing the price to attract buyers;
- Not turning up to viewings;
- Offering poor-quality photographs;
- Failing to check that buyers have the funds in place;
- Not updating their website when a property is under offer or has been sold.
What are the consequences for an estate agent if they are found to be at fault?
If an estate agent is found to be at fault, the consequences will depend on the severity of the complaint.
For minor complaints, the agent may simply receive a warning from their professional body.
However, for more serious complaints, the agent could face anything from a fine to being suspended from the organisation.
In extreme cases, the agent could even be struck off by the professional body, which would effectively prevent them from working as an estate agent.
Does it cost me anything to complain about an estate agent?
No, this process does not cost the complainant anything.
All of the costs associated with making a complaint are borne by the estate agent or their professional body.
Is there a time limit on making a complaint?
There is no time limit on making a complaint about an estate agent, though TPO says you should make a complaint within 12 months.
It is important to note that the sooner you make a complaint, the easier it will be to resolve.
If you wait too long to make a complaint, it may be more difficult to gather evidence or get witness accounts.
How long does the complaint process take?
The length of the complaint process will vary depending on the severity of the complaint.
For minor complaints, the process could be resolved within a few weeks.
However, for more serious complaints, the process could take several months.
In extreme cases, the process could even take years.
How to complain about an estate agent?
The process to make a complaint about an estate agent is straightforward, and here we break down the steps:
Speak to the estate agent directly
The first step is to speak to the estate agent and explain your problem. They may not be aware that there is an issue, and they may be able to resolve it quickly.
Make a complaint to the company’s head office (if they are part of a chain)
If you’re not happy with the response you’ve received from the estate agent, you can make a complaint to their company’s head office. They may be able to offer a resolution that’s more satisfactory.
Take your complaint to The Property Ombudsman
If you’re still not happy with the response, you can take your complaint to The Property Ombudsman. This is free to use and can investigate complaints about estate agents who are members of the scheme.
Make a complaint to Trading Standards
You can also make a complaint to your local Trading Standards department if you think the estate agent has broken the law.
Get help from a solicitor
If you’re still not happy with the response you’ve received, you may want to get help from a solicitor who can give you advice on taking legal action. This is usually a last resort and can be expensive, so you should consider carefully whether you want to take this step.
How to complain about an estate agent?
Now that you know how to complain about an estate agent, there’s no doubt that it can be frustrating – no matter what the reason.
But, as we make clear above, the agent may not be aware of your concerns, and most will strive to resolve the complaint amicably.
However, there will be agents who will not engage with you about a complaint, and this will force you to escalate the complaint to an independent body for resolution.
This last piece of advice is crucial because there will be a code of conduct that the agent will have signed up to.
The process may appear to be slow, but it is there to help people complain about their estate agent – and reach a satisfactory conclusion. Hopefully.