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Complaining about an estate agent

This page gives some advice and tips if you want to complain about an estate agent. You should always complain directly to the agency first, but if you're not happy with the response, you may be able to take the matter further.

Estate agents redress scheme

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team have approved two redress schemes. The schemes are run by the Ombudsman Service and the Property Ombudsman.

What can I complain about?

If you are buying or selling a home, you may decide to use an estate agent to search for a suitable property or to find a buyer for your home. You can find out more about estate agents here.

Whatever the situation is, you don't have to put up with bad service or unfair treatment from an estate agent, and you can complain about anything you're not happy with, including:

  • bad service
  • rude members of staff at the agency
  • unfair treatment
  • inaccurate property details.

Who should I complain to?

Some estate agents will have a formal complaints procedure in place. You should contact the agent to find out:

  • if they have a complaints procedure
  • if they do, what it is and how you can get a copy of it
  • what you should do next.

If there isn't a formal complaints procedure, you can put your complaint in writing. In your letter, you'll need to include:

  • your name and contact details
  • what you're complaining about (including times and dates of things that have happened)
  • the names and job titles of anyone in the agency that you're complaining about
  • what you'd like to be done about it (for example, an apology).

Ask the agency to send you a response in writing within a certain time period (for example, two weeks) and make sure you keep copies of any letters you send to or receive from the agency.

What if I'm not happy with the response?

If the estate agent isn't giving you the information you need, or if you feel they're ignoring you or not taking you seriously, you may be able to take your complaint further if the agency is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPO) or the Surveyors Ombudsman Service (SOS). If an estate agent is a member, they should display the NAEA, TPO or SOS logos in their window and/or on their stationery. You can also use the NAEA, TPO or SOS websites to check whether your agent is a member.

 

An estate agent must also belong to a redress scheme run by either the Ombudsman Service and the Property Ombudsman.

Complaining to the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)

Any estate agent that belongs to the NAEA should have a formal complaints procedure in place. If you're not happy with the way your complaint is handled using this procedure, you can write to the compliance officer at the NAEA to make an official complaint - visit the NAEA website for contact details. The NAEA will then investigate your complaint.

If your complaint is upheld, the NAEA has the power to discipline the estate agent in question, by:

  • giving them a caution or formal warning
  • suspending or expelling them from the NAEA, or
  • fining them.

However, the NAEA can't order the estate agent to pay you any compensation - in this case you'll need to contact the Property Ombudsman Scheme.

Complaining to the Property Ombudsman Scheme

If your estate agent is a member of the Property Ombudsman Scheme, you can contact the Ombudsman to complain. The Ombudsman is an independent body that can help you if you've lost money because your estate agent:

  • has overcharged you
  • infringed your legal rights
  • broke the Ombudsman's code of practice
  • treated you unfairly
  • acted inefficiently.

The Ombudsman will settle the dispute for you and decide whether or not the estate agent should pay you compensation. Visit the Property Ombudsman website to find out more.

Complaining to the Surveyors Ombudsman Service

If the estate agent is a member of ths Surveyors Ombudsman Service, you complain to them. Again, you must first make a formal complaint to the estate agent itself before the Ombudsman will take on your case. You can find out more at the Surveyors Ombudsman Service website.

Complaining to the Law Society of Scotland

If your complaint is about a solicitors' property centre rather than an estate agent, you can complain to the Law Society of Scotland. Read the page on complaining about a solicitor to find out more.

What if an estate agent owes me money?

If your complaint concerns money owed to you by an estate agent, you may be able to take them to the sheriff court using the small claims procedure (if the amount of money is under £3,000) or summary cause procedure (if the amount of money is between £3,000-£5,000) to get the money back.

What if my complaint concerns inaccurate property details?

It's a criminal offence for an estate agent to make false or misleading statements about a property in the schedule. For example, you may be told that:

  • the property has planning permission for an extension when it doesn't
  • the property is in a quiet neighbourhood when it isn't
  • the property has land (such as a garden) but the sellers don't actually own it
  • certain fixtures and fittings will be included in the sale, but they aren't.

If you think you've been given inaccurate information about a property, you should report the agent to your local trading standards department.

What if an estate agent is discriminating against me or harassing me?

If you feel an estate agent has discriminated against you because of your gender, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, or because you're disabled, for example, by refusing to find you a property, or by treating you badly or less favourably than other customers, or if staff at the agency have been harassing you in any way, you may be able to take action against them. The section on discrimination and harassment explains this in more detail.

Where can I get help and advice?

If you need help or advice in making a complaint, talk to an adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau or contact your solicitor.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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