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The UK’s Property Redress Scheme (PRS) has now processed its hundredth complaint six months since it became mandatory that all lettings and property management agents join a consumer scheme. The PRS is one of three consumer redress schemes authorised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and National Trading Standards whose role it is to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disputes between members of the public and property agents. Since the October deadline last year, the PRS team have seen complaint numbers increase daily as awareness of the scheme becomes more widespread. Certain patterns are already emerging that indicate that agents should be consciously aware of documentation and communication. The PRS says that clear and unambiguous documents, in particular those that relate to terms and conditions, charges and management agreements, are essential to ensure that the customer is fully protected. This also protects the agent, defines the business relationship and manages customer expectations. Communication is also essential and agents should ensure that they do everything to keep the channels open even when the relationship is breaking down. Not doing so inevitably leads to the situation deteriorating and by the time of scheme involvement, the consequences have moved far beyond the initial dissatisfaction. ‘Agents should not assume the customer is trying it on, is wasting your time or will go away if you refuse to engage with them. Treat the complaint seriously and professionally and above all learn from your mistakes,’ said Sean Hooker, head of redress for the PRS. With this in mind, the PRS have begun to build up the resources pages on its website to help educate and support agent members. It has seen nearly 3,400 agent offices register with the scheme. But it points out that although membership numbers and consumer awareness has been positive, there is still further work to be done. The PRS would like to encourage agent organisations and landlord groups to continue to spread the word about redress schemes and report agents that have failed to comply. ‘It is still, in my view, the duty of the industry to help police this legislation. There are a number of agents out there who either through ignorance or wilful defiance have not signed up to a scheme. We are therefore working with local authorities to ensure the law is enforced as vigorously as possible and consumers remain protected,’ added Hooker. Continue reading →
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