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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Complaints against estate agents soar
Estate agent's folder
The ombudsman was appointed in 1998
Complaints made against estate agents rose by a quarter during 2001, according figures released by a watchdog.

The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) 5,730 complaints from people buying and selling properties.

It is the highest figure since the ombudsman was appointed in 1998.

But the majority of complaints were not dealt with because they were made against agents who were not members of the OEA's voluntary scheme.

A total of 3,761 of the complaints received were against non-members - a 33% rise, while 1,969 were against members, up 6% on the previous year.

Collusion

The ombudsman offers a free, independent service to members of the public who are not satisfied with the service they receive from an estate agent in the UK.

But it can only review cases involving agents who belong to the scheme.

And it can only look at cases where agents have not complied with its code of practice - resulting in maladministration, unnecessary delays, or clients losing money.

In just over a third of cases which were investigated, the ombudsman found in favour of the complainant and in another third in favour of the agent.

The highest award made against an estate agent was for 5,000. This was for a case in which the sales negotiator had colluded with the buyer, resulting in the seller getting a lower price for the property.

The EAO believes the increase over the past year reflects consumers' increased willingness to complain, and the large number of property deals being done.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Business
Property shortage fuels price boom
03 Apr 02 | Business
UK house prices surge
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