14 May 2014
New national trade association created to raise standards in the ‘Quick House Sale Sector’ following OFT Market Study.
Some of the UK’s largest and best-known property buying companies have collaborated with the Property Ombudsman (TPO) to create a new Code of Practice1 to address the issues raised in the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) market study into the ‘Quick House Sale’ sector2.
The OFT study into companies that purchase properties directly from consumers strongly recommended the sector adopt a form of self-regulation, which spurred several property buying companies to become founding members of a new trade body, the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB).
Property buying companies wishing to join the NAPB must register with TPO, the UK’s largest property redress scheme which has 28,500 offices registered, and follow a new Code of Practice that will come into force on 1st July 2014 to ensure:
All NAPB members follow the same professional standards, as outlined in TPO’s new Code of Practice.
Home owners are treated fairly and are able to make an informed choice about how to sell their home.
Consumers using a NAPB agent can access TPO’s free and independent dispute resolution service in the event of a complaint arising.
Jonathan Rolande, NAPB’s founder member, said: ‘The NAPB is the first and only trade association of its kind representing this market sector. Property buying companies have existed for decades but they are still relatively unknown in the eyes of consumers, compared to the fields of estate agency and lettings. Our aim with NAPB is to raise standards and educate so homeowners know what to expect when considering a quick property sale.’
While the OFT study (published in August 2013) identified that the quick house sale sector was dynamic and innovative, which offered benefits to home sellers who want a quick, guaranteed and hassle-free sale, the report also highlighted a number of concerns, which the nine founding members of the NAPB wanted to address.
Jonathan added: ‘By having every NAPB member registered with TPO, we can offer consumers that all-important peace of mind to assure them that their property buying agent is committed to following a stringent set of professional standards that comply with the relevant property and consumer laws, with the added comfort of knowing they can have a complaint independently reviewed by TPO in the event of a dispute ever arising.’
Christopher Hamer, the Property Ombudsman, said: ‘The OFT’s Market Study provided a real insight into the sales practices of property buying companies. It is a credit to those firms that have set up the NAPB that they have taken action to address the findings and worked with TPO to create a new Code of Practice and facility for consumers to access a free, independent dispute resolution service.
‘Having met with the OFT on several occasions to discuss the standards and safeguards included in the new Code of Practice, the NAPB’s decision to make it compulsory for all members to register with TPO is a testament to their commitment to self-regulate and offer consumers accountability.’
The CMA provided a statement on TPO’s new Code of Practice and the launch of NAPB, which is available to download via http://www.tpos.co.uk/downloads/CMA Statement on the Creation of the NAPB.PDF. (In April 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority became the UK’s lead competition and consumer body, which took over certain consumer protection functions after the OFT closed earlier this year).
 The TPO Code of Practice will be implemented on 1st July 2014: Property Buying Companies Code of Practice.
 OFT, Aug 2013: http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/market-studies/oft1499.pdf.
Notes to the editor:
The Property Ombudsman scheme has been offering an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who are dissatisfied with the service provided by registered firms since 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they occupied before the complaint arose to achieve a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and / or for aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered firm.
TPO is free to all consumers. Agents pay a single annual subscription covering them for sales, lettings, commercial, international and auction activities. TPO does not charge case fees.
The Property Ombudsman currently provides redress for consumers using 28,500 offices in the UK (inc. 12,367 residential sales estate agency branches and 11,259 residential lettings offices).
Whilst TPO charges registered firms an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Council, the majority of which is made up of non-industry members. The Council appoints the Ombudsman and sets his Terms of Reference (i.e. how the complaint process operates). The Ombudsman is required to report to the Council on a regular basis.
The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered firm. However, member firms can be referred to the TPO Disciplinary and Standards Committee, appointed by the Council, which has the power to expel firms from the scheme and / or report them to the Office of Fair Trading, which has the ability to ban firms from carrying out estate agency business.
The Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference, the Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered firms.
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