From 1 October 2008 all estate agents who are involved in residential estate work are required to belong to an approved redress scheme. This allows buyers and sellers of residential property to refer complaints about estate agents to an ombudsman, free of charge.
The ombudsman has the power to take a range of actions, including requiring the estate agent to pay compensation. The ombudsman’s decision is binding on the estate agent, however complainants also have the right to reject the decision and pursue their complaint through the courts.
Estate agents who fail to join an appproved scheme by 1 October 2008 will be subject to a £1,000 penalty charge, and those who refuse to join a scheme could ultimately be banned by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) from carrying out estate agency work.
In northern Ireland, the legislation will be enforced by the Trading Standards Service (TSS) of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.