We hear on almost a weekly basis of investors who have lost money – sometimes thousands of pounds – through unscrupulous sourcing agents.
We are saddened every time we hear this, especially as we know there are good sourcing agents, including our own NAPSA Members, out there that when working professionally and compliantly can create a positive working relationship for both sides.
However, until we can clean up the sector further, we feel the need to create this sort of guide as more of a reactive tool for investors. If you are yet to work with a sourcing agent, please make sure you review our separate guide on What to Look For, BEFORE you start working with them.
Making a Complaint (Sales Agents Only)
This guide has been created to provide help and support for investors that have either lost money to or believe they have been mislead by a ‘sales’ property sourcer. We will take you through the steps required in an attempt to obtain a refund or other form of redress.
Please note, if you have a complaint with a Rent to Rent Sourcer the compliance requirements are different at present and not covered in this guide.
These are the first things you need to check before doing anything else:
- Do you have a signed contract with the sourcer?
- Have you read through the contract, fully?
- If you have a contract, read through it now and make a note of any salient points i.e. relating to your area of complaint e.g. return of deposit, marketing materials misleading (If you do not have a contract go to the next step below.)
Now, your next step must be to make a formal complaint, in writing, to the sourcer in question.
It is important to be very clear about what you are complaining about, you need to make this a ‘factual timeline’ rather than an emotional outpouring.
A good starting point would be to identify key dates for your timeline e.g. first contact with sourcer, any details of property received (marketing or presentation details), viewed property, reservation fees, renovation costs, survey expenditure and any other key factor areas that will form your areas of complaint.
Once you have all the key dates in your timeline then you can add facts, making reference to any evidence that you hold to back those facts up e.g. contract terms for return of deposit, emails marketing material; but keep it simple.
Once the above is completed, read through and decide what your points of complaint will focus on. for example:
- Misleading presentation of property details
- Repairs needed
- Non-return of reservation fees
Then, link the complaints to the relevant points in your timeline e.g. contract states deposit to be returned should deal fall over due to no fault of investor etc. Again keep it simple don’t over complicate, keep it factual and not emotional.
Please note, you have 12 months in which to make the complaint to the Redress Scheme that they are registered with.
Any Redress Scheme that they are registered with will expect you to go through this process first before they will consider your complaint themselves.
Now your complaint has been submitted you can move on to Step 2.
Are they currently operating a compliant business? Don’t just go off their website or brochures, research for the ‘truth’.
If they are a limited company or partnership they will be registered with Companies House, you can search that site for details of all shareholders and any other company connections. Sometimes the registrations are under a different company name than the one that you know as the trading company.
Companies House – Company Search: https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/
Search the following sites under all of the relevant linked company names and even shareholder or director names – Some sites require a postcode as well.
What Professional Registrations does the sourcer really have?
By law they should be registered for all of the following:
- Property Redress Scheme – One of 2 Government approved schemes
- Data Protection – Information Commissioners Office (ICO)
- Anti-Money Laundering Supervision – HMRC
You can use the links below to search for proof of each of the professional memberships that they should have:
Property Redress Schemes
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) – https://www.tpos.co.uk/find-a-member
The Property Redress Scheme (PRS) – https://www.theprs.co.uk/consumer/members/
Information Commissioners Office (ICO) – https://ico.org.uk/esdwebpages/search
Anti-Money Laundering Supervision
If they are registered with any of the above, make a note of the name that they are registered under and also any registration number.
Now that you have completed your due diligence on the company or person in question you will know how compliant, or not they really are with regard to professional registrations.
You can use this information to create some ‘leverage’ for yourself in the ‘complaints’ process. If after the acceptable time frame you have had no response or a dissatisfactory response I would use the information that you have to ‘encourage’ a more positive response going forward.
Show the sourcer that you understand what their legal responsibilities are, even if they have no idea. You will have to vary this section dependent on what they are compliant with, if anything:
Tell them that they are legally required to register with the following:
- Property Redress (Details in Step 2)
- Data Protection (ICO)
- Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (HMRC)
But that, however you can find no evidence of their registration with:
List any you can find no evidence of any registration – see example below:
- A Property Redress Registration
- Data Protection Registration
Go on to state something like ‘….if you refuse to deal with my complaint in a satisfactory way you will leave me no choice but to report you to the appropriate bodies, this could lead to a significant fine for your company (up to £5,000 for each failed registration)…’
If after going through their ‘complaints’ process you are still unhappy with the outcome, at that point you can refer the matter to their redress (if they are registered with one – If not refer to Step 5).
Links below for all redress Schemes complaints pages:
The Property Ombudsman (TPO): https://www.tpos.co.uk/consumers/completing-the-complaints-form
Property Redress Scheme (PRS): https://www.theprs.co.uk/Complain
If they are not registered with a redress scheme you have some options open to you:
- Consider using the ‘Small Claims Court’ (up to £10,000 claim) – Guide to Making a Claim
- Consider reporting to their local Trading Standards office (they issue fines for failing to register with appropriate bodies or misleading marketing): https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/support-advice
- Consider using a solicitor for a private prosecution (an expensive option dependent on how much you are owed it could cost you more to prosecute them than the money owed to you using this option.)
We hope this guide has been useful to you and that you achieve a satisfactory outcome using the information. If you have any further questions, please get in touch at [email protected]
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