The Property Ombudsman has announced they will increase member fees from January 2020.

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) is a not-for-profit organisations set up and approved by the UK Government to help consumers settle disputes with estate, letting and management agents. They provide a Code of Practice and guidance for member businesses. They investigate complaints from consumers and have the power to issue compensatory awards of up to £25,000 and remove business’ membership. Many members see the Ombudsman as a method of self-regulation, joining to demonstrate their commitment to fairness and consumer rights.

The proposed changes will affect new members, renewals and new branches from January 2020 and will see the basis fee increase from £195 to £225. This is not a substantial change given this is the first increase in fees for six years. Property Ombudsman Chair of the Finance and Performance Committee, Gerry Fitzjohn said:

"...increasing fees is not a decision which has been taken lightly but is absolutely necessary to ensure a properly resourced scheme is in place.”

TPO has explained “Increased costs running the scheme, together with planned investment to enable ongoing improvements to the efficiency of the process, have made it necessary for TPO to review and adjust its membership fees.”

In addition to the basic fee increase, TPO are introducing new fair-usage fees. Any branch which generates more than three complaints per renewal year will pay more towards the cost of the scheme. Those complaints which are not supported or which end at early resolution will not count towards the permitted three. The exact amount of the fee or how it will be collected has not yet been detailed.

Commenting about the introduction of fair-usage fees, Gerry Fitzjohn said: "We hope it will act as incentive to drive better service to consumers and encourage agents to resolve complaints at an earlier stage.”