The current property ombudsman system could be consolidated to create one single ombudsman for private and social housing next year.
The four systems that currently operate – The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services: Property, the Property Redress Scheme, and the Housing Ombudsman – could be replaced by a single Housing Ombudsman to create a more efficient redress scheme for consumers.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid made the proposals to housing professionals as part of his overall goal to reform the housing market.
He believes that the current system leaves the market open to abuse, as sales, lettings and managing agents are covered by redress schemes but private landlords aren’t, and he announced earlier this year that a law change would mean all landlords are covered by an ombudsman scheme.
Javid said the creation of a single ombudsman “could help drive up standards across the whole industry and increase protections for consumers.”
He added: “Currently, there are four government approved providers of redress that cover some aspects of home buying and renting, but not all. Membership of ombudsman schemes is compulsory for some groups, but not for others.”
Good for landlords too
Although the proposals would mean tenants are offered more protection, the changes would be equally beneficial for landlords upholding their contractual rights.
Catherine Cockcroft, head of lettings at Aylesford International, said: “Currently it takes a minimum of six months, often far longer, to evict a tenant from a property. By the time you have served the relevant notices and even when possession is given, a landlord often has to appoint bailiffs to acquire vacant possession.”
The introduction of a compulsory arbitration scheme could improve standards for the private rented sector, believes Javid, improving dispute resolution for all concerned.
He added: “Research in other sectors has shown that redress works more efficiently for consumers when there’s a single ombudsman in place. So, in the New Year, we’re going to consult on this and see whether it’s right for the housing sector too.”
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