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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Estate agents in GB must sign up to redress scheme by 1 October

Anyone involved in letting property in England, Scotland or Wales must sign up to one of three approved redress schemes by 1 October.  Agents who fail to sign up to an approved scheme face a fine of £5,000.

Redress in Northern Ireland

This law does not apply to letting agents operating in Northern Ireland.

The fact that letting agents are not strictly regulated and do not have to adhere to professional codes of conduct can cause concern to tenants and landlords alike.  However, many reputable agents in Northern Ireland have already joined a voluntary redress scheme, like the Property Ombudsman, or belong to a professional advisory group, like the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Benefits of professionalism amongst agents

An agent who is a member of a professional agency is much more likely to be up to date on the latest changes and developments in tenancy and housing law. They will have access to legal advice and support to help them ensure that their practices reflect the legal position and best practice in their industry.   

Members of these organisations will generally have to adhere to a certain code of practice.  This code of practice should guarantee that the agent will act professionally and in line with the laws of the country in which it is based.

The Property Ombudsman service

The Property Ombudsman is one of the three approved redress schemes for agents in England, Scotland & Wales.  Although the requirement to join a redress scheme does not apply to agents in Northern Ireland, local agents can volunteer to become a member of this scheme.

By signing up to the scheme, an agent is agreeing to abide by the Lettings Code of Practice established by the Ombudsman.  As part of this code of practice, an agent agrees to have a robust complaints procedure that can be used if a tenant or landlord is dissatisfied with the service provided by the agent.  If an injured party remains dissatisfied by the outcome of the agent’s own complaints procedure, he or she can make a further complaint to the Property Ombudsman.

If the Property Ombudsman upholds a complaint against a member agent, it can

  • criticise the agent for any breaches or failings of the Lettings Code of Practice
  • award compensation if you have suffered a proven loss because of the agent’s actions or neglect
  • award compensation if you are seen to have suffered an unusual level of personal distress, inconvenience or aggravation because of the agent’s actions
  • ask the agent to apologise to you.

The Property Ombudsman can only investigate complaints against agents who have joined the scheme.  You can check if your agent is a member on the Property Ombudsman’s website.


Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Landlord

This article was written on 26 September 2014. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.