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Complaints about a member

Since October 2014, it is a legal requirement for all firms of managing agents to offer access to a Government approved independent ombudsman/redress scheme where unresolved disputes can be addressed, free of charge to consumers. This means complaints are handled independently and leaseholders can be confident that there is no bias.

Overview

As a trade association, we are not in a position to deal with complaints about our members directly. We need to remain fully impartial so as not to jeopardise the outcome of any complaint made to the Ombudsman or our independent Regulatory Panel. If an ARMA member is found to have breached our bye-laws, Consumer Charter or Standards the matter will go before our independent Regulatory Panel.

It is a condition of ARMA membership that all members must have a published internal complaints handling procedure that is fit for purpose.

How to make a complaint

STEP 1: Follow the member's in-house complaints procedure

If you are not happy with the service you have received from an ARMA member then you should first of all ask for a copy of their in-house complaints procedure.

Complaints will be dealt with internally by the member firm either by their complaints department or a designated individual.

Members have eight weeks to resolve the complaint under the ombudsman rules.

STEP 2: Go to the member's ombudsman

If the member fails to address or resolve the issues within the eight-week period then you should contact the member’s ombudsman. Details of the relevant ombudsman will be shown in the member’s complaints procedure and on our website.

If the dispute is “deadlocked” (i.e. the agent has issued their final decision or confirmed in writing that they will not deal with the matter further) the complaint can be taken directly to the ombudsman at that time although still within the eight-week period. From receipt of the agent’s final decision/deadlock letter, a period of 12 months is allowed for the dispute to be taken to the ombudsman/redress scheme.

Before You Complain

It’s worth checking out who the landlord is and who has overall responsibility for the management of your property. If it’s a residents' management company (RMC) owned by the leaseholders, then you should take up the issues with the directors of the RMC first in most cases. It will help in the long run if you are able to demonstrate that the directors support the complaint.

Q&A

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What kind of complaints will the redress scheme investigate?

What kind of complaints will the ombudsman investigate?

The ombudsman has the power to investigate ARMA members who breach the Association's professional requirements. They may look into:

  • Lack of communication
  • Failure to respond to reasonable requests for information
  • Not delivering promised action or services
  • Disputes over contractual matters between managing agents and their clients
  • Issues relating to management handovers
  • Accounting matters
  • Clear and proven breaches of the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code

Are there any issues that the ombudsman won’t take on?

The ombudsman can exercise discretion but usually will not be able to deal with complaints that:

  • Relate to managing agents who are not members of their scheme
  • Have not exhausted the eight week period through the member’s in-house complaints procedure (and, where appropriate, independent mediation if it has been offered)
  • Relate to property owned or controlled by a residents' management company where the member can demonstrate the board of directors are content with their services - although any instructions from this board must have been lawful and proper
  • Require the interpretation of leases where the parties to a lease are in dispute over such interpretation
  • Relate to insurance issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the Financial Conduct Authority
  • Are sub-judice
  • Are subject to the jurisdiction of the Courts or Tribunals on matters of fact, reasonableness, financial recovery or compensation

Issues relating to the reasonableness of expenses paid from services charges and of administration charges and whether these can be charged to leaseholders will usually only be suitable for referral to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). You may find it helpful to visit their website for further information:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/residential-property

Are there any issues that the redress scheme won't take on?

The redress scheme can exercise discretion but usually will not be able to deal with complaints that:

  • Relate to managing agents who are not members of their scheme
  • Have not exhausted the eight week period through the members in-house complaints procedure (and, where appropriate, independent mediation if it has been offered)
  • Relate to property owned or controlled by a residents' management company where the member can demonstrate the board of directors are content with their services - although any instructions from this board must have been lawful and proper
  • Require the interpretation of leases where the parties to a lease are in dispute over such interpretation
  • Relate to insurance issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the Financial Conduct Authority
  • Are sub-judice
  • Are subject to the jurisdiction of the Courts or Tribunals on matters of fact, reasonableness, financial recovery or compensation

Issues relating to the reasonableness of expenses paid from services charges and of administration charges and whether these can be charged to leaseholders may be suitable for referral to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). You may find it helpful to visit their website for further information:
http://www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/residential-property

Under what circumstances will ARMA take action?

ARMA itself will remain totally impartial from any decisions taken. The independent Regulatory Panel will review all ombudsman decisions (and tribunal/court decisions if submitted) involving ARMA members. Where the ombudsman has made a final decision, including financial settlement, the independent Regulatory Panel has no jurisdiction over the amount of the award and cannot get involved in such cases. The Panel can only review the decision to consider if disciplinary action is appropriate.

The independent Regulator cannot consider complaints unless and until all appropriate avenues of redress have been exhausted including;

  • Ombudsman
  • First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)
  • Court
  • Police investigation leading to criminal prosecution
  • Investigation (and potentially prosecution) by other authorities e.g.:
    • Health & Safety Executive
    • Environment Agency
    • Local Authorities (e.g. section 21 and 22 LTA compliance)
    • Information Commissioner’s Office
    • Trading Standards
    • Financial Conduct Authority
    • Competition and Markets Authority (re. competition issues)
    • Local fire services

Once this has been undertaken and if you wish then for the matter to be raised with the independent Regulator, you should raise a complaint along with the relevant supporting documentation either by post to ARMA, 3rd Floor, 2-4 St George’s Road, Wimbledon, London. SW19 4DP or email to info@arma.org.uk marked clearly as ‘Regulatory Panel Complaint’.

The independent Regulatory Panel will have a number of sanctions to impose on ARMA members who are found to breach the RICS Code and the high standards ARMA expects from its members (see the Consumer Charter and Standards published on the ARMA website www.arma.org.uk.

They will be able to:

  • Require the member to undertake training
  • Require an apology with acknowledgement of a specific action to be taken to remedy a complaint
  • Issue a formal warning by letter
  • Impose administration costs and fines
  • Suspend a member from membership for a specified period and on conditions
  • Expel a member from ARMA

All disciplinary action will be published on ARMA’s website for a period of two years.

My managing agent is refusing to send me their complaints procedure. What can I do?

It is a condition of ARMA membership that firms must have a published complaints procedure and make it available if asked. If your managing agent is refusing to provide their complaints procedure, then you should contact ARMA by email us at info@arma.org.uk. Alternatively go directly to the relevant ombudsman.

My managing agent is refusing to send me their complaints procedure. What can I do?

It is a condition of ARMA membership that firms must have a published complaints procedure and make it available if asked. If your managing agent is refusing to handover their complaints procedure then you should contact ARMA by emailing us at info@arma.org.uk. Alternatively go directly to the relevant redress scheme.

How can I find out which redress scheme my managing agent is signed up to?

This should be made clear on the member’s complaints procedure. If not, you can find out by visiting our 'Find a Member' page and looking up your managing agent.

Members may belong to one of three redress schemes:

Ombudsman Services: Property
PO Box 1021
Warrington
WA4 9FE
Tel: 0330 440 1634
enquiries@os-property.org
www.ombudsman-services.org

The Property Ombudsman Limited
Milford House
43-55 Milford Street
Salisbury
SP1 2BP
Tel: 01722 333306
admin@tpos.co.uk
www.tpos.co.uk

Property Redress Scheme (PRS)
Ground Floor, Kingmaker House
Station Road
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
EN5 1NZ

Tel: 0333 321 9418

info@theprs.co.uk
www.theprs.co.uk

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