Complaints about a Member
We ensure that complaints are handled well by our members
ARMA firms must offer access to one of the two Government approved redress schemes for their leaseholders and clients who will be able to complain to an independent body about the service they have received and this is 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.
You should first try to resolve the complaint directly with your managing agent using their in-house complaints procedure. If you are still not satisfied you can refer your complaint to the relevant Ombudsman.
Full information on the redress scheme can be viewed here.
If your issues relate to Service charges/estate charges/ground rent/administration charges including reasonableness of expenses paid from services charges and whether these can be charged to leaseholders these may only be suitable for referral to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). Further information on making an application to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) can be viewed here.
You may also find the Government Lease Advisory Service (LEASE) useful who provide free information, initial advice and guidance to members of the public about residential leasehold. They are independent and impartial, and all of their advisers are legally qualified. You can book an appointment with them using this link.
It is worth confirming who the landlord is and who has overall responsibility for the management of your property. If it is a Residents’ Management Company (RMC) or a Right to Manage Company (RTM), then you should take up any issue with the directors of the RMC or RTM first in most cases. It will help in the long run if you are able to demonstrate that the directors support the 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 are then required to be dealt with internally by the member firm either by their complaints department or a designated individual. How this will be dealt with and time scales will be detailed in their in-house complaints procedure and this should detail which ombudsman scheme they are registered with.
Members have eight weeks to resolve the complaint under the ombudsman rules. The ombudsman will only investigate complaints which have initially gone through the member’s own in-house complaints procedure, so it is important to undertake this in the first instance.
It is a condition of ARMA membership that firms must have a published complaints procedure and make it available when requested. If your managing agent is refusing to provide their complaints procedure, then you should contact ARMA by emailing us at email@example.com. Alternatively, you may go directly to the relevant ombudsman.
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.
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.
WHAT KIND OF COMPLAINTS WILL THE OMBUDSMAN INVESTIGATE?
- 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 (excludes challenging service charges/estate charges. These are suitable for instead referral to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).)
- Clear and proven breaches of the RICS Service Charge Residential Management Code.
- If you have been to court about your complaint, or any part of it, the ombudsman will need a copy of the judgement to see if they can do their review. If they can, they will only consider the elements the court didn’t cover. For example, if the court case was about an unpaid fee, they can still review the service you received from the agent if it was not included in your defence.
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 its 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.
- Service charges/estate charges/ground rent/administration charges – If your issues relate to any of these matters (including reasonableness of expenses paid from service charges and whether these can be charged to leaseholders) these are usually only suitable for referral to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). You may find it helpful to visit their website for further information: www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/residential-property.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT WHICH OMBUDSMAN 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 search for a member page and looking up your managing agent. This will detail which ombudsman scheme they are registered with. Members may belong to one of two ombudsman schemes detailed below:
WHAT IF MY COMPLAINT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR REFERRAL TO THE OMBUDSMAN?
The Leasehold Advisory Service will be able to assist you with further guidance and advice. Tel: 020 7832 2500. Website: https://www.lease-advice.org/