New complaints service for property buyers and sellers in the UK

An independent service to resolve disputes between real estate agents and property buyers and sellers is to be set up in the UK.

The Office of Fair Trading has granted approval to Ombudsman Services Limited, which currently runs the Surveyors Ombudsman Service, to run an estate agent redress scheme.

It will work with firms regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and any estate agency can choose to join.

'We are delighted the OFT has recognised the SOS as a scheme which can make a real difference to way estate agents handle complaints,' said  Elizabeth France, chief Ombudsman.

'We offer a robust process. We know how to talk to consumers whose complaints have not been resolved; we have systems which are tailored to our needs and an approach to dispute resolution which has been proven to work across different industry sectors. We will use our experience to provide the best possible service to estate agents who choose to join our Service, and their customers,' she added.

Buyers and sellers of residential property will be able to use SOS if a member estate agent fails to resolve a problem. The Ombudsman will have the power to resolve complaints about the way in which estate agents provide services to consumers.

The service is free to buyers and sellers buy they will need to try and resolve their complaint with their estate agent before turning to the Ombudsman.

If this cannot be achieved then the Ombudsman will be available to resolve the dispute usually making proposals for resolution within six weeks. The final decision is binding on the estate agent once accepted by the consumer.