Complaints about estate agents
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
This section deals with complaints when you try to buy or sell your home through an estate agent. Complaining is usually the best way of dealing with issues such as rudeness or lack of consideration.
If you have lost a large amount of money because of an estate agent, you should get advice from a solicitor before you complain.
If an estate agent is working for your landlord by looking after the tenancy of your home on his/her behalf, please see the section on complaints about letting agencies.
If an estate agent is working for your freeholder by looking after the lease of your home on his/her behalf, please see the section on complaints about managing agents.
It may be appropriate to complain in different ways, depending on the circumstances. In some cases you should complain to the letting agent direct, or to the letting agent’s professional association, if they are members.
Complaining to the agent's customer (ie the seller)
It is worth complaining to the customer if:
- the home has not been sold yet, and
- the complaint is about behaviour that might make the home harder to sell, for example, rudeness, inefficiency or lack of consideration.
It is probably not worth complaining to the customer if:
- the home has already been sold, or
- the complaint is about behaviour that will not make the home harder to sell.
Complain by letter. Please see the section on how to make a complaint for tips on what to say. The customer may investigate your complaint, but you can’t make them do anything.
Complaining to the Trading Standards Officer or the Office of Fair Trading
Every council has a Trading Standards Officer, whose department investigates complaints about local businesses that have broken the law. You can find details of your local Trading Standards office on the Trading Standards website.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is a government agency that has the same job at a national level. It has an online register of estate agents, which allows you to check whether a particular estate agent has been banned from trading in the past, or has had restrictions placed upon them.
You can complain to the Trading Standards Officer or the OFT about an estate agent’s behaviour during an actual or attempted sale/purchase transaction, if you believe that an estate agent has broken part of the law relating to estate agents, for example by:
- failing to declare any personal interest in a home sale or purchase
- failing to set out the agent’s terms and conditions clearly in writing
- discriminating against a buyer who does not want to take any services from the agent, for example, arranging a mortgage or insurance cover
- failing to forward all offers promptly and in writing to the seller
- dishonestly misrepresenting information about offers or purchasers
- making a false or misleading description about a property.
Often the Trading Standards Officer and OFT work together, so you should not complain to them both unless you are asked to.
The Trading Standards Officer and OFT have a range of powers available to them, from investigating and providing information to prosecution in serious cases. They will provide you with initial help, but they can’t be forced to take on your case, and they can’t award you compensation.
Complaining to the Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman scheme provides a free, independent service for resolving disputes between estate agents and their customers. Many estate agents are members - those that are must display the ombudsman's logo on windows, advertising and stationery.
Member agencies must:
- follow the Property Ombudsman Code of Practice
- have agreed to have professional indemnity insurance to ensure that any compensation awarded to you can be paid
- have an in-house complaints system with written procedures
- explain how the ombudsman can help resolve complaints and co-operate with any investigation
- agrees to pay compensation promptly, if the ombudsman awards it and you accept.
The ombudsman can only consider complaints if you have already tried to use the agent's internal complaints procedure but are not happy with the outcome. See the Property Ombudsman website for more information.