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Consumer Protection

Introduction

It is a popular misconception amongst the general public in the UK that estate agents are unregulated, uncontrolled, and without legislation, thus leaving them free to conduct themselves unscrupulously with no redress for the aggrieved consumer. Even though this is entirely untrue, it is unfortunate that the small number of our competitors who behave unacceptably have managed to create a poor image of our industry.

We believe in being entirely transparent regarding the consumer protection that is in place to look after the interests of those using the service of an estate agent in the UK, whether they be buying, selling, or coming into contact with an agent for other reasons. We have therefore compiled a basic list of the most important regulations and legislation under which we operate, along with information to help unhappy clients find satisfaction following a poor experience.

1. The Property Ombudsman

Bowden & Partners is a member of The Property Ombudsman Service which provides a free, fair and independent service for dealing with unresolved disputes between consumers and estate agents.

If you have a complaint to make against Bowden & Partners you should initially notify us directly and allow us an opportunity to resolve your difficulties ourselves before resorting to making contact with the ombudsman as a final point of independent adjudication. For further details please see our complaints section below.

The Property Ombudsman also requires all member agents to adhere to its Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents which is further explained in section 2 below.

You can find out more about The Property Ombudsman Service by visiting their website here.

2. Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents

As members of The Property Ombudsman Service we also subscribe to their Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents, which sets out various commitments to which they expect member agents to adhere. The code covers most aspects of the everyday activities of estate agents with guidelines governing a number of key areas including:

  • Market Appraisals
  • Fees & Charges
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Viewings & Access to Premises
  • Submission of Offers
  • In-house Complaints Handling
  • Duty of Care
  • And much more

The Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents is approved by The Office of Fair Trading.

You can download a full PDF version of the code of practice directly from The Property Ombudsman's website here.

3. The Office of The Information Commissioner (Data Protection)

Bowden & Partners is registered as a data controller with the Information Commissioner's Office under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.

This means that we must comply with the eight principles that the Data Protection Act demands, which in brief state that we must make sure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with your rights
  • Securely stored
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate security

The Data Protection Act also provides individuals with important rights, including the right to find out what personal information is held on computer and most paper records.

If you wish to have access to the personal information that we hold about you on our computer database then please contact us in writing. In accordance with the terms of providing "subject access requests" we make a charge of £10.00 for this information to be provided.

If you are registered with us for receipt of marketing material by post/e-mail/telephone or any other means and you would like us to stop sending this information to you, please notify us so that we can update our records accordingly.

4. The Estate Agents Act 1979

The Estate Agents Act 1979 sets out legal obligations which regulate the work of estate agents whilst engaging in the activities of buying and selling property. The Estate Agents Act sets out the obligations that agents owe to their clients including:

  • Passing on all offers to the vendor in writing
  • Handling client's money
  • Disclosing a personal interest if the agent may benefit from the sale of the property
  • Giving written details of charges before entering into a contract
  • Providing details of any services provided by the agents to the buyers

5. The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991

The Property Misdecriptions Act 1991 makes it an offence for estate agents to make false or misleading statements about specified aspects of property that is advertised for sale. There is no requirement to disclose any particular information, but information that is provided must not be misleading or inaccurate.

You can obtain full information regarding the conditions of the act from the Office of Public Sector Information.

6. Making a Complaint Against Bowden & Partners

Bowden & Partners, a member of The Property Ombudsman Service, aims to provide the highest standards of service to all our customers. To ensure that your interests are safeguarded, a complaints procedure has been introduced. This provides for the matter to be dealt with internally by either Keith Bowden or Thomas Dobner, and in the event that we are not able to deal with the issue to our mutual satisfaction, by reference to The Property Ombudsman. 

If you believe you have a complaint, please write in the first instance to either Keith Bowden or Thomas Dobner at the address as below:

Bowden & Partners, 66 Fore Street, St Marychurch, Torquay, Devon TQ1 4LX

Your complaint will usually be acknowledged within 24 hours, but not longer than 3 working days, investigated thoroughly in accordance with established in-house procedures and a formal reply will be sent to you within 15 working days of receipt of your complaint. 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of our initial investigation, you are provided with a further opportunity to have the complaint reviewed by us in light of any further comments that you may wish to make. 

In the event that the final review as detailed above still fails to satisfy your complaint, then you may refer the matter to The Property Ombudsman Service. We will submit our file to the Ombudsman on request. You are also entitled to have your complaint referred to the Ombudsman should we fail to deal with matters promptly or do not comply with our in-house complaints procedure within 8 weeks from the date that we receive your complaint in writing.

"We found your website, photography and general presentation of our property to be of a very high standard and far better than anything we had seen online or in print. Above all, we liked your honesty, hard work, and regular communications that ensured we were kept informed every step of the way."