How to complain about property problems and get the results you want

publication date: Dec 20, 2018
 | 
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

How to complain and get the results you want

House

In the majority of cases, property projects are completed to everybody’s satisfaction. But occasionally, things do go wrong and you may find yourself needing to make a complaint.

Don’t be tempted to let your complaint slide, particularly if it is serious or there are safety issues at stake, as future potential customers need to know if this company isn’t a good one to work with and may even cause greater harm.

The most important step in the complaints procedure actually begins before any work or contract event begins – and that is to choose a good quality company in the first place.

This means finding a company which belongs to a trade body, competency or redress scheme or regulatory body. Each industry – estate agents, surveyors, solicitors – has its own trade organisations, so do some research before you make your choices. Some have to do so to operate legally, some choose to do so through self-regulation.

Some examples of the different trade organisations and regulatory bodies can be found in our  article: how to avoid problems with a property company.

Many companies, however, are not regulated, so if this is the case, check if it has an official complaints system and if applicable if warranties or guarantees are offered This may be linked from their company website.

By taking these precautions before hiring a company to work for you, if you find you need to make a complaint, this greatly increases your chance of a positive outcome.

Read our quick guide to property problems.

Complaining to a regulated company

When complaining to a regulated company, it’s a good idea to try to resolve the issue informally first, either face to face or over the phone. Most problems can be sorted in this way with minimum fuss. However, always keep a record of any conversations you have, with a note of the date and time of the conversation, who you spoke to and what was agreed, and follow up with an email so you have everything in writing.

If your issue cannot be solved informally, request details of the company’s formal complaints procedure. Sometimes, simply asking for this can spur them into action and resolve your issue! Make sure you ask if using the complaints system could prevent you from taking the company to court afterwards, if the issue is still not resolved.

Gather together any paperwork you may need, such as a copy of the original contract, receipts and guarantees, printouts of emails etc. Note down what you are unhappy about and how you would like the problem to be resolved. Be very clear on this, right down to how much compensation you would like to receive, or what remedial action you would like to be taken, if relevant. It may even be that you simply want an apology.

Once you have the details of the formal complaints procedure, you should follow it exactly, always keeping copies of any correspondence and records of any phone calls.

The next step is almost always to write to the company, explaining why you are dissatisfied and what you would like them to do about it. Include details of any previous conversations or correspondence, so they know this isn’t your first complaint. To make it easier to follow, use bullet points, listing the key days, such as when the work was started, when it was due to be completed, when you raised your first concerns, dates of any correspondence etc.

Always keep following the official complaints procedure, as failure to do so could mean you have to start all over again before you can escalate the issue to the redress scheme or regulatory body. If you do this, and your problem still isn’t resolved – which, it has to be said, will only be in a tiny minority of cases – you can refer it to the relevant scheme.

Complaining to an unregulated company

What do you do if you have already engaged a company which is not a member of a trade body or redress scheme and wish to make a complaint?

You can still follow most of the steps listed above, such as attempting to resolve the issue informally before writing to the company, giving them all the details of the problem and how you would like it to be resolved. When escalating the issue, address your complaint to the highest-ranking person in the company and send your letter by recorded delivery so you know it has been received and it’s less likely to be ignored.

If this fails to give you the desired results, you could consider legal action. For claims of up to £10,000, consider the Small Claims Court. Otherwise, seek legal advice; most solicitors will give you a short initial consultation for free.

You can also contact Citizens Advice via their website or by phone on 0345 404 0506, and the government has information about complaining about a limited company on its website.

Read more in our checklist on complaining to a property company

How do you complain if the company has gone bust?

If the company is no longer operating, and you have unresolved issues, the regulatory body should still handle your complaint, if it was a member.

If the company was unregulated and has gone into receivership, liquidation or administration, you can contact the official receiver or an insolvency practitioner.

If you still have problems, please get in touch with us and we will do our best to help.

Which trade association should your property company belong to?

One of the best ways to avoid problems with any company is to choose wisely. This means only using companies which are members of recognised trade organisations.

Some organisations have to belong to certain schemes, but some don’t have to belong to any redress scheme and in this case you need to be very wary about the company you choose.

Estate agents

Letting agents

If you have problems with a tenancy deposit, read more here.

New homes developers

Read more about protecting yourself from problems with new builds here.

Leasehold management agents

Park Homes

Serviced apartments

Search companies

Legal companies

Read our legals checklist

Surveyors

Mortgage lenders/brokers

How to choose a mortgage broker

Financial advisors

Insurance companies

Builders

How to choose a builder

Plumbers and Gas

Gas engineers

Electricians

Carpenters

How to choose a carpenter

­Painters and decorators

Windows/conservatories

Damp/timber


All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of
Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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