The Property Ombudsman has just published his annual report for 2012 and he has reiterated his call for some sort of regulation of letting agents. He explains that the private rented sector has grown dramatically over the last ten years and so has the role of letting agents. The Ombudsman reckons it is now a £1billion per annum business handling some £14 billion of client money a year.

Many organisations have called for statutory regulation including the ARLA and the RICS. At present only sixty percent of letting offices in the UK have registered with the Property Ombudsman and follow its lettings Code of Practice. The Ombudsman, and several other industry commentators are keen that there should be a set of common standards and one route to redress for tenants and landlords. We should be interested to know what our landlord insurance clients think about this proposal. Many will use agents who are members of `the Property Ombudsman scheme.

In 2012 the Ombudsman received 15,782 complaint enquiries, a 12% increase from 2011. Individual letting enquiries increased by 9%(to 8,334) during which consumers raised a total of 14,017 different issues. Poor service was the biggest issue of complaint (54%) while issues about letting fees and charges were raised in 12% of enquiries.

Of those cases which went on to be investigated by the Ombudsman, 50% of issues concerned poor service whilst the percentage concerning fees and charges increased to 20%.

Membership of the TPO includes 11,933 sales offices and 9,748 lettings offices. TPO estimates that these figures represent approximately 93% of sales agents and 60% of lettings agents operating in the UK.

It is very important to use an agent who has a good local reputation. A recommendation from a trusted friend in the business is often a good place to start your search for an agent and membership of a professional body is also a good sign.

If you would like to find out more about the work of the Property Ombudsman visit www.tpos.co.uk