The Ombudsman and dual fee agent disputes – the clanking fist of bureaucracy or a helping hand for the consumer?

It might shock (or amuse) you to know that I am very familiar with the environs of the Law Courts. Not because I’ve done anything wrong; on the contrary, for the last 43 years I have felt obliged to try and clean up this nebulous area of the Estate Agents’ Act. This has resulted in some bold, litigious commitments, involving at least 12 court cases.

You have to remember that in certain parts of London, the 70s and 80s property market was more like the Wild West, rather than a gentleman’s understanding of honour between estate agents.

My findings are that in order to justify a sales fee the estate agent must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that they are the ‘effective cause’ of the sale. This is not, nor should be, necessarily time limited, since each case should be judged on its own merits. The consequence is that if the Ombudsman tries to impose a fixed period of six months, as the overriding criteria, certain agents who may have a perfectly legitimate fee claim, could lose out. Continue reading