Single housing regulator called for by Ombudsman Services chief

Lewis Shand Smith of Ombudsman Services

The chief executive of Ombudsman Services has called for a radical streamlining of housing market regulation with the introduction of a single watchdog to oversee estate agency, lettings and surveying codes of practice.

Speaking to Mortgage Strategy after the Ombudsman Services’ announcement today that it plans to pull out of its role in the property sector by August 6, chief executive Lewis Shand Smith highlighted other ways in which the Government could improve the experience of home owners and tenants.

Shand Smith says: “It is a very confusing picture in terms of regulation and protection for consumers and where to go for advice.

“We need high level principles that are applied across the whole sector as well as codes of practice for each different area of the market.

“It would be helpful to have an overarching regulator to oversee the range of different industry codes for housing.”

Shand Smith reiterated his support for the idea of launching a single ombudsman for housing, lamenting that “at the moment we are part of the problem, when we should be the solution.”

He emphasised the need for this ombudsman to be given statutory or at least binding powers to ensure that companies are forced to abide by its rulings.

He says: “A single ombudsman would ensure a consistent response for consumers, but also it would help to keep costs down for businesses.”

However, Shand Smith says it is too early to confirm whether or not Ombudsman Services will be bidding for this role should the Government conclude this is the right approach after consulting with consumer groups and industry.



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