The four 'Essential Guides' are not intended to be definitive explanations of every aspect of the process as there are already publications to fulfil that role but rather they have been put together on the basis of issues that have given rise to complaints (whether supported or not) about estate agents.

'I see what causes the most complaints when people fall out with sales and letting agents and quite often it can be over simple misunderstandings,' explains Mr. Hamer

'Through these Guides I am trying to help consumers be better equipped for dealing with agents and to be aware of the specific things that they should look out for and where they should perhaps ask more questions of the agent so that they fully understand the service being offered.

'Agents will say things that they themselves understand but perhaps do not take into account that those they are dealing with will not be equally as enlightened.

'Consumers are rarely experts in property transactions so I thought it would be helpful if they had some general and easily read guidance to help them understand the potential pitfalls. People can find these guides on my website and should refer to them before entering into a house sale or purchase or the rental market.

'A simple example of misunderstanding for buyers and tenants is that the agent is working for the person who is their client, normally either the vendor or the landlord. Although they also have a general duty to act fairly to others engaged in the process their contractual duty is to the person who instructs them.'

'The TPO Guides are a useful introduction for consumers to the world of property transactions and will help them understand the process better," said Mark McLaren, of Which?

"As the leading consumer organisation in the UK, Which? recognises that consumers need as much information as possible when buying, selling or renting property. That's why we publish comprehensive books on 'Buy Sell and Move House' and 'Renting and Letting' for those who wish to explore the topic more fully."

The series of Essential Guides is available free to download from The Property Ombudsman website at www.tpos.co.uk or they can be obtained from member estate agents. The Property Ombudsman’s role is to resolve disputes between estate agents and those with whom they have dealings that cannot achieve a satisfactory outcome through the agent’s own complaints handling process.

Mr. Hamer can order estate agents who are members of the scheme to make redress payments to complainants but does not have the power to punish estate agents by fining them. Neither does he enforce regulations, although he is active in making new laws through consultation with Government departments.

The Property Ombudsman scheme covers 7,908 member firms operating 11,310 residential estate agency sales offices in the UK and 7,756 handling residential lettings. Every residential sales agent in the UK must have a system of redress in place by law but the arrangement is currently voluntary for lettings agents.