Fergus Wilson Panorama documentary – now available on iPlayer22:10 PM, 18th March 2019
About 2 days ago 92
I’d like to report about a situation of great gravity where an estate agent placed not only myself but tenants life at risk whilst their redress scheme despite all the evidence retained covered for their member without taking seriously my complaint and getting a 2nd investigation shut down despite the Head’s intervention.
As a Landlord I have been solely let down by not only a rogue corrupt and reckless estate agent, but also by the Property Redress Scheme whom the agent is a member of where my case was invalidly closed despite having it approved to be reexamined by the Head.
Last year in January 2017 my brother and I appointed an estate agent to manage two of our properties of which one (1) would require extensive works through the agent’s contractor’s to make it fit for regular letting purposes and the other (2) near Luton airport would be altered to be fit for HMO specifications (rent out by room) totaling £16,125.
Following paying the estate agent £5,125 into his account via bacs payment for (2) all seemed well following three of the property’s rooms being rented out within that month of which we had high hopes things would work out for (1) after paying £11,000 via bacs payment into another account belonging to the agent in February 2017 for the house to be ready long before 1st April for our new tenants after submitting to the agent what we expected (from new kitchen to flooring, new combination boiler certified and new front door).
However, during March it was clear some works were not completed and the agent failed to meet on three occasions our chosen tenants to sign a tenancy agreement and have a chance to view the property. On 23rd March 2017 the agent sent texts indicating he inspected the house and the works were completed including the fitting of a new combination boiler (just as completed at 2). On 24th March we insisted on inspecting the house given a new front door was fitted so Prestige were the only ones then to have the keys of which when a spokesperson turned up immediately I began recording. The works were utterly poor including the fact certain works breached a number of fire safety regulations (cupboard placed above the stove, wallpaper placed around gas pipes, sharp edges, no drawers). The kitchen itself wasn’t what we requested and wasn’t properly fitted given it merely hung together by two brackets whilst the cupboard with the gas leaver blocked it from turning (another gas safety breach).
The list went on of which after expressing our dissatisfaction and wishing for it to be redone, more severe problems arose after a gas leak was detected on 1st April leading for national grid to come out and inspecting the property to find the agent’s engineers whom delivered and fitted a new oven did not seal the connection with the mains adequately. When I decided to visit (2) it was clear things weren’t going well there either after tenants were living in a house where a 2ft hole caved in under the bathroom following a leaking shower that was reported by the tenants to the agent, however nothing was done for after a month. The shower was installed by the agent’s plumber as part of the HMO works and it had broken a seal around the taps of which the agent merely replied to the tenants to collect the leaking water in a bucket and mind how they showered until the repair could be done. It was clear also none of the HMO specifications were carried out despite being billed from fire signs to fire alarms and properly fitted fire safety doors leading me to conclude we’d been robbed.
After firing the agent it became clear both gas safety certificates at both houses were invalid given the boiler at (1) was installed and passed by a non registered gas engineer with no flute installed to extract excess steam and required resealing around the extractor with the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, whilst at (2) the certificate was signed on 1st February 2017 despite the fact the tenancy agreements were dated on 19th&20th January 2017 with a minor gas leak coming from the non listed gas fire. The gas engineer whom I called testified the gas was off during January however British gas confirmed a top up on 28th January whilst the agent when pulled up on it insisted in a text message it was passed in January but signed off in February justifying it as “normal practise in this business”. I had to redo (1) delaying the tenants moving in whilst pay back the deposits for (2) tenants given the HMO specifications were not satisfactory and the house was unsafe following the now gushing leak and hole in the ceiling. The agent has ignored my request for a return of those deposits whilst has presented no evidence he ever registered them.
I also noted that no valid electrical certificate was passed at either properties whilst at (1) a red switch remained above the stove with the wiring remaining exposed to heat should the cooker of been used whilst the washing machine had no electrical connection to a plug of which would’ve been used using an extention lead. All this I had rectified by an electric engineer but the £11k paid to the agent ought to of covered these things given payment was to be spent on a new kitchen making it fit for letting purposes.
I went to his redress scheme the PRS after searching all three redress schemes given his website failed to mention at the time who he was registered with and after 9 months of an investigation a conclusion was made that the agent must provide valid invoices and receipts for the works or any unaccountable expenditure must be refunded. The Case officer was rather biased in stating that the Redress Scheme had no powers to enforce the member to abide by that agreement whilst contradicting other case officers by saying if the agent failed to comply he’d still have his membership for an agent must maintain a license to operate. He also implied if I agreed to the agreement I wouldn’t be able to challenge the agent in court, of which this turned out to be incorrect given the very amendment indicated it wouldn’t infringe my rights.
I agreed to that conclusion of which the agent was given 28 days to comply but couldn’t provide any valid invoices given a mere a4 printed list was rejected on 23rd March. He was granted an extention, then on 26th March a new set of invoices with a printed company heading was added and my case was closed by the prs. I didn’t receive any receipts and after proving the invoices were fake given I had quotations from the agent on various expenditure where some items were inflated alongside tracking down the main contractor on Facebook, it became apparent I was defrauded. The contractor revealed he was paid £8k not £11k for (1) as indicated in texts with him and the agent with bank statements indicating the dates paid. Even though on 24th March we expressed our dissatisfaction with the works, on 5th April the agent paid the remaining £3500 to the contractor whom was only going by the agent’s choices and approval of materials and bad quality choices (such as lino flooring vs the tiles billed for).
The contractor also revealed the company name stated was inaccurate whilst the contact details for him were bogus of which it was clear to see given the texts between him and the agent was on a different phone number (of which I screenshot for my own evidence). I informed the PRS notably my case officer closed my case of which he stated he was in no position to consider what is valid evidence but if there were any inconsistencies with the agent’s testimony and my evidence revealed anything vital, he’d report this to NTA’s on 26th March 2018. This he did not do for NTA have no record.
After turning to Enfield Council where Conservative councillor Chris Dey has intervened with Trading Standards, the HSE on gas issues, whilst The Ministry for Housing&Local Government (whom regulate the Redress Scheme) requested a 2nd investigation, however despite the Head of the Redress Scheme stating he was dissatisfied with the way my case was handled, his compliance officers who previously closed my case declined to take up the 2nd investigation and again the PRS reiterated the first verdict stands and my dissatisfaction is simply ‘my opinion’ whilst the agent not displaying the PRS scheme wasn’t anything to do with them, but I should report to Trading Standards (of which I did given the Ministry for Housing&Local Government discovered this breach). Trading Standards however also failed to penalise the agent and merely relayed to myself in writing that they’ve advised the agent to display his redress scheme on his website despite failing to do so since the regulations came into force in 2015 (whilst I had to research all Redress Schemes to locate his in 2017).
From images to videos to texts to tenant testimonials and reports by professionals point out on the estate agent’s failings, yet nothing has been done to hold the agent to account. I pointed out on a number of breaches with engineers invoices from gas safety, electrical safety, fittings unfit for purpose, poor plumbing (from water leaks to washing machine connecting to the garden tap) and letting regulations yet the PRS failed to address despite my reports, videos and images highlighting these very things.
Why is it I didn’t get a written contract with when they were appointed to manage my two properties including payment to carry out various works for them that is beyond deniable? Why is it that they cannot and won’t provide an inventory checklist for each house whilst the PRS don’t see fit to get them to (a basic requirement to insure letting practices is upheld)? These things the PRS ought to of pulled the agent up on but have failed.
How can they justify the property was fit for letting when a gas certificate (stated in a text message) was signed off 10 days AFTER tenants had signed a tenancy agreement and moved into the propertyy (stating it’s normal practice in this business)? How is it the agent didn’t spot that both gas safety certificates were invalid where one was signed by a non registered gas engineer with a number of gas safety breaches visible whilst the other didn’t sign off on two gas fires as safe? How is it that £11,000 was spent on my second property with a printed list of expenditure yet some of those works weren’t carried out whilst the contractor they hired has shown evidence from texts to bank statements that £8,000 was paid? Where is that £3000? A kitchen that is hung on walls with two brackets with no drawers, sharp edges and a cupboard above the stove and another blocking the gas leaver, is that value for money and fit for purpose?
How can the agent justify the works at (2) as completed and fit for HMO specifications when the fire doors were clearly not fit for purpose (given the gaps around the frame and using old door fittings) whilst there was no fire alarms per room fitted and no fire signs installed whilst the new boiler was fitted with no monoxide alarm and missing work required to the flute (just as (1) of which had NO flute)? How is it the PRS do not take seriously on the agent not presenting valid check lists and security deposit registers? And how is it justifiable to inform tenants to ‘mind how you shower’ after they reported leaks to you and then the kitchen ceiling caved in under the bathroom of which the agent advised them to collect water in a bucket until the repair is done without reporting to myself about it for over a month?
Why is it the agent stated in his rebuttal to the Property Redress Scheme I only had a “rent collect arrangement” yet clearly they were assigned to manage my properties? Why was there such an effort to provide contradicting invoices where his lawyer refuted one set to be the originals then the agent submits a second set as the originals of which didn’t include any receipts? And why didn’t the PRS consider taking a 2nd rebuttal when the 2nd investigation was opened?
How can this estate agent possibly get away with it and why have regulators merely bypassed all the evidence and reports I have? I’m now facing the prospect of going to court costing up to £2k, I cannot comprehend how everyone has let me down and failed to do anything to revoke the agents’ license whilst the PRS refuse to acknowledge their mistake in addressing the fact the agreement covering what was advised wasn’t abide by. The Ministry for Housing&Local Government state they cannot dictate on how the PRS have concluded this case but only assess if procedures were followed through, however if an agreement isn’t abide by and an agent doesn’t need to submit various documentation such as a property inventory list and receipts, what is the point in having a redress scheme?
I find the bigger issue we have (‘we’ being landlords and tenants) is a flawed Redress system that solely are there for their members and haven’t addressed the severity of gas safety breaches and fraudulent documentation being submitted by their member. After intervention of which I retain in writing, it was clear my case was mishandled and a 2nd one was opened however the Redress’s compliance department had it immediately declined to furthermore assist their member despite the agent’s inconsistencies in his rebuttal and refusal to cooperate.
If there is anything anyone can suggest to help by reviewing in accordance to the law on Redress complaints and make public my story on the number of regulations the agent has broken alongside the Redress Scheme’s failures, this would then fall back to the PRS of which I’d be most grateful.
I’m more than happy to relay all the evidence I have, it’s utterly bewildering and concerning as to how this case was conducted with little to no real attention being addressed by regulators such as the PRS about the agent’s conduct, contradictory statements and inconsistencies.
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