Lettings watchdog wants more bite to deal with complaints

Lettings watchdog wants more bite to deal with complaints

12:01 PM, 24th November 2010, About 14 years ago

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Landlords and tenants make about 50 complaints a month about letting agents to The Property Ombudsman (TPO), according to the latest figures issued by the industry watchdog.

The ombudsman has record 484 complaints to the end of September – with six out of 10 found against letting agents (57%) and 22% decided in their favour.

The trend is a falling number of complaints from landlords and tenants – from 171 in the first quarter of 2010 to 150 in the third quarter.

The TPO’s interim report for the last quarter shows 91 complaints were upheld against letting agents.

“I expected a continuing rise in lettings cases, having indicated the trend in such cases over the last two years,” said Christopher Hamer, the ombudsman.

“As ombudsman I am able to help those who have been disadvantaged in individual cases but I have no powers to regulate market activity or to monitor the approach of agents to the handling of client money.

“Firms that are affiliated to a trade association operate in accordance with strict client money rules. There are firms who operate outside, and in contravention of, any such rules. Those firms can therefore potentially severely disadvantage a client.”

Many of the complaints handled by the TPO relate to failings in property management – here are some case studies from the interim report:

Damp home was left unchecked

A complaint against a letting agent who failed to carry out regular inspections of a tenanted property that resulted in a worsening damp problem was upheld and the agent ordered to pay £275. The agent did commission a specialist report without telling the landlords or informing them of the results.

Poor service and lack of action

A letting agent was ordered to pay £200 to landlords who complained the letting agent failed to make them aware of a stain on the lounge ceiling which had been caused by a leak, returned the tenants’ deposit while it was still in dispute, let the gas safety certificate run out whilst the tenants were still occupying the property, and failed to respond to letters and telephone calls.

Charging a deposit fee was unfair

The ombudsman awarded £85.25 to a landlord after deciding a letting agent was not entitled to charge a registration fee of £35.25 for the deposit, as it was not provided for in their terms of business.

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