0:05 AM, 31st January 2023, About A year ago
In its latest report, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) reveals that it has excluded six agents from its scheme in the last quarter of 2022 for failing to pay a compensatory award.
All six agents were referred to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee which ruled that they should be excluded.
As part of TPO’s compliance process, notification of these expulsions has been shared with all relevant bodies, including both local and national trading standards for further investigation.
All property portals have also been informed.
The TPO also highlights that its memorandum of understanding between it and other redress schemes prevents agents from registering with another scheme until outstanding awards have been paid to consumers.
And, despite an ever-increasing demand for its service – there were more than 45,000 enquiries in 2021) – TPO has maintained 99% compliance with Ombudsman awards.
This, the organisation says, demonstrates its effectiveness in ensuring consumers receive appropriate redress.
In 2021, there were 2,224 financial awards made to consumers and 2,193 were paid.
Only 17 awards remained unpaid throughout the year with 14 agents excluded, compared to 19 exclusions in 2020.
The TPO’s Compliance Committee has acted against all agents that did not comply with the Ombudsman’s decision.
The batch of six agents that have been excluded from The Property Ombudsman scheme are:
TPO found that Reptons did not abide by the terms of a guaranteed rent agreement, including an obligation to return the property in good condition and pay rent during any void period whilst repairs were undertaken. A lack of rental payments, damage to the property, no rental payments whilst repairs were undertaken were all financial losses to the landlord because of Reptons’ shortcomings. A total award of nearly £22,000 was made comprising of £14,300 in rent not paid, a contribution towards repairs, rent payments whilst works were undertaken and an award to reflect the aggravation caused. TPO believes that this agent is still trading. Phone calls are being answered and properties remain active on its website.
An award was made for failing to transfer rent to the landlord and this remains unpaid. As a matter of best practice, Cook Estates should have transferred rent to the landlord promptly upon receipt. TPO directed Cook Estates to transfer the rental sum of £1,928 plus £500 in compensation. It appears that this agent is no longer trading. Post is being returned to sender, emails are undeliverable and there is no online activity.
This agent has failed to pay two compensatory awards totalling nearly £6,000. TPO found that in both cases Assured Estate Agents had not paid over money owed. The first was to a tenant who had paid 11 months rent upfront but vacated a month early due to the landlord selling. The second complaint came from a landlord who had not received nine months’ rent, despite the tenant providing evidence that payments had been made. TPO has been advised by the agent that they are no longer Assured Estate Agents Ltd and are now AE1 Lettings Limited.
Following the termination of the management contract, the agent did not provide any written confirmation to outline liabilities for fees and charges to the complainant (the landlord). TPO was satisfied the contract had ended when the tenant subsequently paid rent, meaning the agent was not contractually entitled to deduct their fee when transferring over to the complainant. An award of £100 was made. TPO is unsure if Vanquish Letting Services is still trading, but it appears unlikely with no live properties on online property portals and an undeliverable email address.
The agent provided no evidence and failed to abide by their obligation to co-operate with TPO’s investigation. TPO therefore supported the complaint from a leaseholder and made an award of £250 for aggravation caused by the agent’s poor communication. TPO is unsure if Goldfield Properties is still trading. It’s listed as active on Companies House and a proposal to strike off was suspended in July 2022 due to an objection.
The agent provided no evidence and failed to abide by their obligation to co-operate with TPO’s investigation. TPO therefore supported the landlord’s compliant that the agent failed to undertake inspections and made an award of £150. This agent is no longer trading.