Please Note: All references to the masculine include the feminine on TPO website and documents.
1. In this case, the Complainants (Sellers) alleged that the Agent had claimed a commission fee to which they were not reasonably entitled. I found that the Agent had provided the Buyer with details for the Property, and that the Buyer had attempted to view the Property shortly thereafter, but that the appointment for them to do so was cancelled by the Complainants when the Property was withdrawn from the market. When the Property was returned to the market by another agent shortly after, the Buyer made contact with that agent to rearrange their viewing, and ultimately the Buyer went on to purchase the Property. On the balance of the information available to me, I considered that the provision of details to the Buyer by the Agent had led to a sustained interest in the Property on the part of the Buyer which culminated in the Buyer's purchase. As such, it was my view that the Agent was responsible for the introduction of the Buyer, and I upheld the Agent's contractual entitlement to the commission fee they had claimed. However, in the circumstances at hand, and in recognition of the limited role the Agent played in the negotiation and progression of the sale of the Property to the Buyer, I did not consider it fair and reasonable for the full commission fee to be payable. Accordingly, I directed the Agent to withdraw their commission fee invoice and to issue a new invoice in the sum of £1,331.25 (plus VAT), that was, half of the fee initially claimed. In so doing, I was aware that the Complainants had not yet paid the second agent's fees.
2. In this case, the Complainant (prospective Buyer) explained that she had paid a deposit of £500 to the Agent in order that they reserved the Property for her. The Complainant stated that the Agent had assured her that the deposit would be refunded if the sale did not proceed. The Complainant subsequently withdrew from the transaction and asked for the deposit to be returned but the Agent declined. I found that the Agent had not adhered to the general rule under Paragraph 9a of the TPO Code of Practice not to take pre-contract deposits, had not ensured that the receipt for the money contained all the information it should have done and had not returned the funds to the Complainant in a timely manner. As such, I was not satisfied that they provided a service consistent with fairness, integrity and best practice, as required under Paragraph 1d of the TPO Code of Practice. I supported this complaint. I directed that the Agent return the deposit of £500 and pay £150 in respect of lost interest and distress, aggravation and inconvenience. My full award was £650.
3. In this case, the Complainants (successful Sellers) alleged that the Agent did not communicate adequately with them. On the basis of the evidence provided, I supported an element of this complaint. The Complainants also raised a complaint in relation to commission fees. The Complainants instructed the Agent whilst still under contract with their former agent and both Agents required a commission fee. The contract with the Agent was a sole selling rights contract and this provided that the Agent was entitled to a fee if the Property was sold to anyone during their sole selling rights period, whether or not the buyer was introduced by them. I found that the Property was sold during the sole selling rights period and the Agent was therefore contractually entitled to a fee. However, I found that the former agent was also contractually entitled to a fee as they had introduced the Buyer in the first instance. The Complainants therefore found themselves contractually liable for two fees. However, I considered that best practice would have been for the Agent and the former agent to have liaised with each other and to have shared the fee. I also considered that this approach would be fair and reasonable in the circumstances. I therefore directed the Agent and the former agent to share the fee and I supported the complaint to this extent. I also made an award of £100 in respect of the element of the complaint I supported.
4. The Complainant was told she had to take her mortgage with the Agent as a condition of her offer being accepted. This would have cost her more. When she told the Agent nine days after her offer was accepted, that she would be using her own mortgage advisor after all, the Agent told her that a higher offer had been made and to put the sale on hold. There was no other offer, but it gave the Agent time to conduct another viewing and obtain a higher offer. This culminated in the Complainant having to offer more. I could only infer that the motive had been the Agents potential commercial gain, which backfired as the other buyers withdrew their offer. The sale to her finally getting underway, the Complainant then discovered that when the house had been converted from a shop, planning permission for change of use had not been granted. No domestic lender would lend on what was officially a part retail property and she lost a considerable sum when the sale fell through. I concluded that the Agent could see, as could the Complainant, that the front of the property had been changed from a shop style frontage and mindful of an Agentís duty to disclose material information, they should at least have said it looked as if the property had once been a shop and that she should get her solicitor to check. In all I awarded £1000.
5. In this case the Complainants (Sellers and Buyers) were not satisfied with the way in which the Agent conducted both their sale and purchase. The complaints raised were that a copy of the Agency Agreement was not provided at the time of instruction, there were delays in the transaction completing, conflict of interest with their seller, the For Sale Board, communication and complaints handling. I found the Agent should have done more to ensure that the Complainants had been provided with a copy of the Agency Agreement, given that they were aware it had not been provided on instruction. However, I did not support the Complainants' view that this meant they were unaware of the commission fee. I was persuaded that the delays caused in their sale were during the conveyancing process, over which the Agent had no influence or control. I was not persuaded that any conflict of interest arose between the Seller of the onward purchase also instructing the Agent. The Complainants asked the Agent to contact a third party, as a representative of the Complainants, with regards to the transaction, however there were occasions on which the Complainants had continued to be contacted. Although, there were times when the Complainants' instructions had not been followed I was not satisfied that this had disadvantaged the Complainants. I was satisfied that on submission of a formal complaint the Agent broadly dealt with it in accordance with Section 13 of the Code of Practice, although their initial concerns were not acknowledged and I was critical of this. I did not support this complaint to the extent of making an award. I supported an aspect of the complaints raised and reinstated the Agent's goodwill offer of £100 as my proposed compensatory award.
1. The Complainant (Potential Tenant) paid a holding deposit of £200 to secure the Property. After spending two weeks chasing the Complainant to complete the transaction, the Complainant confirmed that he had in fact decided to rent another property. The Complainant then requested the return of the holding deposit. Whilst the Agent had some reservations, they accepted the Complainant's argument that he was unaware that the holding deposit was non-refundable prior to making the said payment and returned the £200. However, this was not sufficient for the Complainant; he requested interest on the holding deposit of £200 held by the Agent and an additional £300 for the distress and aggravation he had allegedly suffered. In this case, I did not support the complaint that the Complainant should receive interest for the period of time the Agent was in receipt of the holding deposit of £200, which would have been minimal, and I did not consider the language used by the Agent in response to his complaint were unreasonable in the circumstances. I also informed the Complainant that I did make awards of compensation for the inconvenience involved in bringing a complaint to this Office. In my view, the Agent's action in returning the holding deposit of £200 was a reasonable outcome to the dispute. No additional award of compensation was made.
2. The Complainants (Landlords) complained about the Agent's referencing of the Tenant, handling of rent arrears and property inspections. The Agent failed to carry out any referencing of the Tenant. In this case, the Tenant failed to pay his rent in full for the last four and a half months of the Tenancy, resulting in considerable rent arrears. The Tenant completed an application form and although on paper he appeared to be able to afford the rent, this was not a guarantee that references would be satisfactory and did not negate the Agentís obligations to carry out referencing. Whilst it was not known what the outcome of referencing would have been, I found that the Agent failed in their duty of care to the Complainants. I supported this complaint. The Tenant failed to pay his rent and fell into arrears. The Agent was obliged under their Terms of Business to send 'debt collection letters' to the Tenant in this situation. However, they failed to do so. I was not persuaded that the Agent took sufficient action to deal with the late rent payments or subsequently to chase him for the rent arrears. I supported this complaint. Under their Terms of Business, the Agent was obliged to carry out four inspections a year and provide property inspection reports to the Complainants for each inspection. However, there was no record of inspections taking place and there were no property inspection reports contained in the Agent's branch file. The Agent's version of events appeared to indicate that whilst there had been some inspections, they were not sure how many. I was unable to determine for certain how many property inspections were carried out. From the evidence provided, I was not persuaded that they carried out sufficient inspections of the Property, or that they completed and provided the Complainants with any property inspection reports, as they should have done. I supported the complaint. I made an award of £900 for the avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience experienced by the Complainants as a result of the Agent's shortcomings, but pointed out that the tenancy agreement provided the Landlord with the mechanism to claim lost rent and other losses which the tenant was liable.
3. The Complainants (Tenants) raised complaints about communication and maintenance/repairs. I considered that the Agent's communication with the Complainants could have been better such as when they were waiting for responses from contractors. Instead of informing the Complainants of the current situation, they simply failed to contact them prompting the Complainants to send chase emails to them. There was also an instance where the Complainants raised a concern about the behaviour of contractors who had attended the Property. I did not consider the Agent was responsible for this, but I did comment that they should have asked the contractors to treat the Complainants fairly and with courtesy when working at the Property. I supported this complaint. I did not support the complaint concerning maintenance/repairs as it related to the length of time that certain works had taken to be completed. I did not consider that the Agent could be held responsible for this. I made an award of £75 in respect of the complaint that I supported.
4. The Complainants (Landlords) raised two complaints concerning the Agent's management of the end of one tenancy and the beginning of the next and complaints handling. In relation to the Agent's management of the tenancies, I supported both elements of the complaint that were made. I found that the check-out and check-in inspections conducted by the Agent were insufficient and not in accordance with their obligations under the TPO Code of Practice. This meant that issues that should have been reported to the Complainants were not and I accepted that this would have caused them some avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience when they later became aware of these. In addition, I was critical of the Agent for their failure to communicate with the Complainants when they requested clarification of the fees associated with the beginning of a new Tenancy. I also supported the complaint concerning complaints handling as I found that the Agent's tone and content in some of their complaints correspondence was more accusatory than conciliatory and I accepted that this would have caused the Complainants some avoidable aggravation. I, therefore, made an award of compensation in the sum of £200 for the aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused to the Complainants as a result of the Agent's shortcomings.
5. In this case, the Landlord Complainant raised a complaint about referencing. She also raised a number of issues about the Tenant's behaviour, and the results of this. I explained that I was unable to consider those concerns within my review, and that I could only look at the service provided by the Agent. The Complainant entered into a six month Tenancy Agreement with the Tenant following referencing. The Agent claimed that the Tenant made them aware about his adverse credit history. The Tenant offered to pay six months' rent in advance because of this which the Complainant accepted. At the end of the initial fixed term, a new Tenancy Agreement was entered into. At this point, the Tenant was unable to pay the whole of the rent for the whole of the term in advance as he had done previously. It was evident that the Complainant had been made aware of this, but she agreed to proceed with the Tenancy. I noted that the Tenant did not fall into arrears until one year after the commencement of the second fixed term Agreement. I could not conclude that the Agent had acted in a way which had caused the Complainant any aggravation, distress or inconvenience or actual detriment. I did not support the complaint.