Red door

Please Note: All references to the masculine include the feminine on TPO website and documents.

Case Summaries

This is an example of Cases closed this year, this list will be updated monthly.
May 2014

Sales

1. In this case, the Complainant (a Seller) alleged that the Agent had released the keys to the Buyers a day before completion of the sale of the Property had taken place. The Agent acknowledged that this had been the case, and apologised for their error in this regard. I confirmed that the keys ought not to have been released until the Agent had been advised by the Complainant's solicitor that completion had taken place and that it was safe to do so, and I considered that the Agent's actions in this regard had failed to protect the Complainant's best interests. I supported the complaint to this extent, but when making my award, took into account that no tangible disadvantage had been caused to the Complainant as a result of the early release of the keys in this instance. The Property was unoccupied and unfurnished. Accordingly, I directed the Agent to compensate the Complainant in the sum of £100.

2. The Buyer Complainants raised two complaints. The first concerned offers. They claimed that the Agent had orchestrated a situation whereby they were gazumped in the hopes of achieving higher commission. The Complainants also said that the Agent had failed to pass on their offer to the Seller. In light of the evidence I was provided with, I was persuaded that the Agent had treated the Complainants unfairly by failing to pass on their offer to the Seller. It was my view that they had discriminated against the Complainants in favour of a third party purchaser who was using the Agent's other in-house services. I was critical of the Agent for this unacceptable action and for acting without integrity. I considered that their actions had caused the Complainants significant avoidable aggravation and distress. I supported the complaint. The second complaint concerned communication. I supported the first element of the complaint as there was no evidence that the Agent had communicated at all with the Complainants after their offer was accepted. Whilst they had no obligation to do so, I would expect them to have made some efforts to keep the Complainants informed. I did not support the second element of the complaint; the Complainants claimed the Agent had obstructed the sale process by failing to promptly pass on copies of the Seller's identification to the solicitor. There was no evidence that this was the case, nor was there any reason for the Agent to have done so. Overall, I supported some of the complaints raised and made an award of £1,000.

3. The Complainant (a Potential Buyer) claimed that the Agent had been misleading in the description of the Property and that the Agent was responsible for delays experienced in the transaction because they had referred the Seller to the services of a particular legal representative. Having considered all the evidence presented, I was satisfied that the Agent had met their obligations in respect of Paragraph 5h of the TPO Code of Practice and their obligations in accordance in the principles of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. I did not consider the Agent's referral of legal services to the Seller to be relevant. I was satisfied that the Agent met the requirements of Paragraph 11a of the TPO Code of Practice in respect of their role after acceptance of the Complainant's offer. I found that the delays experienced were an inherent part of the buying and selling process and, whilst I acknowledged the Complainant's frustration in this respect, I was satisfied that this was not attributable to the Agent. I found that the decision to withdraw from the transaction, prior to exchange of contracts, was that of the Seller and, accordingly, I could not conclude that the sale did not proceed as a result of any shortcomings on the part of the Agent. I, therefore, did not support this complaint.

4. In this case, the Complainant was a Potential Seller who stated that she did not hold the Agent responsible for the failure of a proposed sale of her Property to complete but having subsequently read the TPO Code of Practice, she considered there were a number of aspects of the Code that the Agent had not adhered to. Specifically in respect of the marketing of her Property and the communication received from the agent during this time. I found there to be numerous inconsistencies in the versions of events presented by the Complainant and insufficient evidence provided by both parties which prevented me from reaching a judgement on the majority of the issues raised. I found instances where the Agent had failed to adhere to their obligations under the TPO Code of Practice, and thus supported a few elements of the complaint. However I did not consider that the Agent's service failures in anyway disadvantaged the Complainant and therefore did not consider an award of compensation to be merited. However, I supported one complaint where the agent had erected a 'To Let' board at the request of the Potential Buyer without obtaining the Complainant's authority. I considered that this caused the Complainant an element of aggravation, distress and inconvenience. I made an award of £50 for the element of the complaint that I supported.

5. In this case, the Complainants (Sellers) raised a number of concerns regarding the Agent they instructed to market the Property for sale. The Agent acknowledged that there had been some shortcomings in the service that they had provided, and had made the Complainants a goodwill offer in recognition of this. In particular, I identified shortcomings in the Agent's preparation of the sales particulars and the initial marketing of the Property, and I criticised the Agent for their failure on one occasion to provide the Complainants with notice of a viewing at the Property. I also found that the Agent's communication with the Complainants had been generally poor, and that the Agent's response to the Complainants' initial complaint had been severely delayed. I supported the complaints raised regarding these matters and made an award in compensation of £400.

Lettings

1. In this case the Complainant (Tenant) was dissatisfied with the Agent for not providing an up to date rental account. The Complainant said that a number of payments were not allocated to her rent account, despite providing evidence that they were made. I found that the Agent had acknowledged some payments but did not apply them to the account for which I was critical. There was a lack of clarity caused by the Agent for not having clear and accurate accounts and locating payments as they should have done. I found this to have caused the Complainant avoidable aggravation. I did not, however, make judgement on the amount of arrears owing. In respect of maintenance at the Property, I was satisfied that this was the Landlord's responsibility. On the evidence presented to me I was unable to find that the aggravation caused by any delays was attributable to the Agent. I did not, therefore, support this complaint. I was critical of the Agent's complaints handling as this did not meet the requirements of Section 15 of the Code of Practice, as no formal response was sent by the Agent. I found that this caused the Complainant avoidable aggravation. I supported this complaint. Overall, I supported two of the complaints raised. I directed that the Agent applied the missing rent payments to the Complainant's account; I also made an award of £300 in compensation for the aggravation caused by the Agent's shortcomings.

2. In this case, the Complainants (Landlords) raised concerns regarding the Agent they instructed to find a tenant for the Property. I found that the Agent had accepted an application from Tenants wishing to keep a dog in the Property without notifying the Complainants or seeking their authority, and that the amended tenancy agreement, which allowed a dog to be kept in the Property, had not been provided to the Complainants until after the Tenants had taken occupation of the Property. I also found that the Agent had failed to explain to the Complainants that the first month's rent would be taken in payment of their fees, and that the Agent had failed to carry out an inventory as per the Complainants' instructions. I supported these complaints, together with a complaint raised regarding the Agent's handling of the Complainants' concerns, and made a compensatory award of £350.

3. The Complainants (the Tenants) had rented the Property for nearly four years, in this time the Landlord had instructed two agents. The Tenancy Agreement the first Agent drafted confirmed that the first Agent had received a deposit of £650. However, at the end of the Tenancy, the second Agent stated that they had not received these funds. Whilst I was unable to determine whether the second Agent was holding the Complainants' deposit funds of £650, I was persuaded to support this complaint to the extent that the Agent failed to safeguard the Complainants' interests when they took over the management of the Property. The failure to ensure that the Complainants deposit funds were transferred into their deposit protection scheme account had resulted in the Complainants suffering significant aggravation, distress and inconvenience and being unable to reclaim their deposit funds of £650. However, I pointed out that it was the Landlord, under the Tenancy Agreement who was responsible for the deposit. I made an award of £200 for the aggravation, distress and inconvenience suffered.

4. In this case, the Complainant (a Landlord) raised a number of concerns regarding the Agent she instructed on a tenant-find and rent-collection basis. I found that the Agent had failed to maintain accurate records for the Property and had overcharged their commission fee upon the commencement of a new tenancy. I supported the complaints raised regarding these matters, and, in lieu of an award of financial compensation, directed the Agent to withdraw any future claim for renewal fees, taking into account that the Tenant had been in occupation of the Property for in excess of eight years (albeit mostly in an earlier tenancy with her partner), during which the Agent had claimed fees stemming from her introduction of the Property. I considered this a fair and reasonable outcome to the dispute between them and reflected the Complainant's wish to bring an end to her relationship with the Agent.

5. In this case, the Complainants (Landlords) alleged that the referencing checks carried out by the Agent had failed to identify adverse credit history on the part of the Tenants. I found that the referencing checks carried out by the Agent had been sufficiently comprehensive to satisfy the requirements of Paragraph 7b of the TPO Code of Practice, and that no adverse credit history had come to light. I advised the Complainants that, ultimately, the Agent could not be held accountable for the actions of the Tenants, and I did not support this element of the complaint. The Complainants also raised concerns, however, regarding the Agent's handling of their complaint, and I upheld this element of the complaint to the extent that the Agent had failed to respond to the Complainants' concerns within the timescale provided for by Paragraph 15d of the TPO Code of Practice. I made a compensatory award in recognition of this issue of £75.