A sales and lettings agent in South West London has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for a year after the Ombudsman supported a landlord complaint.
Premier Moves Management Limited (PMM) did not pay the award of £4,900 as instructed by the Ombudsman so the case was referred to TPO’s Disciplinary & Standards Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from TPO.
Consumers are being warned that the firm might be trading illegally* as its website is still live with both ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ properties, even though the office is shut and the agent does not appear to be registered with Rightmove or Zoopla.
The complainants said they received a poor service from PMM with ‘promises made and not kept’ and poor communication, with PMM not being contactable during office hours. The specific complaints were that PMM failed to:
- Pay over rental money received
- Advise about Council Tax and whether it should have been accounted for in the rent
- Confirm whether a deposit was taken, the amount and where it was registered
- Effectively manage the property, citing a lack of copy tenancy agreements, updates about renewed tenancy agreements and make regular inspection
- Advise the complainants about changes to lettings of which PMM were aware
The Ombudsman investigated each issue and upheld the complaints. PMM had already agreed it owed £3,600 in rent received. The Ombudsman directed PMM to transfer all rent monies by then owed to the Complainants (£4,350). In addition to this, a £500 award of compensation was made. The total award was £4,900.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “My investigation found the agent had failed to ensure rent was passed on to the complainants (landlords) promptly and considered this caused the complainants aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The agent agreed, in writing, that the amount owed to the complainants would be fully paid to them in 28 days but the agent failed to make any payment so the case was referred to the DSC.”
DSC findings and ruling
All members of TPO are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman and are also obliged to co-operate with investigations. Premier Moves Management Limited also voluntarily agreed to abide by the Code. PMM did make an offer to pay by instalments following the Ombudsman’s decision but this was refused by the complainants. However, no further offer or any payment on account was made after that.
The DSC therefore considered this a serious and flagrant breach of Premier Moves Management Limited’s obligations under the Membership Deed. In view of that, the DSC concluded that Premier Moves Management Limited should be expelled and excluded from membership of TPO and from registration for redress for one year.
This means that Premier Moves Management Limited will, for that period, no longer be registered with TPO for lettings redress as required by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and could not operate as a sales agent because redress registration is also required by Section 23A of the Estate Agents Act 1979.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of TPO’s Board, said: “We set high standards for agents – the scheme’s approved Code of Practice goes above and beyond the letter of the law, requiring agents to offer additional safeguards to protect consumers. This firm will longer be able to trade as a result of this expulsion and we urge any consumers that suspect the firm is trading to contact Trading Standards who have been notified of PMM’s expulsion.”
*N.B. Every sales and lettings agent in England is required to register with a Government-approved redress scheme, which enables consumers to have their complaint reviewed independently in the event of a dispute arising that the consumer is unable to resolve with the agent directly.
An agreement between the three Government-approved redress schemes means PMM will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for the agents to trade legally.