This edition highlights some important compliance matters to take note of and includes a special invite for TPO members to join the Ombudsman at a series of industry events taking place across the UK. Please also make sure you update your records with TPO's new dedicated telephone number for all Membership enquiries - the number was launched today and is 01722 335458.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Vice Chairman, TPO Board.
Bite-size best practice: Fixed contracts & notice periods
This ‘bite-size’ best practice feature has been written in response to some enquiries we’ve received from member agents who wanted to know what TPO’s view was with regards to letting agents extending a fixed contract with an extended notice period.
For example, if a tenant has a 12 month contract, can a letting agent impose a 3-month notice period that can-not be served until the 12-months have passed, which effectively makes this a 15-month agreement.
The OFT stance requires that an individual can give notice before expiry of the contract so that it expires at the end of the term. What the OFT considers ‘illegal’ is an agent saying the term of contact is 16, 18 or 20 weeks for example and adding the 14 day notice period on (such that it is effectively an 18, 20 or 22 week contract).
If a contract has expired then best practice would be that the agent advises the seller of the expiration – but no notice period would be required.
Any agency agreement should state precisely the terms of the arrangement, e.g. the length of contract, notice period, procedure for giving notice etc.
Further information can be found in TPO’s Code of Practice for Residential Letting Agents (Section3).
Please let us know if you find this information useful and we will endeavour to provide further best practice features over the coming editions.
New telephone number launched for TPO members
TPO members now have a new direct telephone number to reach the Membership team on.
The dedicated telephone number, which is 01722 335458, went live today (31st March) and enables TPO members to select:
- Option 1: Membership (general enquiries)
- Option 2: Accounts
- Option 3: Membership compliance and surveys
We hope this new number will enable agents to reach the right team quickly.
Any calls concerning a complaint must be directed through the main switchboard number (which will continue to be 01722 333306) to ensure one of TPO’s advisors in the Complaints Operations team can assist.
Special invite for TPO members
A new UK-wide calendar of events was launched earlier this month by NAEA & ARLA, which invites TPO members to attend a special Omudsman presentation and TPO workshop to help agents resolve disputes.
The first two events took place in Bristol and Oxford, with eight more events scheduled to take place over the rest of the year.
Tickets are normally limited to ARLA & NAEA members but agents registered with TPO are welcome to attend the following forthcoming events:
1 Apr: NAEA ARLA North Wales - Tuesday - Tre-Ysgawen Country House, Anglesey
1 May: NAEA ARLA York - Thursday - Royal York Hotel
13 May: NAEA ARLA Plymouth - Tuesday - Boringdon Hall
4 Jun: NAEA ARLA Southampton - Wednesday - Marriott Meon Valley
10 Sep: NAEA ARLA Lincoln - Wednesday - Forest Pines
8 Oct: NAEA ARLA Newmarket - Wednesday - Newmarket Racecourse
13 Nov: NAEA ARLA Shrewsbury - Thursday - Mecure Albrighton Hall
19 Nov: NAEA ARLA Blackpool - Wednesday - De Vere Village, Herons Reach
Christopher Hamer, the Ombudsman, said: “These events are a great opportunity to meet agents and share advice. The feedback so far has been extremely positive and demonstrates the additional value of TPO membership as it gives agents who are not registered with a trade body a forum to network, learn new things and participate in the workshops we’re hosting.
"My ultimate aim with these presentations is to ensure agents understand my role as Ombudsman, to share the latest industry best practice and to assist agents in avoiding complaints arising in the first place. If complaints do arise, agents can apply the principles taught in the workshops to hopefully avoid TPO’s involvement.”
Places are subject to availability with agents being able to choose whether they wish to attend the whole day or the TPO session, and are subject to a registration fee.
Please note that spaces are limited and will be on a first come, first served basis.
Find out more: Please visit www.naea.co.uk/events/upcoming-events/events-calendar-2014.aspx to view the agenda for each event and to find out more.