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Boost to Protection for Consumers Using Lettings Agents

Published on Wednesday, 17 April 2013. Posted in Press Releases

Housing Minister Mark Prisk has promised legislation to bring residential lettings agents within the scope of The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act, for better consumer protection.

The move has been welcomed by The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, as a positive step to raise consumer protection by giving access to an independent disputes resolution mechanism and also an opportunity to raise standards across an industry thought to handle £14 billion a year, earning £1 billion for itself in the process.

Membership Notification

Published on Friday, 05 April 2013. Posted in Press Releases

Representatives from TPO, ARLA, RICS and UKALA met with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) on 22 March regarding the ASA ruling on disclosure of non-optional fees and charges to tenants.

CAP is the body responsible for issuing guidance on how, in practical terms, the obligations now placed on letting agents by the ASA ruling can be met. The group welcomed CAP's offer to the organisations attending the meeting for further involvement in process of defining the best approach for guidance.

TPO's Response to the Your Move Ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority

Published on Friday, 15 March 2013. Posted in Press Releases

An update from TPO regarding the ASA's recent ruling relating to the inclusion of tenant fees in advertisements

The recent ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) relating to advertisements from Your Move lettings together with the Which? mystery shopping report of four letting agents have once again brought the issue of disclosure of fees imposed on tenants to the forefront of the current debate about the Private Rented Sector.

A Festive Failing

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Mr and Mrs I (the prospective buyers and complainants) were due to exchange contracts on the property two days before Christmas but, on the day of the exchange, it was discovered that the sellers’ proposed onward purchase had suffered flood damage and was the subject of an insurance claim. Although Mr and Mrs I’s money was in place with their solicitor in readiness for exchange, given that the sellers were elderly, Mr and Mrs I did not wish for them to have to move into a water damaged property in the middle of winter. They agreed to postpone the exchange and completion until after Christmas. However, three weeks after the holidays the Agent contacted Mr and Mrs I to inform them that the sellers had accepted another offer and would not be proceeding with them. Mr and Mrs I immediately complained that the Agent had failed to keep them updated.

A Clear Description

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Mr and Mrs F, the buyers, complained that throughout the sales particulars the Agent had misdescribed the property as benefitting from double-glazing, when in fact, it did not. Mr and Mrs F stated that they had relied on this incorrect information when purchasing the property and considered that the Property Misdescriptions Act had been breached, directly resulting in them facing an estimated bill of £6,000 to install double-glazing after discovering the error after moving in.

Annual Report 2012 - Press Release

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Press Releases

Ombudsman continues to press the government to bring about legislation to regulate letting agents

In his 2012 Annual Report, The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, reiterates his call for some form of regulation of letting agents. At the very least Mr Hamer argues that all letting agents operating in the UK should be required by law to join the Ombudsman scheme.

Learning Points from the CPRs Cases

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Learning

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) require agents to take a different approach to disclosure of information about properties they are marketing from what is considered acceptable practice under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991.

 

CPRs Case 5 - Title Issue

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Following the successful completion of the transaction, Miss E, the buyer, complained that the Agent did not disclose their financial interest in the property which had led to delays resulting in additional solicitor fees. The Agent denied that they held a financial interest in the property.

CPRs Case 4 - Parking Space Included?

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

This was a complaint concerning non-disclosure of information where the potential buyer, Mr D, alleged that the Agent knew that there was a dispute over the ownership of the parking space at the property but said nothing, resulting in a long drawn out transaction from which Mr D eventually withdrew.

CPRs Case 3 - Shared Ownership

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Upon discovering that the property had shared ownership, the potential buyer, Mr C, withdrew from the transaction and raised a complaint against the Agent alleging that the property had not been described correctly.

CPR's Case 2 - Damp Descriptions

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Following completion Mr and Mrs B raised a complaint that the Agent had not divulged that the property suffered from severe damp and a leaking boiler despite this information being previously known as a result of a survey carried out by previous potential buyers and from conversations the Agent had held with the neighbour occupying the adjoining property which was also being affected by the problem. Mr and Mrs B also asserted that staff at the Agent’s office had encouraged them to commission a standard home buyer survey which, in the event, did not highlight the damp or boiler issues.

CPR's Case 1 - Non-Traditional Construction

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Mr and Mrs A were potential buyers who had to withdraw their offer when their building society (which had already agreed a mortgage in principle) refused to lend on the property because the survey revealed it to be of a non-traditional ‘rendered’ concrete construction. Mr and Mrs A argued that the Agent should have informed them of this information at an early stage to have enabled them to have checked with their building society before incurring the expense of a survey. The Agent’s response was that the situation had occurred because Mr and Mrs A were limited, due to their age, to using a specialist lender. The Agent also pointed out that they had sold similar houses on the same development (including, subsequently, the property in question) and the construction of the properties had not been an issue.

More Reckless Referencing

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

In this case the Agent arranged a tenancy for two years in favour of four tenants who had offered to pay £200 per month more than the previous tenants. The landlords, Mr and Mrs J, were understandably happy that the Agent had found tenants willing to pay a higher level of rent. However, nine months into the tenancy Mr and Mrs J were contacted by the police to advise that they intended to raid the property as the heat signatures detected from the building indicated that it may be being used for drug cultivation. Furthermore, the police advised Mr and Mrs J that the persons living in the property were not those as recorded in the tenancy agreement and that references may have been forged. Following the raid, which found that the property was being used as a cannabis farm, Mr and Mrs J complained to the Agent stating that they should have been more diligent in their referencing. The Agent responded by arguing that, as per a previously arranged tenancy, they had not used a referencing service provider, adding that the documents provided by the tenants contained no information which should have put them ‘on notice’ that something may have been wrong.

Guaranteed Rent

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

Following the end of the tenancy and the tenancy deposit scheme awarding the full amount of the deposit to Mrs I (the landlord) in respect of damage caused to the property, she raised 21 different complaints concerning the Agent’s conduct which she asserted had contributed to the problems arising. Mrs I’s central claims were that the tenant found by the Agent was unsuitable for the property, that they failed to undertake proper references and that they did not carry out inspections during the tenancy which would have alerted her to the problems sooner. The Agent’s response was that they had obtained acceptable references, that they were not responsible for the tenant’s behaviour and that they were, therefore, not liable for the balance of the costs not settled by the security deposit.

Incorrect Notices

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

The landlord, Mrs H, entered into a guaranteed rent arrangement with the Agent. However, following a series of rental payments being missed, Mrs H instructed the Agent to regain possession of the property. After a number of months, Mrs H became concerned about the time being taken and, following a number of her letters not being responded to, raised a complaint.

Holding Deposit and Pre-Tenancy Conditions

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. Posted in Case Studies

Complaint

The prospective tenant, Miss F, paid a holding deposit and administration fees to the Agent on the condition that the landlord agreed a break clause which met her employer’s approval. Miss F asserted that an agreement had been reached that if this requirement proved impossible she would get her money back. Unfortunately, following a suitable break clause not being agreed, Miss F withdrew and the Agent stated that they would only refund half of the monies.