The Landlords instructed the Agent to find tenants for their property. The Agent was in charge of viewings and began to market the property in the search for tenants.
A potential tenant contacted the Agent to book a viewing around the property. The Tenant was an electric wheelchair user who thought that the property would be suitable for their needs. The Agent accepted the viewing.
After the viewing had taken place the Landlord noticed that the hallway carpets were marked and some of the walls were damaged from the wheelchair. The Landlord believed that the property was not large enough or designed for the purpose of a wheelchair user and so was not happy that the Agent had allowed the potential tenant to view the property.
The Landlord requested that the Agent should pay compensation of £1,427.92 which covered the repairs, time to arrange repairs, and lost rental income.
The Agent was not prepared to pay the Landlord’s compensation claim and, instead, offered to cover the cost
of the damage alone (£525.38) rather than their time and lost rental income. The Agent offered this as they acknowledged that they could have done more during the viewing to minimise the damage.
The Landlord was also dissatisfied with the complaints handling from the Agent because responses were not initially issued and that they had been accused of discrimination. These events led to the Tenants making a complaint, stating that the Agent had been unprofessional and that they were dissatisfied with the advice regarding the HMO rules
The Landlord was concerned that the viewing should not have taken place as the property was not suitable for a wheelchair user due to its design. The Agent disputed this, explaining that the tenant who viewed the property thought otherwise as he had approached the Agent to rent the property after viewing.
There is a general obligation on those wishing to rent a property to ensure that what they view suits their purpose. In this case, the viewer had disclosed to the Agent that they were a wheelchair user and wished to view the property, which was a bungalow. There was no problem accessing the property, but some staining was caused to the hallway and some damage to corners as the tenant moved around the property. The Agent provided evidence to verify that the viewer wished to progress to let.
The Landlord complained that they were being accused of discrimination however there was no evidence to support the claim. The Agent responded with the supporting information regarding Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which states that agents and landlords cannot discriminate against anyone with a disability who may want to view or rent a property.
Under 8a in the Code of Practice for Residential Letting Agents, Agents are obliged to confirm how viewings should be conducted and, in this case, it was agreed that the Agent would conduct it. Furthermore, under 8b, is states that Agents should provide any feedback from the viewing and the Agent evidenced the notes and contact made with the Landlord the day of the viewing notifying them of the damage.
The Landlord put forward additional costs to the damage for loss of rent and time spent finding new tenants. The Agent was disinstructed after the viewing by the Landlord so it is not known whether a suitable tenant would have been found any sooner by the Agent. In addition, rent is not always guaranteed, and tenants usually must give between one- and two-months’ notice before leaving the property. It was not considered that a new tenant could have been found any sooner and therefore the claim for lost rent was deemed unjustifiable cost under the circumstances.
The Landlord also complained about the communication received from the Agent regarding the complaint made. The initial complaint did not receive a response within the allocated time frame stated in the TPO Code. The Agent waited for the costs to be submitted by the Landlord before responding and therefore there was a small delay. However, once the costs were received the Agent responded within the 15-day time period noted in their complaint procedure.
The Landlord’s complaint was partly supported to the extent that the Agents offer of £525.38 was reasonable in the circumstances. A further award of £50 was made in respect of initial complaint handling failures which had exacerbated the situation.