Following the completion of the purchase, the buyer, Miss E, raised a number of complaints with the Agent regarding the pressure placed on her to use their associated conveyancing service, their record keeping concerning her offers and their subsequent complaint handling process.
Regarding the ‘recommendation’ to use the Agent’s associated conveyancing service, the Agent acknowledged that they told Miss E that it was a condition of the sale to use their conveyancer but argued that they had negotiated a reduction in the purchase price to encourage this. However, the Agent failed to provide any evidence to substantiate their claim that this condition of sale originated from the seller, as opposed to them. I also found the Agent had been careless when providing a quote to Miss E for the cost of their conveyancing service, which turned out to be inaccurate and lower than what was subsequently charged. I was also unable to locate any contemporaneous records of Miss E’s first two offers which was inconsistent with their obligations under Paragraphs 7a and 7b of the TPO Code of Practice. Finally, it was apparent that when faced with Miss E’s allegations, the Agent had failed to undertake a proper investigation within the timescales required by the TPO Code.
The Agent clearly failed to demonstrate that they had adhered to their obligation under Paragraph 7c of the TPO Code of Practice not to discriminate against Miss E by making it a condition that their associated conveyancing service must be used if the property was to be purchased. Furthermore, their failures to keep proper records of Miss E’s offers and, when challenged, conduct a proper investigation in accordance with their responsibilities under the TPO Code of Practice, persuaded me that despite successfully buying the property, Miss E had been unnecessarily subjected to avoidable distress, aggravation and inconvenience. I, therefore, made an award of £400.
Unless the seller has instructed the agent to only offer the property to potential buyers who agree to use the agent’s associated services, all offers received for the property must be passed to the seller promptly and in writing. Indeed, for such a scenario to be acceptable, I would expect the agent to be able to demonstrate that the seller was specifically made aware and agreed to the terms restricting the marketing of his property in this way and for the sales particulars to explicitly state these requirements so that all potential buyers were fully aware of the restrictions.