Following the completion of the sale, the Agent wrote to Mr and Mrs J requesting payment of their commission fee. Mr and Mrs J responded by making a number of allegations which included the property being overvalued and the Agent failing to adequately communicate with them.
The property was placed on the market towards the end of January 2010 and by early March 2010 the Agent had sourced a cash buyer who made an acceptable offer.
Contracts were exchanged in May 2010 and completion followed in September 2010. Mr and Mrs J did not pay the commission fee on completion and enquiries by the Agent with the sellers’ solicitor in January 2011 revealed that they had moved to Spain and were disputing the invoice. The Agent then wrote to Mr and Mrs J stating they had not received settlement and inviting them to pay the commission fee on a ‘Without Prejudice’ basis. Mr and Mrs J did not pay the fee but proceeded to lodge a formal complaint. The evidence within the Agent’s file indicated that they had correctly valued the property and that they had regularly communicated with their clients.
I did not support any of the complaints and was of the view that, if Mr and Mrs J had any grievances in relation to the service they had received, they should have raised those at the time as opposed to four months after completion and only after the Agent had pursued
them for the outstanding debt. The debt and accruing interest remained outstanding and the sellers had, so far, succeeded in delaying payment of a correctly compiled and legally enforceable invoice by over a year. I commented that, should Mr and Mrs J not settle the
invoice without further delay, there was no reason why the Agent should not take the matter to Court.
Where a fee is disputed, I accept that agents may, in certain situations, want to pursue the matter through the Courts. However, where the matter is referred to my Office, the agent should not continue with that action until I have determined the case. I will also ask the complainant to pay the fee on a ‘without prejudice’ basis prior to reaching a decision on the matter.