Tenants and landlords in St. Leonards-On-Sea are being warned that a local letting agent, Foremost Lettings Ltd (trading as Foremost Lettings), has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman and is no longer trading. A Facebook post from December 2019 states that the company has been bought out by The Property Café, which do not appear to hold any common directors with Foremost Lettings.
The Property Ombudsman received a complaint from a tenant who complained that Foremost Lettings did not provide sufficient information regarding the requirements for Guarantors, and so was not able to provide a suitable person to fulfil this role and the proposed let did not go ahead. The complainant wished to receive a full refund for the pre-tenancy payments made.
The Ombudsman supported this complaint to the extent that no referencing of a guarantor had been carried out and the agent's proposal to refund the guarantor fee of £90 was reasonable in the circumstances. Foremost Lettings retained the rest of the pre-tenancy payment as they had carried out work in preparation for the tenancy.
A complaint was also raised about complaints handling, which the Ombudsman supported as there was no evidence that the tenant was provided with a copy of the agent's internal complaints procedure when they had first raised their complaint. An award of £50 was made for the shortcoming making the total award owed to the tenant by the agent £140.
Foremost Lettings Ltd failed to pay the award and The Ombudsman referred them to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that they should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Foremost Lettings Ltd is no longer trading, their website is no longer active, and they do not appear to be members of any professional bodies or be actively advertising properties on any of the main portals. As part of TPO’s process, notification of all expulsions are shared with any relevant bodies, including both Local and National Trading Standards
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chairman of TPO’s Finance Committee: “As a member of TPO, agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman, which Foremost Lettings Ltd failed to do. It appears that this agent is no longer trading, which is frustrating for the tenant who is owed outstanding monies.
We would like to remind consumers to ensure they always use an agent which is a member of a redress scheme (The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme) and holds Client Money Protection*.”
N.B. Every sales and lettings agent in England is required to register with a Government-approved redress scheme, which enables consumers to have their complaint reviewed independently in the event of a dispute arising that the consumer is unable to resolve with the agent directly.
*Full list of Client Money Protection schemes, is:
Money Shield, Client Money Protect, safeagent Client Money Protection, Propertymark, RICS, UKALA Client Money Protection
For press information, please contact:
The Inhouse Way
Tel: 01276 804411
Helen Evison: 07920 516 577
Holly Addinall: 07979 537 334
NOTES TO EDITOR:
What is The Property Ombudsman?
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered agent. The scheme was established in 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose, achieving a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and/or for aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered agent.
TPO is funded through membership subscriptions and case fees and is free to all consumers.
At 31 December 2018 over 15,897 sales offices and 14,746 letting offices were registered with TPO.
Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Board which is chaired by a member of the House of Lords and with the majority of its members being independent from the industry.
The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered agent.
Awards made by the Ombudsman in 2018 were paid by agents to consumers in 97% of cases. In the few cases where awards remain unpaid, agents are referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel agents from the scheme. Expelled agents are reported to the appropriate authorities who have the power to ban agents from carrying out agency business.
If TPO becomes aware that an agent under investigation has ceased trading, complainants are promptly informed and, where an award is made, are provided with the necessary documentation to make a claim against that company. TPO’s agreement with the Property Redress Scheme, means that not only will expelled agents not be able to register for any form of redress, but any new company set up by the same directors will not be accepted for redress membership, until the Ombudsman’s award is paid.
The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, case summaries, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered agents.
For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk