The Drake Lawson Limited trading as Alexander Reed, a sales and lettings agent in Isleworth, West London, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for the non-payment of three separate awards.
The Ombudsman supported three cases against Alexander Reed, one complaint from a tenant and the other two from landlords. In all cases, the Ombudsman was extremely critical of the agent for not co-operating with the investigation. There was no documentary evidence provided and therefore no proof that they had met their obligations under the TPO Code of Practice.
The first complaint was raised by a tenant concerning the holding deposit which he paid when he was out of the country. Having failed referencing, the tenant requested a refund, but the agent refused saying that the deposit was non-refundable in the event that he failed the application process, something the tenant maintained he had never received any documentation for. The Ombudsman made an award of £300, a full refund, to reflect the fact that the agent couldn’t demonstrate that they had notified the tenant in writing of the circumstances in which the holding deposit would be forfeited, as required under paragraph 9k of the Code.
One landlord’s complaint concerned a number of issues including the unauthorised withdrawal of the tenant’s tenancy deposit from a recognised Tenancy Deposit Scheme, a delay in the payment of rental income and the agent’s complaints handling system. The Ombudsman criticised the agent for withdrawing and then failing to re-protect the deposit leaving the landlord exposed to the risk of his tenant taking him to court, failing to address payments with the tenant at an earlier point in time and not recording, acknowledging, investigating or responding to complaints, in accordance with Section 18 of the Code. An award of £500 was made.
The second landlord complaint related to the transferring of rent which was irregular. When the tenancy came to an end, it was apparent that the landlord had not received the remaining four months of rent, which the tenant had paid to the agent before vacating. The Ombudsman made an award of £3,946 which included the money owed and £200 compensation.
All members of TPO are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman. Agents are also obliged to co-operate with investigations. The agent has not responded to TPO further or complied with the Ombudsman’s direction and paid any of the three awards.
The Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee which recommended the firm should be expelled from TPO and registration for redress.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chair of TPO’s Finance Committee: “All members of TPO are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman as well as co-operate with investigations, which Alexander Reed failed to do on all counts. It appears that the agent is not currently trading. There is no active website and no active Rightmove or Zoopla accounts, but as part of TPO’s role to provide better consumer protection, we feel it is important to raise awareness to cases such as these, in the event that Alexander Reed is still trading.”
*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.
An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes means Alexander Reed will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for the agents to trade legally.