Buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in Coventry are being warned that a local sales and letting agent has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for failing to pay awards totalling £8,583.63. This means the firm, Lawrence Property Consultants Ltd (LPC), is not registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*.
The complainants, who reside in sheltered accommodation, instructed LPC to manage their properties due to declining health. In the first case, owing to problems with a previous tenancy, the complainants had impressed upon the agent that the property must be let to a maximum of two people, which was also a condition of the complainants’ insurance policy.
LPC introduced two student tenants but failed to prepare an inventory or provide the complainants with any Terms of Business, despite being frequently asked. Three months later, the complainants discovered that the property had been let at a higher rent than they were receiving and that there were four tenants were living at the property, not two.
The four tenants had been provided with Tenancy Agreements in Chinese script by a woman said not to be part of LPC but another letting agency not registered with a redress scheme. The relationship between the woman and LPC was not explained by LPC but, according to receipts, the tenants had paid the woman £21,500 upfront for rent and deposits. Some deposits for the property were later lodged by LPC with a registered deposit scheme. The Ombudsman concluded, in the absence of other information to the contrary, that there was a link with LPC which was acting as the complainants’ agent for the property.
The Ombudsman awarded the complainants £7,516.43 to account for the additional rental income they should have received and for unexplained deductions made, for over-payment of agency fees, together with a refund for the complainants’ insurance, which had effectively been voided due to overcrowding. They were also awarded additional monies for the aggravation and associated risks of not having protected the tenants’ deposits and for failing to deal with the complaint.
In the second case, a number of issues were raised concerning the agent’s management relating to producing a copy of the Tenancy Agreement, failing to respond to requests for repairs and not supplying a Gas Safety Certificate. LPC failed to respond to the complainants during the complaints process and did not cooperate with TPO. An award of £1,067.20 was made, with a direction to produce a statement of the rent account.
All members of TPO are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman. Agents are also obliged to co-operate with investigations. Neither award was paid.
The Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Disciplinary & Standards Committee (DSC), which ruled the firm should be expelled from TPO. TPO is now warning consumers to be aware that LPC is not registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of TPO’s Board: “Cases like these are rare but TPO offers a free, fair and impartial redress service to protect consumers from unfair practices. LPC, which trades from 51 Winsford Avenue in Coventry, appears to still be trading with properties ‘for sale’ and ‘to let’ both advertised on their website. This agent’s expulsion means it is illegal for them to trade and we have notified Trading Standards accordingly.”
*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 three Government-approved redress schemes means LPC 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.