Landlords and tenants in East London (E11) are being warned that a local letting agent, JBE London Limited (trading as JBE London) has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme owing a tenant £2,810.
The tenant made a complaint to The Property Ombudsman about the re-letting fee she had been charged by JBE London. The tenant also complained about the agent not providing her with the landlord's contact details; of poor communication and rudeness; not dealing with repair and maintenance issues and had not providing her with any assistance in getting her deposit back.
The tenant moved out of the property early and was required to pay a re-letting fee to cover marketing and administration. However, an email from JBE London had stated that if they found a replacement tenant then the £995 would be fully refunded. This caused subsequent confusion when another instructed agent found the replacement tenant and the agent sought to retain these monies. The Ombudsman did not consider it reasonable that the agent retain the full amount given the level of work that they had undertaken, and made a direction that they refund £500 of the £995 fee.
The Ombudsman was critical that the agent had not provided the landlord's address when requested, and although unable to determine that the agent was rude, noted that they had failed to respond to emails. From evidence provided, it was clear the agent had offered to assist the tenant with maintenance issues, which the landlord had not actioned, but had then failed to do so. For the avoidable aggravation, the Ombudsman awarded £300 for these elements of the complaint.
The tenant had been in contact with JBE London about the return of her deposit, however, they had not replied. Some months later the agent advised that the landlord wished to make deductions, but did not transfer the undisputed balance. The Ombudsman directed JBE London to return the undisputed amount of £2,010 and to provide the tenant with any assistance she may require in progressing her claim through the relevant deposit protection scheme.
JBE London failed to pay the award and The Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme
JBE London is not currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*. Trading Standards have been informed of the expulsion. They also do not appear to be a member of a Client Money Protection scheme**, also a legal requirement, and do not have any professional memberships.
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 JBE London has failed to do. Although there is no evidence to suggest this agent is still trading, this is a warning to 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, NALS 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