An estate agent in Blackpool, Leftmove Estate Agent Holdings Limited (trading as Leftmove Estate Agents), has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for failing to pay an outstanding award of £700 to a house seller who submitted a complaint to TPO. The agent is no longer trading.
The Property Ombudsman received a complaint from sellers of a property who complained that they were not provided with a ‘Terms of Business’ to sign and there were several areas of the service provided by Leftmove Estate Agents that they were unsatisfied with. They also complained that they did not receive regular marketing updates, offers were not confirmed in writing and they were unhappy with the way the agent dealt with their complaint.
The agent said that the terms were agreed by email and over the telephone. However, this means the agent failed to comply with their obligations under the Code of Practice. The Ombudsman supported the complaint regarding the failure of Leftmove Estate Agents to provide the sellers with a copy of their ‘Terms of Business’ to physically sign and made an award of £500 in respect of this shortcoming.
The Ombudsman also found that Leftmove Estate Agents had failed to provide regular marketing updates and an award of £100 was made in respect of this complaint. The Ombudsman was, however, satisfied that although not all offers were confirmed in writing, the sellers were verbally informed and so suffered no disadvantage.
Finally, Leftmove Estate Agents failed to address all the issues raised by the sellers in their complaints response for which a further award of £100 was made, bringing the total award owed to the sellers to £700.
Leftmove Estate Agents Holdings Limited 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. However, the agent is now no longer trading, there is no active website, 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 Leftmove Estate Agents Holdings Limited failed to do. It appears that this agent is no longer trading, which is frustrating for the sellers who are 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).”
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.
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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