OJ Residentials Limited trading as Oscar Jones Residential (OJR), a sales and lettings agent based in Canary Wharf, London, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for the non-payment of a £3700 award.
The agent had encouraged and taken advance payment from a complainant for a tenancy that he (the tenant) could not afford and was unsuitable for, owing to the fact he had mental health issues and full DSS reliance (housing benefit). On instruction from the agent, who advised the tenant to pay upfront monies and then ask the Council to repay it to him once in the property, the tenant paid £3200. This comprised £1,200 security deposit, £1200 advance rent (one month’s) and £800 administration fee (which included a £500 holding deposit).
The tenant asked to be released from the tenancy (prior to its commencement) but the agent contended that the money was non-refundable, although they had offered a refund of £500 and to seek no further rental payments under the Tenancy Agreement.
After considering evidence presented from both parties, Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle awarded in the tenant’s favour and ordered Oscar Jones to repay the £3200 paid by the complainant, as well as a further £500 for avoidable aggravation, considerable distress and inconvenience. She said: “This particular complainant was vulnerable through his personal circumstances and health. Had the agent met the complainant in person prior to taking money for the proposed tenancy, it is my view that this would have become apparent. There is no evidence that they met or completed a fact-find to establish specific requirements of the tenant or landlord. It is also clear the agent failed to carry out proper referencing or seek the landlord’s instruction for the proposed tenancy. Had these steps taken place, I am satisfied that the application would not have proceeded, especially considering that there was a shortfall between the tenant’s housing benefit at £228.35 per week, and the tenancy he had been signed up to at a rental level of £276.92.”
Oscar Jones has neither responded nor paid the award. The Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from TPO and registration for redress. This means Oscar Jones is not registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chair of TPO’s Finance & Performance Committee: “As a member of TPO agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman, which Oscar Jones has failed to do. Consumers should be aware that the company’s website still appears to be active with properties both ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ advertised.”
*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 Oscar Jones Residential 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.