Between July and September 2022 (inclusive), five agents were excluded from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for failing to pay a compensatory award.
The excluded agents include:
- Home Trader Properties, a sales and lettings agent in London, E1. Following a landlord complaint, it was found that Home Trader Properties failed to inform the landlord that their guaranteed rent agreement had expired and that the tenant had accrued significant rent arrears. An award of £1,500 was made and remains outstanding. It appears that Home Trader Properties is still actively trading with properties for sale and let on its own website and Zoopla.
- Hardman Estates, a sales and lettings agent in Crewe, Cheshire. Hardman Estates failed to transfer over a total of four months’ rent to the landlord and repeatedly ignored emails regarding the money owed. An overall award was made which included nearly £2,000 for rent and £300 in compensation. Hardman Estates is no longer trading, post is being returned to sender and emails are undeliverable. However, it remains active on Companies House but with a striking off pending.
- New Estate Management Ltd, block and estate management in Nottingham. Numerous issues were raised in regard to New Estate Management’s block management service. These included failing to inform that cleaning services would be carried out by themselves, the standard of work undertaken to the basement corridor and a breach of management agreement. Nine of the issues raised were supported and an award of £1,000 made. TPO believes that New Estate Management Ltd is still trading.
- Stratsmore Group, a sales and lettings agent in Ilford. A landlord raised a number of complaints about this agent, the primary one being that a new and unreferenced tenant was placed in the property without authorisation. Despite terminating the tenancy, Stratsmore Group sought to retain 24 months of fees that had been paid in advance. TPO directed for this to be refunded and made a further award of £500 for aggravation caused. TPO also found that this agent failed to register the deposit preventing the landlord from making a claim through the usual channel of a deposit protection scheme. An award was made equivalent to evidenced damages, as well as a further £400 for aggravation. The total award was just under £8,500. Stratsmore Group is going through liquidation, according to Companies House.
- Mark Warren, a sales and lettings agent in Manchester. Despite agreeing within the contract to notify the landlord of her need to comply with relevant Health and Safety legislation, they failed to do so when certificates were due to expire, placing the landlord and property at a heightened risk. They also failed to deal with the subsequent complaint in the appropriate manner, causing further distress. An award of £125 was made. It appears that Mark Warren is still actively trading with properties being advertised on its website and Onthemarket.
All five agents failed to pay the award made and were therefore referred to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that they should be excluded from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Despite an ever-increasing demand for its service (over 45,000 enquiries in 2021), TPO has maintained 99% compliance with Ombudsman awards demonstrating TPO’s effectiveness in ensuring consumers continue to receive appropriate redress. 2,224 financial awards were made to consumers in 2021, 2,193 were paid. Only 17 awards remained unpaid throughout the year with 14 agents excluded, compared to 19 exclusions in 2020. The Compliance Committee has taken action against all agents that did not comply with the Ombudsman’s decision.
As part of TPO’s process, notification of these expulsions are shared with all relevant bodies, including both Local and National Trading Standards for further investigation. The memorandum of understanding between TPO and other redress schemes prevents agents from registering with another scheme until outstanding awards have been paid to consumers.
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NOTES TO THE 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 property business. 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. Average awards are around £600 where a complaint is supported.
At 31 December 2021, registered members of TPO comprised 14,780 sales members, 12,893 lettings members, 1,520 Residential Leasehold Management members, and 9,826 members from Other Jurisdictions (such as surveyors and property buying companies).
Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription and, where appropriate, case fees, 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 property business. This is the role of Trading Standards. However, registered businesses can be referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel members from the scheme and/or report them to the appropriate regulatory and enforcement authorities.
The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Agent Guidance, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk) together with previous annual 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