Buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in East London (E3) are being warned that a local estate and letting agent, Flat Sharing Ltd (trading as Flintons and previously operating as Citiside Properties Ltd), has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman and is now in liquidation.
A complaint was made by a tenant to The Property Ombudsman concerning the return of his security deposit, totalling £802.56. The tenant vacated the property on 11 June 2019, and on 24 July 2019 Flintons confirmed the deposit would be returned within 10 days. However, the tenant’s deposit was not returned until 24 October 2019.
The Ombudsman did not consider that Flintons had met their obligations under Paragraph 16c of the TPO Code of Practice as the deposit was not returned within 10 days of the Tenancy Agreement ending/the tenant vacating the property.
Furthermore, Flintons’ complaint response was not sent to the tenant within 15 working days of receipt of his initial complaint which, as well as not meeting their obligations as a TPO member, the Ombudsman deemed would have likely aggravated the matter further for the tenant.
The Ombudsman considered that a goodwill gesture was merited in the circumstances, as the delay in returning the deposit appeared to have caused the tenant significant avoidable aggravation and inconvenience, given the sum of money due was of a significant amount. The Ombudsman approached Flintons with their findings and they in turn
confirmed they would offer £250 as a gesture of goodwill to resolve the complaint. The Ombudsman relayed this offer to the tenant with their findings at the early resolution stage and the tenant accepted the offer proposed in full and final settlement. This was promptly forwarded to Flintons.
Flintons failed to pay the goodwill gesture as agreed and The Ombudsman referred them to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that Flintons should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme. Flintons is now going through liquidation - the complainant has been advised and papers have been provided to assist in alternative action.
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 Flintons failed to do. The agent has gone into liquidation but their website http://flintons.com still appears active so this is a warning to all consumers in the local area. They do not appear to be advertising properties on any of the main portals. We have been unable to verify whether Flintons is registered for Client Money Protection which is a legal requirement.
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) 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.
An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes (The Property Ombudsman and The Property Redress Scheme, means Flintons 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.
**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