Landlords, tenants, house buyers and sellers in Strood, Kent, are being warned that a local estate agent Chambers Estates Kent Ltd, (trading as Chambers Estates) has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme.
A complaint was brought to TPO by a landlord who said Chambers Estates owed him three months’ rent which had been paid by the tenant but not passed on. The statements provided showed that rent was collected by the agent but not paid over to the landlord. The agency agreement was clear that monies should be paid over within a month of receipt.
The agent did not respond to the original complaint submitted by the landlord nor a subsequent letter sent by a solicitor. The Ombudsman supported the complaint and awarded the landlord £2,376 for rent income due and a further £400 for connected aggravation and complaint handling failures.
Chambers Estates 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. Chambers Estates 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. Chambers also do no not appear to be a member of a Client Money Protection scheme, also a legal requirement, and do not have any professional memberships. The agent does still have properties listed with OnTheMarket, however, these are outdated.
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 Chambers Estates has failed to do. Although there is no evidence to suggest the agent is still trading, its registration with Companies House is still active. We have advised the landlord of the agent’s status and advised that payment can be pursued in the courts. We want to make consumers aware in case Chambers Estates appears to start trading again. It is also a reminder to consumers to ensure they use an agent which is a member of a redress scheme.”
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