A letting agent in Finchley, The London Landlord Limited, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for failing to pay an outstanding award of over £6,000, they also failed to pay their membership renewal fees.
The Property Ombudsman received a complaint from a landlord who let his property under a guaranteed rent contract to The London Landlord. The London Landlord then sub-let the property to the occupier.
The issue arose after the occupier complained of damp. The freeholder of the block said the damp was caused by the occupier’s use of the property, but The London Landlord disagreed and believed it was due to a roof leak. The issue went unresolved and The London Landlord suspended payments of guaranteed rent on the basis the landlord was in breach of his repairing obligations under his lease with the freeholder.
The Property Ombudsman concluded that rent payments should not have been stopped. This was because the freeholder was responsible for the condition of the roof, which The London Landlord was aware as they had communicated directly with the freeholder concerning the issue. Furthermore, if the damp had been caused by the occupier’s use of the property, not the roof, then the landlord would not have been in breach of his repairing obligations under the lease.
An award was made of £5,874 for unpaid guaranteed rent and £500 for aggravation, distress and inconvenience, totalling £6,374.
The London Landlord failed to pay the award before their membership was ceased for non-payment of renewal fees.
The Ombudsman referred them to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that they should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
The London Landlord’s website is still active, although it doesn’t appear to be advertising any properties. They are, however, still using the TPO logo despite having their membership ceased in December 2019. TPO has been unable to verify any other redress registration which means they may be trading illegally. The London Landlord has been referred to 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 The London Landlord Limited failed to do. It appears that this agent could still be trading so this is a warning to all consumers in the local area.
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.
*Full list of Client Money Protection schemes, is:
Money Shield, Client Money Protect, safeagent 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