A local letting agent in Middlesbrough, TeesSurveyors Lettings Ltd (TSL), has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for failing to pay awards in two cases relating to non-payment and late payment of rent. The awards total £3,133.06. This means TSL is not registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*.
The first complaint brought to TPO in relation to TSL was by a tenant who had received a letter from an appointed Receiver to say the property she had lived in for 18 months had been repossessed. It stated that all rent due from the time of the Receiver’s appointment should be passed to him and not the landlord or his agent. The tenant was unable to stop the next rent payments (£274.62) being sent to the agent in time, and despite the request of both the complainant and the Receiver, the funds were not transferred by the agent.
The tenant had also built up a rent credit balance of £557.19 which the agent said had already been transferred to the landlord yet did not produce any evidence of this. When contacted by The Property Ombudsman, TSL did respond but only with a few documents, one of which indicated that the agent may have been was the landlord. The Ombudsman directed the agent to return a total of £831.81 to the complainant so she could clear the arrears with the Receiver, as well as an additional £500 award for avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience.
Similarly, in the second case, TSL failed to pass rent over to a landlord, despite rent payments being paid promptly each month by the tenant, leaving a shortfall of £1,201.25. As well as the missing rent, the Ombudsman awarded £500 for avoidable aggravation in relation to the missing rent and a further £100 for failing to respond appropriately to the complainant’s enquiry about gas safety certification.
The award total across the two cases is of £3,133.06. 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. TeesSurveyors Lettings Ltd did then offer to pay the awards in three instalments and made two payments totalling £1200, but no further payment or correspondence has been made since.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chair of TPO’s Finance Committee: “All members of TPO are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman as well as co-operate with investigations, which TSL has failed on both counts. Although some attempt was made to pay the awards, this has not been settled in full. As part of TPO’s role to provide better consumer protection, we feel it is important to raise awareness to cases such as these, in the event that TSL attempts to continue trading with any existing landlords and tenants who may be unaware of the company’s position.”
*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 TSL 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.