Shields & Co UK Limited, a letting agent based in Lenton, Nottinghamshire, has been expelled from membership and registration for lettings redress with The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for a minimum of two years, after it failed to pay an award of £3,157.15 following a complaint involving outstanding rental payments.
The landlord contacted TPO when he was unable to resolve his dispute relating to rent which had not been passed on to him by the agent on four properties. TPO liaised with Shields and the complainant in an attempt to set up a payment plan to resolve the issue, but an agreement as to the terms was not reached.
Letting agents are required to keep client money in a separate designated account and transfer all monies due to clients promptly. Following a full review of the case, the Ombudsman upheld the landlord’s complaint on the basis that the agent did not dispute that money was owed. The agent did not respond to the case review nor have they paid the award, which includes outstanding rental payments, and as a result the agent will now be expelled from TPO.
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme helps more than 16,000 consumers with their property disputes every year and the scheme’s free, fair and impartial service is a genuine alternative to the small claims courts. TPO is the largest Government-approved property redress scheme, and the only scheme which operates its own Codes of Practice, which are approved by the Consumer Code Approval Scheme (CCAS). More than 95% of sales agents and 85% of lettings agents are signed up with TPO which uses its Codes to go above and beyond the law to protect consumers from unfair practices and raise industry standards by holding registered agents to account for their actions.
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.
Shields & Co’s expulsion prevents the firm from membership and from registering with TPO for lettings redress for a period of two years - and an agreement between all the existing redress schemes means that Shields & Co will not be able to register for any form of redress until this award is paid. Redress registration is required for Shields & Co to trade legally.
Commenting on the case, Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, says: “My role is to impartially review cases such as this and to present my findings on the dispute between the complainant and the agent, based on the evidence presented by both parties. Although Shields & Co chose not to respond to the case review, earlier communication in relation to a payment plan by Shields & Co was enough to satisfy me that there was no disputing the full sum of £2,657.15 was owed to the landlord. I also awarded an additional £500 to reflect the significant aggravation caused.”
Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of the TPO Board, adds: “Shields & Co’s website says it is offline at present, there does not appear to be an alternative website and there is nothing to suggest that any properties are listed with Zoopla or Rightmove. Previous contact with this agent would suggest there were financial issues and so it is possible they may have now ceased trading, in which case the decision to expel them from TPO membership is unlikely to have any direct effect.
“However, it would affect a decision to allow any other company with the same Director to join TPO in the future. 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 Shields & Co attempts to continue trading with any existing landlords and tenants who may be unaware of the company’s position.”