Seven estate and letting agents have been expelled from membership of The Property Ombudsman (TPO) after failing to comply with parts of the TPO Codes of Practice and pay subsequent awards made by the Ombudsman, totalling £112,257.04.
All of the complaints against the agents were in relation to lettings, most involved multiple complaint cases, and all now appear to have stopped trading. The expelled agents and outstanding awards are:
- Nextmove - £3,256.80
- Marques Residential Limited - £17,775
- Lang and Ward - £250
- William Huxley - £6,583
- TM Estates Limited - £23,700
- Abbey Properties - £400
- Berkshire Estates - £60,292.24
All of the complaints against the respective agents were independently reviewed and upheld by the Ombudsman, who directed payment of the money to those owed, together with compensation in all the cases. TPO members are required to comply with any award and/or direction given by the Ombudsman and accepted by the complainants. To date, all seven agents have failed to make any payment.
The Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firms should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme. None of the agents are currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally. They also do not appear to be members of a Client Money Protection scheme and do not hold any professional memberships. Most no longer have active websites or advertise on any of the main property portals, except for Abbey Properties, which has been reported to Trading Standards.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chairman of TPO’s Finance Committee: “Cases like these are rare, evidenced by the fact that just 0.1% of all TPO agents are referred to the Compliance Committee. As members of TPO, agents have an obligation to provide a reliable, trustworthy and professional service, and where they are found to fail in this, are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman. Last year 97% of agents paid awards made. However, in all of these cases, the agents have not co-operated fully and have failed to pay awards made.
I would like to remind agents of their obligation to co-operate with any investigations by TPO. The Ombudsman requires any evidence they can provide and that is their chance to put across their side of the story. While the vast majority of agents do co-operate, those that do not put themselves at greater risk of having a complaint upheld, when The Ombudsman has only the consumer’s evidence to consider. Agents must comply with any award and/or direction made by The Ombudsman against them and pay the Complainant the amount of any such award within the required period for payment. Cases of non-compliance are taken very seriously and are dealt with by our Compliance Committee and/or Trading Standards.”
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. However, registered agents can be referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel agents from the scheme and/or report them to the appropriate authorities, with the power to ban agents from carrying out estate agency business.
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