Landlords, tenants, house buyers and sellers in Shoreditch, London, are being warned that a local estate agent Chase & Co UK Ltd, (trading as Chase & Co UK) has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme. This means the agent can no longer legally trade until the outstanding award is paid.
A complaint was brought to TPO by a landlord who said Chase & Co UK owed him a fee refund and rent which had been paid by the tenant but not passed on.
The landlord paid an upfront fee to Chase & Co UK but his tenant vacated 7 months early and so it was agreed that he was entitled to a refund of 7 months’ fees. The landlord provided evidence that he had not received the agreed refund of the agent’s fee. The landlord also provided evidence to demonstrate that the tenant had paid rent for the 8-month period and that it had not been passed to him.
Chase & Co UK also failed to demonstrate that they had carried out their advertised service of informing the council that the tenant residing in the property (a student) was exempt from paying Council Tax, leading to the landlord incurring court fees of £246.41.
By failing to respond consistently to the landlord’s communication (by email and telephone prior to the formal complaint raised with TPO), The Ombudsman said Chase & Co UK had failed to provide a service consistent with fairness, integrity and best practice. By not responding to both the landlord and TPO with regards to the formal complaint, the agent failed to meet their obligations which requires them to acknowledge and respond to all written complaints and to issue a written statement expressing their final viewpoint.
The Ombudsman supported the complaint and awarded the landlord £8,319.41 to cover the return of the agent’s fee, the missing rent (less the Let Only fee of 12% + VAT, because the agent had met their obligations to source a tenant who was currently occupying the property), the court fee, and an additional £800 for the avoidable aggravation caused.
Chase & Co UK 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. Chase & Co UK is not currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally. They also do no not appear to be a member of a Client Money Protection scheme, also a legal requirement, do not have any professional memberships or advertise on the any of the main property portals, Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. Chase & Co UK 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 Chase & Co has failed to do. We have been unable to verify that the agent is still trading. There is no active website and no active Rightmove or Zoopla accounts. There do appear to be listings on OnTheMarket, however, they appear to be outdated. We want to make consumers aware in case they appear 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