Between April and June 2022 (inclusive), six agents were excluded from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for failing to pay a compensatory award.
- Kingdom Property Services Ltd, a sales and lettings agent in Slough, Berkshire. TPO found that Kingdom Property Services failed to transfer over rent (£1,726.99) to the landlord. The tenant was also an employee at the agency. Both parties entered into an agreement without the landlord’s knowledge. In addition, there was evidence that the tenant paid a deposit that wasn’t protected. Kingdom Property Service’s website is no longer active and it doesn’t appear to be advertising on property portals. An award of £900 to reflect aggravation caused and £1,726.00 of outstanding rent remains unpaid, in addition to a further eight outstanding awards.
- Silverstone Properties London Ltd (trading as Belvoir London Westminster), a sales and lettings agent in Westminster. Following a landlord complaint, TPO found that Belvoir London Westminster breached numerous Codes. They did not inspect the property in accordance with the Terms of Business and failed to manage the property in accordance with the Tenancy Agreement. An award of £600 was made. Belvoir London Westminster has been taken over by Belvoir Property Management. This award, as well as two others are still outstanding with Silverstone Properties London Ltd.
- R B Estates, a sales and lettings agent in Reading, Berkshire. A complaint against them came from a landlord when tenants set up a cannabis farm in their property. They referred to the quality of the referencing checks conducted by R B Estates who classed the tenants as a “group of professionals”. TPO found a number of significant concerns with the referencing process and several failings and made an award totalling £5,910 (which included the loss of three months’ rent). R B Estates does not appear to be trading. Its company website no longer works and Google states it’s permanently closed.
- George Proctor & Partners (Anerley), a sales and lettings agent in London. George Proctor & Partners recommended a contractor who carried out poor works on the property. TPO found that the agent did not meet their obligations under Paragraph 14c of the Codes – to be prudent in the selection of and use of contractors to carry out work - as they could not provide evidence that they checked the contractor was suitably qualified to work on parquet flooring. An award of £400 compensation was made. George Proctor & Partners (Anerley) is no longer trading under this name. However, it appears to be trading under Cook Estates Sales and Lettings Ltd from the same address.
- Rentify, a lettings agent in London. A landlord complained that he had been charged for work he was not aware of. TPO was critical that Rentify had not informed the landlord of the works, or the costs incurred and that they deducted these costs six months later with no notice. Rentify made an offer for part of the works, but TPO considered an award of £300 in compensation was required for aggravation caused. There is no active website for Rentify and Companies House advises it’s in administration.
- Redstones Wolverhampton, a sales and lettings agent in Wolverhampton. This agent failed to make a tenant aware that the landlord’s HMO licence was pending. The tenant had paid a holding deposit and fee but withdrew the following day after discovering the landlord had not yet been granted the licence. Redstones Wolverhampton refunded the deposit and inventory fee but refused to return the fee for preparing the lease agreement. TPO directed them to return the outstanding money in resolution of the complaint. It appears this agent is no longer trading. Googles states it’s permanently closed, post is being returned to sender and emails are no longer deliverable.
All six agents failed to pay the award made and were therefore referred to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that they should be excluded from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Despite challenging times of late, TPO has maintained 99% compliance with Ombudsman awards demonstrating TPO’s effectiveness in ensuring consumers continue to receive appropriate redress. 2,224 financial awards were made to consumers in 2021, 2,193 were paid. Only 17 awards remained unpaid throughout the year with 14 agents excluded, compared to 19 exclusions in 2020. The Compliance Committee has taken action against all agents that did not comply with the Ombudsman’s decision.
As part of TPO’s process, notification of these expulsions are shared with all relevant bodies, including both Local and National Trading Standards for further investigation. The memorandum of understanding between TPO and other redress schemes prevents agents from registering with another scheme until outstanding awards have been paid to consumers.
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NOTES TO THE 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 property business. 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. Average awards are around £600 where a complaint is supported.
At 31 December 2021, registered members of TPO comprised 14,780 sales members, 12,893 lettings members, 1,520 Residential Leasehold Management members, and 9,826 members from Other Jurisdictions (such as surveyors and property buying companies).
Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription and, where appropriate, case fees, 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 property business. This is the role of Trading Standards. However, registered businesses can be referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel members from the scheme and/or report them to the appropriate regulatory and enforcement authorities.
The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Agent Guidance, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk) together with previous annual 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