Buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in Southampton are being warned that a local estate and letting agent, CE Property Ltd (trading from Bitterne Precinct as Charles Carr), has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme. This means the agent can no longer legally trade until the outstanding award of £350 is paid.
A case was referred to TPO after a complainant (on behalf of the landlord) said that no inspections of their rental property took place in the last two years of the tenancy and that the property was not up to standard as a result. The complainant said that Charles Carr did not attend the check-out, the cleaning by the contractor used was not satisfactory, the agent had re-let the property without communicating with the complainant and returned the tenant’s deposit without his knowledge.
Charles Carr’s response was that they acknowledged not carrying out inspections as often as they would have liked. The agent said that a third-party inventory company produced the check-out report, that they found and referenced new tenants as the landlord had advised he wished to re-let and, that they could not be held responsible for the cleaning carried out by the contractor. The agent said that the complainant missed the deadline for raising a dispute, so the deposit was returned to the tenant.
On reviewing the evidence provided, the Ombudsman was not satisfied that the agent had carried out any inspections of the property in the last two years of the tenancy and therefore supported the complaint with regard to this.
However, the Ombudsman was satisfied that the Charles Carr had arranged for a detailed Check-out report to be produced, in accordance with their obligations, but was critical that they did not compare the condition of the property to the inventory produced at the start of the tenancy. The Ombudsman could not hold the agent responsible for the actions of the contractor. The Ombudsman agreed that communication regarding the re-letting of the property was poor, as they referenced and arranged for new tenants to move into the property without confirming this with the landlord. However, the tenants were properly referenced and there was no detriment to the complainant, so not award was made.
Finally, the Ombudsman was not satisfied with the agent’s actions to return the tenant’s deposit, despite being aware that the landlord wished to make a claim for the full deposit. They failed to communicate any deadlines to provide evidence of their claim, so this element of the complaint was also supported.
The Ombudsman supported the complaint and made an award of £350 for the breaches made, however, Charles Carr failed to pay the award and was therefore referred to TPO’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme. CE Property Ltd 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 Charles Carr has failed to do. Although the company has gone into liquidation and has therefore ceased trading, a new company trading under the same name but with no linked directors is trading from the same address. This agent is registered with the other redress scheme, PRS.”
An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes (The Property Ombudsman and The Property Redress Scheme, means CE Property Ltd 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.
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