Buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, are being warned that a local estate and letting agent, SSM2 Limited (formerly Samuel Makepeace Limited) trading as Samuel Makepeace Bespoke Estate Agents, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for owing a buyer £5,000.
The Property Ombudsman received a complaint from a buyer after SSM2 Limited advertised a property as having a third bedroom in the loft space when the attic conversion did not comply with regulations.
The Ombudsman agreed that it was reasonable to have expected the agent to have made the appropriate enquiries before marketing the property and it was noted that their failure to do so had left the complainant in a vulnerable position. A local authority could pursue a prosecution or take enforcement action against the registered owner of the property, and this would have been transferred to her upon completion of the purchase. This shortcoming meant that the Complainant was prevented from making an informed transactional decision due to the agent’s failure to provide that material information.
TPO criticised SSM2 Limited for failing to demonstrate that they had acted in accordance with the requirements of the Code, best practice or due diligence, by checking whether the conversion was compliant. However, that being said, it was considered that the agent’s liability should be balanced with the fact that neither the surveyor, nor the buyer’s solicitor identified the issue before the sale completed, despite this being standard practice during the conveyancing process.
The complaint was supported and an award of £5,000 made to reflect the significant distress that had impacted upon the complainant.
SSM2 Limited 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. SSM2 Limited (who were trading as Samuel Makepeace Bespoke Estate Agents) is currently going through liquidation, the complainant has been advised and papers have been provided to assist in alternative action.
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 SSM2 Limited (trading as Samuel Makepeace Bespoke Estate Agents) failed to do. The agent has since gone into liquidation.
We would like to remind consumers to ensure they always use an agent which is a member of a redress scheme (The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme) and holds Client Money Protection**.”
N.B. 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.
An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes (The Property Ombudsman and The Property Redress Scheme, means SSM2 Limited 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.
**Full list of Client Money Protection schemes, is:
Money Shield, Client Money Protect, safeagent Client Money Protection, Propertymark, RICS, UKALA Client Money Protection
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