Arvin Estates Ltd (AE) has been expelled by The Property Ombudsman following its failure to pay an award made by the Ombudsman following a complaint that he had independently reviewed and upheld for a landlord.
The agent, which is understood to have now ceased trading, provided sales and lettings services and operated one branch located at 136 The Crossways, Hounslow, TW5 0JR.
TPO is the UK's largest property ombudsman scheme and operates a free and impartial dispute resolution service for consumers. More than 22,000 sales and lettings offices have registered with TPO and follow its Codes of Practice.
Christopher Hamer, the Ombudsman, referred AE to TPO's Disciplinary and Standards Committee (DSC) after the agent failed to fulfil the conditions of its membership and pay the award
Case summary and findings
The Ombudsman upheld a complaint made by a landlord after finding AE committed several breaches of TPO’s Code of Practice for Letting Agents.
The complaint concerned AE withholding and delaying rental payments from the tenant, using unethical practices to gain the original instruction from the landlord to rent the property, and failing to inform the landlord of issues with the property reported by the tenant.
AE, despite numerous requests, failed to provide their Branch File for TPO to review as part of the investigation, and made no substantive response to the concerns raised by the complainant and then failed to pay the award that the Ombudsman had made. The Ombudsman considered that these failings by the agent amounted to serious breaches of the Code of Practice.
The Ombudsman supported the complaint in full and awarded the landlord £1,725 for the missed rent payment and additional compensation to reflect the repeated and avoidable aggravation caused by AE.
AE’s failure to pay the award given by the Ombudsman constitutes a serious breach of membership and the obligations outlined in TPO's Lettings Code of Practice.
After the case was referred by the Ombudsman to TPO’s Disciplinary and Standards Committee, AE provided no response to the Committee’s correspondence. The Council of TPO subsequently expelled the firm from TPO membership for a period of two years. AE would have been allowed to retain registration for sales activities under the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007, but did not do so.
The complainant now has the option to seek payment of the award by alternative means, such as the small claims court and TPO would provide guidance on that course of action.
Gerry Fitzjohn, TPO’s chief operating officer, said: “This case clearly demonstrates a number of failings by Arvin Estates. While this agent appears to have ceased trading, consumers must be warned that this agent has been expelled from TPO for their failings and breach of membership. Other agents should note that failure to meet their obligations to co-operate with the Ombudsman can have serious consequences for their business.”
Consumers can check if an agent is registered with TPO by using the ‘find an agent’ search tool to ensure they have full peace of mind that their complaint will be reviewed independently by TPO if a dispute arises. The TPO website also includes a checklist for complainants and a number of free downloadable consumer guides for landlords, tenants, sellers and buyers.