TPO Expels Agent for Failure to Pay Tenant Award

Published on Friday, 06 September 2013. Posted in Press Releases

London Rentals UK expelled from TPO full membership for two years following a serious breach of TPO's Code of Practice.

London Rentals UK has been refused renewal of its membership with The Property Ombudsman scheme (TPO) for two years following its failure to pay an award as directed by the Ombudsman following his review of a complaint.

London Rentals UK, which trades from Britannic House, 17 Highfield Road, Golders Green, London, NW11 9LS is still actively renting properties for landlords to tenants in and around north London.

TPO operates a free and impartial dispute resolution service for consumers. As the largest property ombudsman scheme in the UK, more than 22,000 sales and lettings offices have registered with TPO to follow its Codes of Practice.

Christopher Hamer, the Ombudsman, referred London Rentals UK to TPO's Disciplinary and Standards Committee (DSC) after the agent failed to fulfil the conditions of its membership and pay an award to a complainant.

Case summary and findings

The Ombudsman upheld a complaint made by potential tenants that had tried to rent a property through London Rentals UK.

While the Ombudsman found that the holding deposit had been handled correctly, he made an award against London Rentals UK for their poor communication with the prospective tenants.

The Ombudsman concluded that London Rentals UK had failed to explain clearly why the landlord had changed his mind about the tenancy. The agent had initially suggested that this was related to the holding deposit but the Ombudsman found that the landlord had withdrawn the offered tenancy because the potential tenants had not paid the negotiated advance rent and deposit or signed the tenancy agreement by the promised date. London Rentals UK's failure to clearly explain the situation caused the potential tenants avoidable and unnecessary distress, aggravation and inconvenience.

Action taken

While London Rentals UK co-operated with the complaint review process, it has not renewed its membership with TPO and has refused to pay the award of £120, which constitutes a serious breach of membership and the obligations outlined in TPO's Lettings Code of Practice. The agent will be refused membership of TPO for a minimum of two years and must then give a commitment to put the matter right and comply with the Code of Practice in the future.

The complainants have been provided with the appropriate information to seek payment of the award by alternative means (such as the small claims court).

TPO response

Gerry Fitzjohn, chief operating officer of TPO, said: 'This case highlights the importance of communication – our Codes of Practice outline the high standards we expect of agents to protect the best interests of consumers.

'The Ombudsman's role is to reach a resolution of unresolved disputes in full and final settlement and any agent that fails to pay a consumer's award is committing a serious breach of the Code's terms that they signed up to and we will pursue the matter through other means.

'In this case, where the agent had already ceased its TPO membership, the DSC had no option but to decline membership for a minimum period of two years. It is imperative that would-be tenants and landlords are made aware of the risks of doing business with an agent not registered with a redress scheme.

'We have advised the complainant that we will be notifying the Office of Fair Trading and relevant local Trading Standards Service. We have also offered to provide supporting documentation should the complainant wish to pursue this matter through the small claims court.'

Mr Fitzjohn added: 'I'd like to stress that cases such as these are rare and should not tarnish the reputation of the 10,391 agents that have voluntarily signed up to our Code of Practice and represent the majority of the private rental sector.'