Consumers are being warned that Blackhorse Property Management Limited in Bradford (trading as Blackhorse Property) has been expelled from both sales and lettings redress membership with The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for a minimum of three years, after it failed to formally respond or pay awards made for two separate complaints.
The first complainant contacted TPO after he was unable to resolve his dispute with Blackhorse Property (BP). The complainant instructed BP to market his property for sale, but when a suitable buyer was not found, he instead agreed to let the property through BP. However, after the tenant defaulted on the rental payments, the complainant discovered that BP had not carried out referencing or credit checks on the tenant prior to recommending her for the tenancy. BP stated that they were not required to reference the tenant as she was an existing tenant of the agency. The Ombudsman reviewed the case and found no evidence that the complainant had agreed not to make checks or to reference the tenant because of the tenant’s history with BP. The Ombudsman made an overall award of £350.
Criticising the agent for their inadequate referencing, Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, commented: “Under the TPO Code of Practice, I would have expected BP to have obtained proof of the Tenant’s identity and proof of address, to have verified the tenant’s ability to afford the rent through income from employment and/or benefit entitlements, and to have sought a reference from her existing landlord.”
The second case against BP, made by a potential seller, concerned the contract, viewings and complaints handling. The complainant signed a sales agency agreement for a ‘direct service’ and paid an upfront fee of £390. An offer to purchase the property was made and accepted and so the ‘for sale’ board and marketing was removed, but the buyer later withdrew. The complainant claimed BP breached their Terms of Business by not continuing to market the property up to exchange of contracts with another buyer and that BP’s actions lost his property potential viewings.
BP contended that the contract confirmed that a ‘direct service’ had different terms and conditions and meant marketing would cease when a ready and willing buyer was introduced. However, The Ombudsman found no evidence to suggest that the potential buyer was in a position to exchange unconditional contracts nor was there any reference to financial checks being made by BP on the potential buyer. The Ombudsman also found no evidence that the details of BP’s ‘direct package’ were explained to the complainant and therefore agreed he was entitled to assume marketing would continue until exchange of contracts. The Ombudsman also criticised BP’s failure to deal appropriately with the complainant’s issues which added to avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The Ombudsman made an award of £300.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Board Chairman said: “Blackhorse Property has not only failed in its care of duty towards its customers, but in both cases, has failed to submit all relevant records and evidence required or pay awards made. Their practices have fallen short of the service standards we would expect from a TPO member agent and as such they have now been expelled for breaching the terms of membership.”
The TPO’s independent Disciplinary and Standards Committee also ruled that BP will not be able to register for sales or lettings redress with TPO for a period of three years.
It is a legal requirement for every sales and lettings agent to be registered with an approved redress scheme. BP’s expulsion from TPO for failing to pay an award means it will not be able to join another redress scheme until the award is paid.
When an agent is expelled from TPO for failing to pay an award, they are also reported to Trading Standards which can enforce fines of up to £5,000 for every branch found to be trading without redress registration.