LPC Lettings Limited (trading as LPC Lettings), a letting agent based in Liverpool, has been expelled from lettings redress membership with The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for a minimum of three years.
The expulsion follows the company’s failure to pay awards made in two complaints totalling £7,117.54. The awards were a result of serious breaches of TPO’s Code of Practice, including not passing on rent to a landlord for a period of nine months. LPC Lettings Limited (trading as LPC Lettings), a letting agent based in Liverpool, has been expelled from lettings redress membership with The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for a minimum of three years. The expulsion follows the company’s failure to pay awards made in two complaints totalling £7,117.54. The awards were a result of serious breaches of TPO’s Code of Practice, including not passing on rent to a landlord for a period of nine months.
In the first case, a landlord instructed LPC Lettings on a full management basis. The landlord had received the first three months’ rent on time but the next payment was passed on two months late, and from then rent payments stopped being passed on altogether. Despite numerous emails sent by the complainant to LPC requesting payment for the outstanding rent paid over, the company failed to respond.
Letting agents are required to keep client money in a separate designated account and transfer all monies due to clients. Despite requests, LPC did not provide any evidence that they had complied with this. The Ombudsman supported the complaint and made an award of £5,967.54 to cover the nine outstanding rental payments, and made a further award of £600 for the avoidable aggravation.
The second complaint (also by a landlord) covered a wide variety of issues, including dealing with renovations, invoicing and the quality of repairs, the treatment of tenants and the passing over of rent payments. LPC had advised the landlord that her student let property required a number of renovations in order to meet legal housing standards. Upon receiving quotes, the landlord agreed to go ahead with the necessary changes to her property. However, and unbeknown to the landlord, these were carried out by LPC Property Services - a company related to LPC Lettings. The landlord later raised concerns that, because the two companies had the same director, some of the works may have been recommended to profit that other company.
The landlord was also dissatisfied with the quality of work carried out and the company’s failure to provide adequate invoices and receipts. The tenants who remained in the property also raised concerns. They complained, through the landlord, that contractors had gained access without notice, had left substantial mess in the property and took far longer to complete the work than was agreed. Finally, the landlord also complained that she often had to chase the agent for the rent payments and also had to ask for invoices to identify what deductions had been made.
Following a full investigation, the Ombudsman criticised LPC for failing to make clear the relationship between LPC Lettings and LPC Property Services; a lack of clarity in invoices with no individual breakdown of costs; poor communication with tenants regarding required repairs and insufficient invoicing on rental statements to show the deductions made. The Ombudsman instructed LPC to pay an award of £550 as full and final settlement of the complaint.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “My role is to impartially review cases such as this and to present my findings on the dispute between the complainant and the agent, based on the evidence presented by both parties. LPC chose not to provide a submission letter, copies of their branch files or any other supporting evidence. This meant that I had to conduct my review on the assumption that the complainants’ information and version of events represented a factual account of what occurred, which led me to conclude that the complaints were justified.”
Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of the TPO Board, commented: “LPC Lettings failed to fulfil their services as a lettings and management agency. Since it appears LPC’s website is no longer active and there do not appear to be any properties listed with Zoopla or Rightmove, it is possible they may have now ceased trading, in which case the decision to expel them from TPO membership is unlikely to have any direct effect.
However, it would affect a decision to allow any other company with the same Director to join TPO in the future. As part of TPO’s role to provide better consumer protection, we feel it is important to raise awareness to cases such as these, in the event that LPC attempts to continue trading with any existing landlords and tenants who may be unaware of the company’s position.”
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.
LPC’s expulsion prevents the firm from registering with TPO for lettings redress for a period of three years - and an agreement between all the existing redress schemes means that LPC will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for LPC to trade legally.