Lexton Property Services failed to pay tenant and landlord awards upheld by the Ombudsman following several persistent breaches of TPO's Lettings Code of Practice.
Lexton Property Services, a former lettings agent, has been expelled and refused future membership from The Property Ombudsman scheme (TPO) for a minimum of three years following several serious breaches of its Code of Practice.
Based in Leyton, the agency provided landlord and tenant services to clients both north and south of the Thames and formerly traded from a branch located at Suite 224, The Legacy Business Centre, 2A Ruckhold Road, Leyton, London, E10 5NP.
TPO, which operates a free and impartial dispute resolution service for consumers, upheld two complaints against Lexton Property Services that were then referred to TPO's Disciplinary and Standards Committee (DSC) after the agent failed to pay any awards to the complainants.
Case summaries and findings
Case one: Christopher Hamer, the Ombudsman, upheld a complaint made by landlords concerning a property they owned. The Ombudsman found that Lexton Property Services had:
- Failed to act promptly in notifying the complainants when the tenant was in arrears with their rent, and was consistently late in transferring rental payments to the complainants
- Charged a £1,579.65 termination fee following the landlords request for the tenant to pay rent directly, which the Ombudsman considered to be unfair in the circumstances
- Failed to provide a statement of account when requested by the complainants
- Failed to respond promptly and appropriately to client communications
- Failed to act in the client's best interest
The Ombudsman, awarded the landlords £2,673.18; to cover reimbursements totalling £1,873.18 (including the termination fee) and £800 compensation.
Case two: In a separate case, a tenant complained about a holding deposit paid to remove a property from the market, which was subsequently let to another tenant. The Ombudsman reviewed and upheld the complaint after finding Lexton Property Services failed:
- To provide confirmation that the marketing and viewings at the property were to continue following payment of the deposit
- To carry out appropriate referencing of the applicant
- The tenant's £300 holding deposit has now been returned but the award of £200 made by the Ombudsman remains unpaid.
The DSC recommended a minimum refusal of TPO full membership for three years.
The refusal of full membership also applies to all the directors of Lexton Property Services, either when working alone or with others in the future when offering property services covered by the TPO's Codes of Practice.
This decision was based on two cases referred to the DSC by the Ombudsman. Other complaints had subsequently been received but could not be pursued by the Ombudsman as Lexton Property services had ceased trading. TPO understands that there is a proposal to strike the agent off Companies House.
Consumers should be aware that they will no longer be able to refer matters to the Ombudsman if they feel they have been badly treated by Lexton Property Services.
Gerry Fitzjohn, chief operating officer of TPO, said: 'These were not isolated incidents for Lexton Property Services - the decision taken by the DSC was based on two separate cases and we have since received further complaints and phone calls concerning this agent.
'The DSC considered these cases to demonstrate flagrant and persistent breaches of the Code of Practice and the sanctions imposed were the only option given the severity of the complaints.'
Lexton Property Services Ltd had been a member of TPO since May 2008 and is no longer trading. TPO has advised the complainants accordingly and provided guidance as to how they can pursue the awards through other means.