Buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, are being warned that a local estate and letting agent, Barrington & Blake Estates Limited, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme and is going through liquidation.
The Property Ombudsman received a complaint from a seller, who considered that Barrington & Blake Estates Limited had provided a poor quality service, and only gave updates when chased. When requested by The Property Ombudsman, the agent failed to provide a company file but from the evidence provided by the seller, the Ombudsman was not satisfied that their communication had been regular, that they had provided guidance or completed regular reviews. There was also an occasion when the property was left unsecure. The seller’s comments regarding low offers and the lack of viewings were not areas the Ombudsman considered Barrington & Blake Estates Limited could have had control of. The Ombudsman part-supported this complaint and awarded £200.
The seller also did not feel that that the purchaser was appropriately assessed financially, and that the property was taken off the market before all the checks were carried out. The correspondence indicated that the financial qualification had been done and the seller was aware of the purchaser's position. The sale did not fall through due to the agent's actions in this respect and this part of the complaint was not supported. However, Barrington & Blake Estates Limited did not seek guidance regarding whether the property should be removed from the market and did so anyway, although the Ombudsman could not ascertain when. The Ombudsman supported this part of the complaint and awarded £50.
Finally, the seller was dissatisfied with how Barrington & Blake had investigated and responded to her complaint. The Ombudsman was satisfied with agent’s responses and time taken to respond to the complaint, but they omitted to provide their complaints procedure or provide information and timescales for further escalation for redress. A further award of £50 was made making the total £300.
Barrington & Blake Estates Limited failed to pay the award and The Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Barrington & Blake Estates Limited is not registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*. They also do no not appear to be a member of a Client Money Protection scheme, also a legal requirement, do not have any professional memberships or advertise on the any of the main property portals, Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. Barrington & Blake Estates Limited is currently going through liquidation, the complainant has been advised and papers have been provided to assist in alternative action.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chairman of TPO’s Finance Committee: “As a member of TPO, agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman, which Barrington & Blake Estates Limited has failed to do. It appears that this agent is no longer trading, which is frustrating for those complainants who are owed outstanding monies.
We would like to remind consumers to ensure they always use an agent which is a member of a redress scheme (The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme) and holds Client Money Protection**.”
N.B. 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.
An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes (The Property Ombudsman and The Property Redress Scheme, means Barrington & Blake Estates Limited will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for the agents to trade legally.
**Full list of Client Money Protection schemes, is:
Money Shield, Client Money Protect, safeagent Client Money Protection, Propertymark, RICS, UKALA Client Money Protection
For press information, please contact:
The Inhouse Way
Tel: 01276 804411
Helen Evison: 07920 516 577
Holly Addinall: 07979 537 334
NOTES TO EDITOR:
What is The Property Ombudsman?
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered agent. The scheme was established in 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose, achieving a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and/or for aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered agent.
TPO is funded through membership subscriptions and case fees and is free to all consumers.
At 31 December 2018 over 15,897 sales offices and 14,746 letting offices were registered with TPO.
Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Board which is chaired by a member of the House of Lords and with the majority of its members being independent from the industry.
The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered agent.
Awards made by the Ombudsman in 2018 were paid by agents to consumers in 97% of cases. In the few cases where awards remain unpaid, agents are referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel agents from the scheme. Expelled agents are reported to the appropriate authorities who have the power to ban agents from carrying out agency business.
If TPO becomes aware that an agent under investigation has ceased trading, complainants are promptly informed and, where an award is made, are provided with the necessary documentation to make a claim against that company. TPO’s agreement with the Property Redress Scheme, means that not only will expelled agents not be able to register for any form of redress, but any new company set up by the same directors will not be accepted for redress membership, until the Ombudsman’s award is paid.
The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, case summaries, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered agents.
For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk