24 Oct 2019

The Property Ombudsman has expelled three lettings agencies from its scheme because of unpaid awards to landlord clients.

The first is Kingsman Property Limited (trading as Kingsman Property) in Essex, which owes a landlord £14,921.23.

A landlord made a complaint to The Property Ombudsman after claiming that the agent failed to pass on rent owed to him, which had been paid by the tenant. The landlord entered into a Guaranteed Rental Income Scheme with Kingsman Property which was meant to ensure that the landlord received the rent every month.

The agency also confirmed that it would obtain an HMO licence.

The landlord received the rent for a period of eight months, but Kingsman Property then stopped paying the rent, resulting in the landlord dis-instructing them. At the time, the agent owed the landlord more than £12,000 in rent.

By the time the landlord brought the matter to TPO the agency had gone into administration, therefore it was highly unlikely that any award that was made would be recovered, but the landlord asked TPO to proceed anyway.

The Ombudsman concluded that several aspects of the service that Kingsman Property had provided fell considerably short of the standard of service expected under TPO’s Codes of Practice, and made an award of £14,921.23, which included the rent that had not been paid (£12,421.23), the deposit (£1,000) as well as an award (£1,500) for the avoidable aggravation and distress caused.

Kingsman Property 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.

The second case involves Kent agency Chambers Estates Kent Ltd, (trading as Chambers Estates) which has been expelled from TPO.

A complaint was brought by a landlord who said Chambers Estates owed him three months’ rent which had been paid by the tenant but not passed on.

The statements provided showed that rent was collected by the agent but not paid over to the landlord. The agency agreement was clear that monies should be paid over within a month of receipt.

The agent did not respond to the original complaint submitted by the landlord nor a subsequent letter sent by a solicitor. The Ombudsman supported the complaint and awarded the landlord £2,376 for rent income due and a further £400 for connected aggravation and complaint handling failures.

Chambers Estates failed to pay the award. Chambers Estates is not currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally. Trading Standards have been informed of the expulsion.

Chambers is also not in a Client Money Protection scheme, also a legal requirement, and does not have any professional memberships. But TPO says the agent does still have properties listed with OnTheMarket, although these are outdated.

A landlord made a complaint to The Property Ombudsman after claiming that the agent failed to pass on the last month’s rent and failed to compensate him for a new cooker which was missing at the end of the tenancy.

The landlord was also dissatisfied that when he raised the issue with Assetgrove Prime, as the employee he had been dealing with stopped responding, the agent denied that the tenancy was anything to do with them and said it should be directed towards the employee who actually worked for another agency.

The absence of an inventory meant the issue with the cooker was difficult to prove, however, it was clear that the landlord was owed 25 days rent.

Despite the agent protesting that an employee of another agency was sharing their office and therefore only given a temporary email address, Assetgrove Prime’s actions in allowing this led to a Tenancy Agreement being entered into between the landlord and the agent, and a sub-tenancy between the agent and sub-tenants.

As such, the Ombudsman was satisfied that the liability for any issues arising as result of the tenancy lay with the Assetgrove Prime. The Ombudsman made an award of £1,820.50, which included the rent owed and £300 compensation.

Assetgrove Prime failed to pay the award.

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