An agency has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme for a minimum of two years after failing to comply with parts of the TPO Code of Practice, failing to co-operate with an investigation, and failing to date to pay an award made by TPO.
MT Properties Central Limited (MTPC), a sales and letting agent which operates in Birmingham, has been expelled from TPO membership arose following a complaint from landlords relating to aspects of the agent’s service in connection with tenancies at two properties.
The Ombudsman found evidence of poor record keeping and administration, and upheld complaints about the collection and payment of rent to landlords, as well as poor service.
The agent’s poor record keeping made it difficult to be sure what rent had been received and what had been paid to the landlords.
However the Ombudsman decided that four months’ rent was owed to the landlords in respect of one property. He was critical of the fact that the agent had named itself as the landlord on the tenancy agreement for the other property, instead of the actual landlords. It was noted that if this prohibited the landlords from pursuing the rent arrears, the agent should do so on the landlord’s behalf.
The Ombudsman was also critical of the agent’s poor communication with the landlords, failure to pursue one tenant for full rent payments and poor complaints handling.
A complaint about the handling of the termination of the contract with the landlord was also upheld.
Because of poor record keeping the Ombudsman was unable to reach a conclusion on a complaint about tenants being accepted by the agent without any referencing. But the Ombudsman said the agent should have clearly documented that it had advised the landlords that it was not in their best interests.
Following the investigation, TPO awarded the complainants a total of £2,300 compensation to cover the aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused, as well as outstanding rent.
TPO says MTPC has not yet paid the award.
“My role as Property Ombudsman is to impartially review complaints made by members of the public against agents based on the evidence that is submitted to me. I aim to promote a resolution in full and final settlement of a complaint, and will determine appropriate redress where I am satisfied that the actions of an agent have disadvantaged a complainant” says TPO Christopher Hamer.
“In examining the issues involved, in this case I determined there were severe shortcomings in the agent’s approach, I supported four of the five complaints and made an award in favour of the landlord. The agent however has failed to meet his obligations to pay that award and has now felt the consequences” says Hamer.
When agents join TPO they agree to comply with the Code of Practice, and that includes agreement to co-operate with investigations and to pay any awards made. MTPC failed to do that.
The Disciplinary and Standards Committee (DSC) of TPO considered those were serious and flagrant breaches of the Code of Practice and decided SWL should be expelled from voluntary membership of TPO for a minimum of two years.