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TPO expels two letting agencies now banned from redress schemes

As we reported yesterday, The Property Ombudsman has expelled two letting agencies and is warning consumers about the firms, which are based in Southampton. 

The companies, trading as ‘The Flat Agency & Michael Browns Ltd’ and ‘Property Vibe Ltd’, have been expelled from lettings redress membership of TPO for a minimum period of three years.

The decision to expel The Flat Agency & Michael Browns Ltd follows complaints made against it from local landlords and tenants. The complaints were independently reviewed by the Ombudsman and all were upheld. 

Cases against this agent were all similar in nature, relating to delay and/or failure in paying money owed to the complainants and several flagged serious concerns with the Ombudsman, who described the agents’ practices as “dishonest and deceitful”.

The Ombudsman ordered payment of the money owed together with compensation.

When the agent failed to pay either the money owed or compensation, it was referred to the scheme’s Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee. When it still failed to pay, the DSC expelled the agent from membership and from registration.

“This agent has demonstrated a complete lack of regard for its clients, and failed to forward money to them which it should have been keeping in a separate clients’ money account” says Gerry Fitzjohn, chairman of the TPO Board. 

Property Vibe Ltd is the second Southampton firm to be disciplined this month. 

Despite leaving the scheme in 2015, after its membership ended due to its failure to pay its membership fees, Property Vibe Ltd was also disciplined for failing to refund money owed to complainants or pay an award of compensation. 

The Ombudsman criticised Property Vibe’s lack of response not only to the complainants but also to TPO which had provided ample opportunities to resolve this complaint without the need for a formal review.

“Both agents have failed to comply with the TPO Code of Practice by not providing any evidence to support their side of the story or demonstrate an appropriate complaints handling procedure. Their reckless management has caused avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience” says Fitzjohn.

TPO is now working with Southampton Trading Standards in relation to these issues.

“Trading Standards can confirm that we have received information both from the Ombudsman and a number of landlords and tenants. Membership of an approved ombudsman scheme is a legal requirement for all letting agents as is the proper protection of tenant’s deposits and we will be working with the Ombudsman and others to address any identified breach of the law” says Clive Robinson, trading standards team leader at Southampton council. 

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