Two lettings agencies have been expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
The first is Bower & Bower (B&B), a sales and lettings agent in Exeter.
In this case the Ombudsman supported two complaints relating to non-payment of rent to two landlords whose property B&B managed, and the way the agency dealt with deposits on the landlords’ behalf.
In the first complaint, the Ombudsman criticised the agency for not substantiating his assertion that no money received for rent had not been passed on.
The Ombudsman made an award of £2,700.33 for the money owing and an amount in compensation, which the agency then paid. However, she was also critical of the agency for not responding to the complainants' request for the deposits relating to two properties to be transferred over to the landlord.
The Ombudsman directed B&B to forward the deposits, but the agent did not comply.
The second complainant said that the agency had failed to pass over rent paid in a timely manner and to provide monthly rental statements.
The agency, after explaining to the complainants that problems with their bank had led to monies which should have been transferred being frozen, did eventually pay over rental payments of £3,150.
However the Ombudsman was critical, saying that, if this had been the case, the agency should have said so at the earliest opportunity and not several months later.
“This agent’s expulsion means it is illegal for them to trade and we have notified Trading Standards accordingly” says a statement from TPO.
The second expulsion concerned Coventry agency Lawrence Property Consultants Ltd (LPC)
This firm has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme for failing to pay awards totalling £8,583.63.
The complainants, who reside in sheltered accommodation, instructed LPC to manage their properties due to declining health.
In the first case, owing to problems with a previous tenancy, the complainants had impressed upon the agent that the property must be let to a maximum of two people, which was also a condition of the complainants’ insurance policy.
LPC introduced two student tenants but failed to prepare an inventory or provide the complainants with any Terms of Business, despite being frequently asked. Three months later, the complainants discovered that the property had been let at a higher rent than they were receiving and that there were four tenants were living at the property, not two.
The four tenants had been provided with tenancy agreements in Chinese by a woman said not to be part of LPC but another letting agency - and this was not registered with a redress scheme.
The relationship between the woman and LPC was not explained by LPC but, according to receipts, the tenants had paid the woman £21,500 upfront for rent and deposits.
Some deposits for the property were later lodged by LPC with a registered deposit scheme.
The Ombudsman concluded, in the absence of other information to the contrary, that there was a link with LPC which was acting as the complainants’ agent for the property.
The Ombudsman awarded the complainants £7,516.43 to account for the additional rental income they should have received and for unexplained deductions made, for over-payment of agency fees, together with a refund for the complainants’ insurance, which had effectively been voided due to overcrowding.
They were also awarded additional monies for the aggravation and associated risks of not having protected the tenants’ deposits and for failing to deal with the complaint.
In another complaint, a number of issues were raised concerning the agency’s management relating to producing a copy of the Tenancy Agreement, failing to respond to requests for repairs and not supplying a Gas Safety Certificate.
LPC failed to respond to the complainants during the complaints process and did not cooperate with TPO. An award of £1,067.20 was made, with a direction to produce a statement of the rent account.