An agency has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman after receiving over 100 separate complaints, and failing to pay over £419,000 in awards to landlords or tenants.
A statement today from TPO says that Camborne Properties Limited - trading as Harper Brooks, a sales and lettings & management agent in Liverpool - has been expelled for the non-payment of awards.
TPO says it received over 100 separate complaints from leaseholders regarding Harper Brooks defaulting on making assured rent quarterly payments in 2017 that the firm was contractually obliged to do.
Most of the complainants were investment buyers from Asia to let to students prior to a development being completed.
In one case, the leaseholder had bought a property, to be let as student accommodation from a developer who was targeting the buy to let market.
When the leaseholder acquired two apartments he entered into a management agreement with Harper Brooks that set out its obligations to him over a five-year period.
Harper Brooks stated it would guarantee the rent payments, but the leaseholder did not receive rent from December 2016 through to the end of 2017 - aside from a minimal payment in March.
TPO says that throughout 2017, Harper Brooks communicated with a number of leaseholders indicating that it expected to be in a position to pay at least some of the rental monies owed, but it went on to say that it was unable to make any payments.
The Property Ombudsman’s statement says the agency attempted to step away from its commitments in the management agreement, when it wrote to explain it had been forced to revert to a traditional lettings’ management format, meaning it would only be able to distribute real income received for each unit, taking into account all operating costs.
The Ombudsman supported some complaints; Harper Brooks was directed to pay the outstanding rent owed and an additional award was made for aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The total award was £9,900.
All complaints about this agent that have been reviewed by the Ombudsman have also been supported. The awards total just under £431,715.52 of which £419,079.96 was unpaid rent under the guaranteed rent agreements.
The agency appears to be operating, but it has been referred to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team for further investigation.
An agreement between the two remaining government-approved redress schemes means Harper Brooks 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.