A lettings agency that failed to pay a compensation award ordered by The Property Ombudsman has been expelled from the scheme - but is thought to be trading under a different name and has even tried to join the TPO.
Sun Properties Leicester has been excluded from The Property Ombudsman for failing to pay an outstanding award of £3,220.14.
This followed TPO receiving a complaint from landlords regarding referencing checks carried out by Sun Properties Leicester on their tenant. The landlords also said that the agent had used the tenant's deposit for rent arrears when the tenant failed to pay rent.
Upon request from The Property Ombudsman, Sun Properties Leicester failed to provide a case file which members of TPO are obligated to do if a complaint is made about them, although there was evidence of some letters from the agent to the complainants.
A statement from TPO says: “The Ombudsman found that the agent's referencing checks were reckless. They had failed to carry out even basic checks on the tenant and had only obtained one landlord reference. There had also been insufficient checks on the tenant’s guarantor, and consequently the tenant failed to pay rent shortly after taking up the tenancy.”
The landlords managed to secure a court order for the unpaid rent and their costs plus interest against the tenant, which amounted to £2,720.14. The Ombudsman considered that the costs were unrecoverable, given that the tenant had failed to make payment in the 12 months since the court judgement and the guarantor could not be contacted.
The landlords also had to rectify damage to the property at the end of the tenancy costing £500. The Ombudsman could not determine whether the agent had collected any deposit from the tenant or whether that had been used to offset unpaid rent. However, TPO granted the landlords an award for the aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused by the actions of Sun Properties Leicester in failing to respond to their complaint or provide any information about the collection and whereabouts of the deposit.
An award of £3,220.14 was made to reflect the court order of £2,720.14 plus £500 compensation.
Sun Properties Leicester failed to pay the award made and the agency has now been excluded.
But TPO’s statement goes on to say: “The website of Sun Properties Leicester remains active but has limited information on it and the phone number is no longer in service. However, TPO has identified a linked company (Sunrise Properties Leicester) which shares the same partners as Sun Properties Leicester and, up until December 2020, appeared to be trading via Facebook. The company also attempted to join The Property Ombudsman. As part of TPO’s process, notification of this expulsion has been shared with all relevant bodies, including both Local and National Trading Standards.”
Gerry Fitzjohn, non-executive director and chairman of TPO’s finance committee, says: “As a member of TPO, agents are obliged to fulfil direction and comply with awards made by the Ombudsman, which Sun Properties Leicester failed to do. There were several fallings on the part of the agent from the outset of this tenancy and the complainants should have received an award to compensate for this.
"Whilst this is extremely frustrating for these landlords, we would highlight the point that of the thousands of awards made by TPO in consumers’ favour every year, less than two per cent go unpaid. Most agents will fulfil their obligation to pay an award made by TPO.”