Two lettings firms, one in London and the other in Torbay, have been expelled by The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Madisons of 7, Odeon Parade, 468, London Road, Isleworth, was expelled for failing to pass on rent it had collected and for mishandling tenants’ deposits.
However TPO is required under the terms of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007, to maintain Madisons’ registration for sales activities.
The Disciplinary Standards Committee (DSC) of the TPO Council considered a number of complaints where Madisons collected rent and did not pass it on.
When the matter was referred to the Ombudsman he determined that the rent should be paid over to the landlords, and that compensation be paid for breaches of the TPO Code of Practice for Letting Agents in the firm’s general failing to provide a service consistent with fairness, integrity and best practice. In one case, although the rents have now been paid, the compensatory award made by the Ombudsman has not been met.
“This has been a sorry and frustrating business for both Madisons’ clients and TPO,” said Gerry Fitzjohn (right), vice chairman of the company operating TPO.
“It concerns us that while we can expel their lettings business from the scheme we have no option but to continue registration for their sales business until the Office of Fair Trading bans the agent.
“In the meantime, it is our duty to make the public aware of the situation regarding Madisons.”
The second firm to be expelled is Torbay Residential Lettings (TRL), of 49 Market Street, Torquay.
The firm had breached several aspects of the TPO Code of Practice for letting agents by not co-operating with the Ombudsman’s investigation, not paying the award made by the Ombudsman after he had found the firm had not registered the tenants’ deposit, failing to complete a proper check-out process, and failing to provide an appropriate form of tenancy agreement.
The Disciplinary Standards Committee (DSC) of the TPO Council, in deciding to expel TRL also noted that one of the directors of the firm had been jailed for three years in January, 2010, for child cruelty and perverting the course of justice.
The remaining director considered that the dispute being decided upon by the Ombudsman was not the firm’s responsibility because the complaint arose from the actions of the jailed director. The DSC took the view that this was not relevant and the firm was liable to meet its obligations as a TPO member.
“Such behaviour is unacceptable,” said Gerry Fitzjohn. “Our scheme’s primary purpose is to resolve disputes between agents and consumers but we also aim to raise professionalism and insist on certain levels of service. Where these are not met, we make it clear that an agent is no longer fit for membership and recommend the public take notice of this.”