A case that The Property Ombudsman (TPO) was asked to review came from a landlord concerning the agent’s failure to inspect the property following a sighting of a goat at the premises. The landlord complained that the agent failed to inform him that they could not attend the property to follow up the goat sighting and that they did not attempt to rearrange the visit with the tenants. The agent responded saying that they were not contractually obliged to carry out any additional property inspections, quoting the Terms of Business, which stated that ad-hoc inspections must be specifically requested by the landlord, adding that no request had been forthcoming.
In the assessment of this complaint, the following aspects of the TPO Code of Practice for Letting Agents were considered:
- 15h – to agree the frequency of routine visits at the property with the landlord
- 15i – to keep records of when or if any routine visits are carried out and to inform the landlord of any findings
- 15j – to promptly inform both the landlord and tenant of any significant breaches to the tenancy agreement.
The case began when the landlord contacted the agent to inform them that the porter of the building had seen a goat being taken into the property. The agent acted immediately and phoned the tenants to question them on the matter. The tenants told them that the goat was no longer present and had left the building. Despite this information being relayed back to the landlord, no evidence was provided to suggest that he asked for an inspection to be carried out in order to verify the tenants’ claim and check the goat had left and had not caused any damage.
The tenants were also regularly in rental arrears and the landlord asked the agent to issue a Section 21 notice. Before this was issued, the agent informed the landlord of a regular property inspection which had been arranged. However, the tenants had refused access and the Section 21 was served two days later. Unfortunately, there was no evidence of the agent informing the landlord that they had been unable to complete the scheduled property inspection, nor that they attempted to rearrange the appointment. TPO was critical of this failing, particularly given the earlier reports of a goat being taken into the property.
It was clear to TPO that the Section 21 notice had been requested prior to the intended inspection date and the agent’s failure to rearrange did not result in a delay to the issue of the notice. It had no material effect on the outcome of the tenancy, nor on the date that the landlord gained vacant possession of the property.
The porter of the building had seen a goat being taken into the property. The agent acted immediately and phoned the tenants…
TPO found that the agent did keep the landlord regularly updated with regard to delays in rental payments and although they did not attempt to arrange another inspection, this had no impact on the tenancy coming to an end.
Furthermore, the there was no evidence to suggest that the landlord requested an additional inspection following reports of a goat. However, the agent did not communicate to the landlord that they were unable to complete a scheduled property inspection nor did they attempt to arrange another one. For this reason, the Ombudsman supported the complaint and reinstated the agent’s goodwill offer they initially made to the landlord of £150 as compensation.
In this case, the landlord was seeking £700 compensation to cover the cost of repairing damage caused to the property and he sought this from the agent based on their actions following reports of the goat sighting. However, the agent’s records evidenced that they had acted appropriately when the issue came to light and did what they could in the circumstances.
Unfortunately, a shortcoming in communication following their inability to carry out a scheduled inspection resulted in the agent making a goodwill offer that was upheld by TPO as appropriate compensation. Had the agent communicated to the landlord that the tenant had refused access to the property, the complaint would never have been supported and may never have been made at the outset. Often it is simply regular communication that can avert disputes arising.