In a shocking case of a rogue agent, a firm in Luton has been banned from The Property Ombudsman for ten years after failing to pay an award of £181,254 after it was found to have ‘deliberately’ not passed on substantial amounts of money to a landlord.
Altavon Property Managemnet Ltd (APM), which was dissolved late last year but had been trading for three-and-a-half years prior to the award, was asked by a local landlord to manage 31 properties on their behalf based on a two-tier agreement.
The landlord rented the properties to APM in return for a fixed return over a set period, leaving APM to manage and rent the properties to whoever they saw fit.
By December 2016 APM was behind in rent payments to the tune of £57,000 and continued to miss payments, eventually leading the landlord to complain to TPO.
After finding in the landlord’s favour, a large award was then agreed, based on the monies owed plus £200 for each missed payment and compensation for aggravation, distress and inconvenience.
But APM failed to pay the award and, after being referred to its Disciplinary & Standards Committee, has now been expelled from TPO for ten years.
“I considered that APM failed to demonstrate that they kept rental money received in a separate client account and failed to forward on that rent,” says ombudsman Katrine Sporle (pictured, left).
“In view of the circumstances relating to these complaints, it is difficult to see how this was not a deliberate act on behalf of APM which, as well as leaving the complainant substantially out of pocket, seems highly likely to have involved taking significantly more from the sub-tenants in the form of rent and deposits.”
Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of TPO’s Board, said: “Although rare, this was a particularly extreme case of rogue behaviour which resulted in a significant amount of money being owed. This firm will no longer be able to trade as a result of this expulsion and we urge any consumers that suspect the firm is trading to contact Trading Standards who have already been notified of these cases.”
Another local firm called Altavon Luton Ltd based on George Street, is not connected to APM.