The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has expelled seven member agents, which is believed to be the largest number kicked out of its scheme in a single month since the organisation was established in 1990.
The agents are Exeter firm Bower & Bower, Secret Property in Halifax, Marilla Garland Property Management in Cambridge, Seekers Estate Agents in Birmingham, Alexander Reed in Middlesex, Abby Lettings and Sales in Sunderland and HAB and KAL Properties, also in Middlesex.
As is always the case, the agents were taken to TPO by disgruntled customers for breaches of the TPO code of conduct and, after losing their cases, refused or were unable to pay the agreed award and therefore have been expelled.
All the companies involved have been kicked out for between one and three years but, unless they pay the agreed awards, will be unable to join any other redress scheme and therefore cannot continue trading.
This is an unprecedented number of agents to be kicked out of TPO’s scheme; usually only one or two face the ultimate sanction each month.
TPO has highlighted one of the seven cases, which is a shocking tale of two complaints against 44-year-old company Bower & Bower.
Both cases involved late or non-payment of collected rent to the two landlords involved, a failure to keep or provide timely and accurate statements of account, and in one case a failure to return deposits even when TPO directed the company to do so. TPO also suggests in its statement that Bower & Bower were uncooperative during its investigation.
“One of the key roles of an agent under their management agreement is to pay over rent received from a tenant to a landlord in a timely manner. I am critical of Bower & Bower’s failures to do this or provide sufficient explanation,” says Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle (pictured, left).
Extraordinarily, The Property Ombudsman also says it believes that Bower & Bower is still offering homes for sale and rent, which would mean it is trading illegally because the company cannot fulfil the legal requirement to be registered with a government-approved redress scheme until it pays the agreed awards.
Read more about TPO decisions.