The Property Ombudsman has revealed the latest clutch of estate agents to be expelled from its scheme but, out of the five businesses, only one is still trading.
Four of the businesses given the ultimate sanction by TPO – and expelled – threw in the towel months ago and have closed down or disappeared.
In the five cases, the sometimes shocking stories of poor customer service and negligence by the firms included deposits not being placed within an authorised deposit protection scheme, not passing on rent quickly enough, destroying a landlords property by mistake and refusing to return a sales reservation fee on a property.
DMF Inventories Ltd, Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes
Award not paid: £1,677
DMF failed to register a landlord’s deposit with the DPS. When the Management Agreement came to an end, DMF also failed to release the tenant’s deposit of £1,377 to enable the landlord to register it.
Following the formal complaint to TPO, no response was received.
The Ombudsman made an award of £1,677, (£1377 for the tenant’s deposit and £300 compensation). DMF advised they could not make the full payment and suggested a payment plan, but their accountant then confirmed they could not afford any payment at all.
Chebar Homes Ltd, Deptford, London
Award not paid: £1,566
Several landlords made a formal complaint to The Property Ombudsman about the company’s handling of both rent payments and complaints.
Upon investigation, the agent did not dispute that they had failed to pass on most of the rent in a timely manner and that the landlords were owed one month’s rent, minus commission. The Ombudsman supported the complaint.
An award for £1,556 was made, but Chebar Homes failed to pay the award and the TPO’s Compliance Committee ruled it should be expelled.
Plush Lettings, Llanlelli, Carmarthenshire
Award not paid: £2,000
A landlord complained that the agency did not ensure that his property was secure after they visited it and that they had destroyed belongings in a garage worth £8,743 after mis-reading an email.
The Ombudsman could not work out the true valuation of what was disposed of and therefore proposed a compensatory award of £1,850 in respect of these with an additional award of £150 for the aggravation, distress and inconvenience.
Plush failed to pay the award and was expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme. It appears to still be trading on its website, active accounts with both Zoopla and OntheMarket and registration with Rent Smart Wales. Rent Smart Wales has been informed.
Award not paid: £375
This ‘bespoke property investing development company’ has been expelled for owing an award of £375 to a prospective buyer.
The company has told TPO it ‘welcomes’ court proceedings and does not believe it requires redress as a ‘developer’.
The complainant viewed an off-plan property on Rightmove, marketed by Estateducation.
After initial enquiries, he was persuaded to pay the company a £500 Reservation Fee on the basis that he would buy the property under the Right to Buy Scheme, as advertised, and exchange sale contracts within six weeks.
The buyer decided to withdraw after it felt the handling of an application for a Help to Buy loan on their behalf had been poor and withdrew from the purchase.
The Ombudsman considered it reasonable for Estateducation to pay the buyer £375.
Concept Lettings Ltd, Reading
Award not paid: £4,704
This dispute arose when a landlord instructed the agency on tenant find only basis and, after the tenant moved in but then stopped paying rent and had to be convicted, complained to TPO about the poor referencing of the tenant and their guarantor.
The complaint was supported as the agent had not sought to verify the identification of the tenant’s guarantor which, had they done so, would have established that the signature on the form had been forged.
The Ombudsman considered that the referencing was reckless as there was simply not enough information to determine whether the tenant or the guarantor could afford to pay the rent and the results of the referencing provider’s credit score checks could not reasonably be relied on.