A warning has been issued by Britain’s largest property redress scheme regarding the actions of two letting agents.
Both agencies, ‘The Flat Agency & Michael Browns Ltd,’ and ‘Property Vibe,’ based in Southampton, were expelled from The Property Ombudsman for a minimum period of three years.
The decision to remove The Flat Agency & Michael Browns Ltd’ came following complaints from local landlords and tenants. Cases brought against the agent were all similar and revolved around a delay or failure to pay monies owed. Several raised serious concerns with the Ombudsman, which moved to brandish the agents’ practices are both, ‘deceitful and dishonest.’
Having failed to pay the money owed or any compensation, the agents’ misdemeanours were referred to the scheme’s Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee (DSC). The DSC then moved to expel the agent from membership and registration of the Ombudsman.
Without registration, the two companies cannot legally trade as agents, with other redress schemes also wary of letting previously expelled agents to join. Landlords who lease their property with a letting agent that is not registered with The Property Ombudsman cannot have their dispute reviewed by the scheme.
Warning after agents expelled from TPO
Lack of regard
Gerry Fitzjohn, Chairman of the TPO Board, noted, ‘cases like these are extremely rare but this agent has demonstrated a complete lack of regard for its clients and failed to forward money to them which it should have been keeping in a separate clients’ money account. The firm committed several flagrant breaches of the TPO Codes of Practice for Residential Letting Agents and has been expelled as a result.’
‘Both agents have failed to comply with the TPO Code of Practice by not providing any evidence to support their side of the story or demonstrate an appropriate complaints handling procedure. Their reckless management has caused avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience,’ Fitzjohn added.
Mr Clive Robinson, Trading Standards Team Leader at Southampton City Council, noted, ‘Trading Standards can confirm that we have received information both from the Ombudsman and a number of landlords and tenants. Membership of an approved ombudsman scheme is a legal requirement for all letting agents as is the proper protection of tenant’s deposits and we will be working with the Ombudsman and others to address any identified breach of the law.’