The Property Ombudsman expels four agents owing more than £440,000 in redress

Four agents have been expelled from The Property Ombudsman’s (TPO) after failing to pay almost half a million pounds of redress.

The unpaid awards amount to a total of £441,094.

Camborne Properties Ltd trading as Harper Brooks makes up the bulk of money owed.

The sales and lettings and management agent in Liverpool had received 100 separate complaints from leaseholders for not paying them rent owed.

Most of the complainants have been investors from Asia buying from the developer to let to students prior to the development being completed.

TPO’s press release described how a leaseholder had bought a property, to be let as student accommodation, from a developer who was targeting the build to let market.

When the leaseholder acquired two apartments he entered into a management agreement with Harper Brooks that they would guarantee the rent payments, but the leaseholder did not receive rent from December 2016 through to the end of 2017, apart from a minimal payment in March.

Having failed to meet their obligations under the agreement, TPO supported this complaint and Harper Brooks was directed to pay the outstanding rent owed and an additional award was made for aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The total award was £9,900.

All complaints about this agent were reviewed by TPO and £431,715 was ordered to be paid, of which £419,079 was unpaid rent under the guaranteed rent agreements.

Although this agency no longer appears to be operating, it has been referred to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team for further investigation, the Ombudsman said.

In another update, Middlesbrough agent TeesSurveyors Lettings Ltd (TSL) has been expelled after failing to pay £3,133 of awards in two cases relating to non-payment and late payment of rent

In one case with this agent, a tenant found the property they were renting had been repossessed and it turned out TSL was the landlord, while in another the agency failed to pass on rent.

TSL did make two payments totalling £1,200, but no further payment or correspondence has been made since.

In Isleworth, west London, The Drake Lawson Ltd trading as Alexander Reed, has been expelled for the non-payment of three separate awards.

The first complaint was raised by a tenant concerning the holding deposit which he paid when he was out of the country. Having failed referencing, the tenant requested a refund, but the agent refused saying that the deposit was non-refundable in the event that he failed the application process, something the tenant maintained he had never received any documentation for.

TPO made an award of £300, a full refund, to reflect the fact that the agent couldn’t demonstrate that they had notified the tenant in writing of the circumstances in which the holding deposit would be forfeited.

One landlord’s complaint about the agent concerned a number of issues including the unauthorised withdrawal of the tenant’s tenancy deposit from a recognised scheme, a delay in the payment of rental income and the agent’s complaints handling system.

TPO criticised the agent for withdrawing and then failing to re-protect the deposit leaving the landlord exposed to the risk of his tenant taking him to court, failing to address payments with the tenant at an earlier point in time and not recording, acknowledging, investigating or responding to complaints. An award of £500 was made.

Another landlord complaint against the agent related to a shortfall in rent owed. When the tenancy came to an end, it was apparent that the landlord had not received the remaining four months of rent, which the tenant had paid to the agent before vacating.

The Ombudsman made an award of £3,946 which included the money owed and £200 compensation.

The fourth TPO update warns that a Halifax sales and letting agent trading as Secret Property and Wara has been expelled for failing to pay an award of £2,300.

The firm was referred to TPO when potential buyers of a property were unhappy that a £2,000 reservation deposit was not returned after they withdrew from a purchase despite assurances that it would be.

The agent was ordered to refund the £2,000 deposit and make a further £300 award in compensation for aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused.

The updates mean all these agents are trading illegally by not being part of a redress scheme.

However, none appear to now be active on Rightmove.

Companies House documents show Harper Brooks, TeesSurveyors and Wara have been dissolved.

Secret Property and Drake Lawson Ltd both have an active proposal to strike off and are late filing their accounts and confirmation statements, Companies House documents show.

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