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Letting agent is expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme

Landlords in West Bromwich should be aware that local letting agent, The Lettings Shop (TLS), located in High Street has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme (TPO), which means that the firm is not currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally.

The company was stripped of its professional memberships after a prospective tenant made a complaint to TPO after she was made to pay £200 cash to secure a rental property and sign an agreement, which the agent then refused to refund when she called the next day to withdraw her interest.

Although the agreement stated ‘non-refundable’, the ombudsman took into account the Competition and Markets Authority’s guidance which states that ‘tenants should not be pressurised into paying money’.

The guidance also outlines circumstances in which holding-deposits or pre-tenancy payments like this should be refundable, including if ‘the tenant pulls out of the deal before the relevant costs or disbursements covered by the pre-tenancy payment have actually been incurred by the agent’.

The Ombudsman ordered that the £200 fee be refunded as no work had started on the prospective tenant’s behalf as well as awarding a small compensatory award of £50 for the wasted time and distress.

But the TLS did not cooperate with the ombudsman’s review nor did they pay the award, leaving the ombudsman with no alterantive but to refer the agent to the scheme’s independent compliance committee, which ruled the company should be excluded from TPO and registration for redress.

Trading Standards has also been informed of the expulsion.

Gerry Fitzjohn, non-executive director and chairman of TPO’s finance and performance committee, commented: “As a member of TPO, agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the ombudsman which TSL has failed to do.

"As part of TPO’s role to provide better consumer protection, we feel it is important to raise awareness to cases such as these in the event that TLS attempts to continue trading with landlords and tenants who may be unaware of the company’s position, particularly as they are still advertising properties ‘to let’ via their website.”

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