Assessing what constitutes fair wear and tear to a rental home is among the least understood areas of the lettings process, and one which can create much ambiguity and cause the most disputes when a tenancy ends.
Alleged property damage, cleaning and redecoration are generally among the most common reasons for a dispute between landlords, tenants and sometimes agents, therefore it did not come as much of a surprise when a landlord recently requested compensation for a new cooker which was missing at the end of the tenancy.
Unfortunately, the absence of an inventory meant the issue with the cooker was difficult to prove.
But the landlord was still owed 25 days rent by Assetgrove Prime, the letting agent in the Winchmore Hill area of London, N21, responsible for collecting the rent, and that eventually resulted in the landlord making a complaint to The Property Ombudsman (TPO) after the agent failed to pass on the last month's rent.
Despite the agent protesting that an employee of another agency was sharing their office and therefore only given a temporary email address, Assetgrove Prime’s actions in allowing this led to a tenancy agreement being entered into between the landlord and the agent, and a sub-tenancy between the agent and sub-tenants.
As such, the Ombudsman was satisfied that the liability for any issues arising as result of the tenancy lay with the Assetgrove Prime. The Ombudsman made an award of £1,820.50, which included the rent owed and £300 compensation.
Assetgrove Prime failed to pay the award and the Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from TPO scheme.
Consequently, the estate and letting agent has now been expelled from TPO scheme owing the landlord £1,820.50.
Assetgrove Prime is not currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally. Trading Standards have been informed of the expulsion.
The company also does not appear to be a member of a Client Money Protection scheme, also a legal requirement, and do not have any professional memberships, but do appear to still be registered with Zoopla.
Gerry Fitzjohn, non-executive director and chairman of TPO’s finance committee, said: “As a member of TPO, agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman, which Assetgrove Prime has failed to do.
“This is a warning to consumers as the company’s website still appears active, although this refers to different legal entity – Assetgrove Lettings Limited.
“It is not registered with either of the redress schemes and Trading standards have been informed. We would like to remind consumers to ensure they always use an agent which is a member of a redress scheme (The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme) and holds Client Money Protection.”
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