Landlords and tenants in Chelmsford, Essex, are being warned that a local letting agent appears to be trading, despite being expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) and is now in liquidation.
Old Moulsham Estates Limited, trading as Hawksley Pearce, appears to have a new business trading from the same address.
TPO received a complaint from tenants who said that Hawksley Pearce did not ensure that repairs and maintenance were carried out during their tenancy. The boiler was not functioning at the start of the tenancy.
The agent arranged for a contractor to attend without the tenants’ permission, and following this did not provide them with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate.
Hawksley Pearce also advised the tenants that they would deal with an energy bill, not in their name, for the period before the tenancy commenced, but the tenants complained that the agent failed to do so, and did not provide them with the landlords’ address upon request.
The agent did not respond to TPO's requests for their company file, and so the Ombudsman was reliant on the evidence provided by the tenants in order to determine whether Hawksley Pearce acted in accordance with their obligations.
The Ombudsman was not satisfied that Hawksley Pearce communicated with the landlord and the tenants regarding the repair issues reported or that the agent made appropriate responses regarding this, including informing the tenants that deductions would be made to their deposit if the agent had to instruct a contractor to resolve the issues raised.
The Ombudsman could not establish whether there was an issue with the boiler at the start of the tenancy, but was critical that Hawksley Pearce did not ensure that the location of the meter and a reading was provided to the tenants at the start of the tenancy.
Despite informing the tenants that a contractor would attend the property the day after it was reported, Hawksley Pearce took no action when the tenants advised that they wished to be present and were not available for the appointment. The Ombudsman was not satisfied that Hawksley Pearce acted appropriately in accordance with Paragraph 8g of TPO’s Codes of Practice. Moreover, the agent did not provide the tenants with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate upon request and appeared not have communicated with the relevant party upon receipt of the energy bill provided by the tenants.
The Ombudsman was also not satisfied that the agent provided the landlords’ details to the tenants in accordance with their obligations under Paragraph 13d of the Code, which resulted in them having to obtain the details via the Land Registry.
This complaint was supported by the Ombudsman and £500 was awarded for the avoidable aggravation caused by Hawksley Pearce.
The agent failed to pay the award and The Ombudsman referred them to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that they should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Hawksley Pearce appears to have now dissolved there appears to be a linked company trading from the same address. As part of TPO’s process, notification of all expulsions are shared with any relevant bodies, including both Local and National Trading Standards.
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 Sam Allan Estates failed to do. It appears that this agent is no longer trading, which is frustrating for the tenants who are owed outstanding monies.
“The tenants have been advised of the agent’s position and papers have been provided to assist in alternative action should they wish to pursue it further.
“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.”