A letting agent has been banned from trading and ordered to pay out more than £20,000 for mishandling rental payments and delaying the hand-over of tenants’ deposits.
Industry regulator The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme, which had previously expelled Truro-based Premier Property Management (PPM), said it had made false promises on many occasions and failed to correspond with complainants at times.
It also said PPM’s emails offered unacceptable reasons for the delays in payments and made repeated assurances that rent had been transferred, yet some payments were then rescinded.
The ombudsman said it took the further action after it received seven additional complaints from landlords which resulted in awards totalling £20,566.23.
Premier Property Management (PPM), based in Lemon Street, was originally expelled by The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme in November 2016 after a landlord alleged PPM had failed to pass on rental payments and delayed in handing over deposits. PPM was excluded from TPO for a period of two years but the expulsion has now been extended after more cases came to light.
The agent neither responded nor paid the seven awards, so the case was referred to TPO’s Disciplinary & Standards Committee (DSC) which extended the exclusion by another four years.
This means the agent can no longer legally trade, although it appears that PPM is no longer trading and the website is no longer active. The agency has been referred to local authorities.
Katrine Sporle, property ombudsman, said: “This agent’s behaviour fell well below the standards expected and their systematic failure to pass on rental payments and deposits received has affected the lives of several landlords.
“Cases like these are fortunately extremely rare but do highlight the importance of consumers keeping their own written records so I can review emails, bank statements and correspondence as part of my investigation to determine if the agent has acted fairly.”
In coming to a judgement on each case, the ombudsman considered the evidence presented by the landlord, which included emails and bank statements, and the standards set out in TPO’s Lettings Code of Practice.
The emails exposed the poor reasons for payment delays and false claims they had been sent as well as a pattern with deposits where the firm would promise to act or would claim a deposit had been paid or transferred.
One landlord claimed they visited the agent’s office and were shown ‘evidence’ of a payment having left their bank account but this never materialised in the complainants’ own account.
The agent also failed to co-operate with the ombudsman’s investigation into the complaints.
The ombudsman instructed the agent to pay awards for each case and compensation for the aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused, which totalled £20,566.23.
The company has an overall rating of two out if five stars from 12 reviews, including from property owners and tenants, on allagents.co.uk, comprising nine giving one-star and three giving five stars and dating back to 2011.
On the enjoytruro website, the company’s profile still says: “We offer a personal yet professional service, which is designed to be tailored to meet the individual needs of our clients and are proud that a large amount of our business comes from personal recommendation.
“We are able to offer additional services alongside our Management such as ‘Find Tenant Only’ and a Rent Collection service.”