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Posted on September 4th 2015 by admin-movingin

NAEA and ARLA member agent is expelled by TPO

A sales and lettings agency has been expelled by The Property Ombudsman after a long-standing membership going back 17 years.

Bruten & Co, which displays the NAEA and ARLA logos on its site, is based in Wellington Terrace, Notting Hill Gate, London.

It also currently displays the Property Redress Scheme on its website, but yesterday TPO said that it would be suspended from that scheme too.

Its expulsion from TPO is for at least two years after the firm failed to comply with the lettings code and to pay an Ombudsman’s award.

The decision follows a complaint from prospective tenants who had applied to rent a property.

The complaint had two parts.

The first part, about the attempt to arrange a tenancy, consisted of three elements, two of which were upheld by ombudsman Christopher Hamer.

The second part, about handling of the prospective tenants’ complaint, was also upheld.

The prospective tenants found that the tenancy agreement they were sent included a significant extra term which was not in the offer form they had signed.

Bruten & Co allegedly refused either to amend the tenancy agreement or return the deposit and administration fees.

Bruten & Co also failed to clarify for the complainants how the utility bills for the property would be calculated.

The agent declined to deal with a complaint made by email, and when one was sent by post did not respond in a timely manner.

The ombudsman decided that these issues all involved breaches of the Code of Practice, and awarded the complainants a total of £768 in compensation. Bruten & Co has still not paid the award.

Hamer said: “In this case, I considered it to be fair in the circumstances that Bruten & Co pay the sum of £618 to the complainants to cover the holding deposit and administration fees that had not been returned to the complainants.

“In addition to this, I considered that a further award of compensation for the aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused as a result of the failings in Bruten & Co’s complaints handling was also merited. I therefore made a total award of £768.”

Bruten & Co had been members of TPO since January 1998. During the course of the disciplinary process Bruten & Co left TPO and joined a different redress scheme, which was said to be unaware of the disciplinary action against this agent.

Under an agreement between the redress schemes, it will be suspended from that scheme until it resolves issues over the complaint to TPO.

Hamer said: “Agents cannot avoid paying awards if they jump from one scheme to another. Under the guidance of the Department for Communities and Local Government the three approved redress schemes will not accept into membership any agent that does not meet its obligations to another scheme. Once Bruten & Co have met their financial obligations they will be free to join another scheme.

“After the two years have passed they will also be free to rejoin TPO, but they need to pay the award.”