Company Expelled From The Property Ombudsman Owing Landlord £10k – But Appears To Still Be Trading

A letting agent, Hawks Properties Limited, trading from an address in Stratford, East London, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for failing to pay a compensatory award of £10,264.50 to a landlord following a formal complaint investigation by TPO.

Despite an inactive website, The Property Ombudsman has been informed that the company appears to still be trading illegally, offering properties to let. Trading Standards has been informed.

The landlord instructed Hawks Properties Limited to let and fully manage his property, the landlord also opted into a rental insurance package in return for a higher management fee.

The property was let to two tenants, but six months later, the tenants stopped paying rent. Hawks Properties made a claim on the rental insurance, but the claim was declined by the insurance provider. Hawks Properties admitted this was due to a procedural error on their part.

Hawks Properties assisted the landlord in regaining possession of the property and the tenants were evicted one year after they stopped paying rent, returning the property in a very poor condition and owing around £12,000 in rent.

The landlord made a complaint to The Property Ombudsman, seeking compensation for the £12,000 arrears and a further £7,000 to cover damage caused to the property by the tenants.

The Ombudsman supported a complaint regarding referencing. It was found that Hawks Properties were notified of the possibility that the tenants were not, in fact, a couple, but failed to investigate this.

This was important as the landlord only had a license to let to a single household. The agent failed to meet their obligations under Paragraphs 11b and 11g of the Code.

The Ombudsman also found that Hawks failed to flag to the landlord that the tenants were paying rent in advance and specifically in order to pass referencing, contrary to Paragraph 11g of the Code.

The Ombudsman also supported a complaint about Hawks Properties’ handling of the insurance claim.

It was found to be fair, in the circumstances, for the agent to compensate the landlord on the basis that the claim had succeeded. This was because the agent had admitted being at fault for the error which led to the claim being denied, and the agent did not provide signed terms of business limiting their liability in the event the claim was unsuccessful.

The Ombudsman made an award of £9,264.50 for financial loss, and £1,000 for aggravation distress and inconvenience, a total of £10,264.50 but Hawks Properties Limited failed to pay the award.

Hawks Properties Limited was referred to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled that they should be excluded from The Property Ombudsman scheme.

As part of TPO’s compliance process, notification of this expulsion has been shared with all relevant bodies, including both Local and National Trading Standards for further investigation, as well as all property portals. The memorandum of understanding between TPO and the Property Redress Scheme prevents agents from registering with the other scheme until outstanding awards have been paid to consumers.

According to Companies House the company is in liquidation.

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