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The Property Ombudsman Scheme receives over 100 complaints for one agent

Agent expelled for non-payment of awards

Camborne Properties Limited trading as Harper Brooks, a sales and lettings & management agent in Liverpool, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for the non-payment of awards.

TPO can confirm that they have received over 100 separate complaints from leaseholders regarding Harper Brooks who defaulted on making assured rent quarterly payments in 2017 that they were contractually obliged to do.

Most of the complainants have been investors from Asia buying from the developer to let to students prior to the development being completed. In one case, the leaseholder had bought a property, to be let as student accommodation from a developer who was targeting the build to let market. When the leaseholder acquired two apartments he entered into a management agreement with Harper Brooks that set out their obligations to him over a 5-year period. Harper Brooks set out in their Terms of Business that they would guarantee the rent payments, but the leaseholder did not receive rent from and including December 2016 through to the end of 2017 (aside from a minimal payment in March).

Throughout 2017, Harper Brooks communicated with a number of leaseholders indicating that they expect to be in a position to pay at least some of the rental monies owed, but they went on to say that they are unable to make any payments. They attempted to step away from their commitments in the management agreement, when they wrote to explain they had been forced to revert to a traditional lettings’ management format, meaning they would only be able to distribute real income received for each unit, taking into account all operating costs.

Having failed to meet their obligations under the agreement the Ombudsman supported this complaint. Harper Brooks were directed to pay the outstanding rent owed and an additional award was made for aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The total award was £9,900.

All complaints about this agent that have been reviewed by the Ombudsman have also been supported. The awards total just under £431,715.52 of which £419,079.96 was unpaid rent under the guaranteed rent agreements.

Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chair of TPO’s Finance Committee: As a member of TPO agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman. Harper Brooks did not pay the outstanding rent or the compensatory awards which meant they were referred to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee who recommended the firm should be expelled from registration for redress and membership with The Property Ombudsman.

Although this agency no longer appears to be operating, it has been referred to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) for further investigation.

*N.B. Every sales and lettings agent in England is required to register with a Government-approved redress scheme, which enables consumers to have their complaint reviewed independently in the event of a dispute arising that the consumer is unable to resolve with the agent directly.

An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes means Harper Brooks will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for the agents to trade legally.

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