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Property firm is expelled from industry watchdog
2:30pm Thursday 19th July 2012 in News
A Keighley property lettings business has been thrown out of a watchdog scheme for failing to pay more than £3,000 and “serious breaches” of its code of practice.
West Yorkshire Lettings (WYL), which manages rented properties and has its offices in Russell Street, has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme, the official body which deals with complaints from estate agents and tenants.
Ombudsman Christopher Hamer found a series of failures by the business, including finding “no evidence” repair work had been carried out on homes it was managing, and failing to tell the landlord of offers received for a property, so that he only found out later that a tenancy had been agreed at a reduced rent.
Mr Hamer imposed a £3,450 fine for the breaches, which the company refused to pay.
Gerry Fitzjohn, deputy chairman of the TPO board, said: “West Yorkshire Lettings had an obligation to pay the award, but refused to do so claiming that as a small business it could not afford it.
“The agency had also argued that repair work had been completed satisfactorily and had been ‘approved’ by a friend of the complainant. The Ombudsman could find no evidence to prove that was the case.
“We also noted that the agent had not provided proof that client money was being held in a separate account as required by the TPO Code of Practice. This presents potentially a very serious risk to those customers of that agent.
“As the agent had failed to pay the award and had breached other aspects of the TPO Code of Practice, the committee decided to expel it from membership.”
A spokesman for WYL said an employee who has now been dismissed from the firm had been responsible for the breaches, and appealed against the ombudsman’s findings. However, an independent panel threw out the appeal.
Mr Fitzjohn made it clear the company’s lettings business had been expelled, but said the firm remained registered for sales.
He said West Yorkshire Trading Standards and the Office of Fair Trading would be made aware of the decision.
He said: “That should serve as a warning over potential future problems, which is why we are alerting the public about this estate agency.”
A spokesman for WYL said one of the breaches was because a landlord was unwilling to carry out any repairs and that WYL had been under different management at the time.
She said: “We currently manage over 300 properties and all landlords are satisfied with our service.”
Last month, WYL was fined £10,000 after its then director Hameed Islam pleaded guilty to failing to comply with improvement notices at two houses in the town.
Bradford Magistrates’ Court heard that sewage seeped into a bath after the property management company took more than a year to get a blocked toilet fixed.