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One of the most complicated and least understood procedures in the lettings process is assessing what defines fair wear and tear in a rental home. This is one area which creates much ambiguity, and it can frequently create disputes when a rental agreement comes to an end. 

Redecoration, cleaning and repairing of alleged property damage are generally listed among the most frequent and common causes for dispute between tenants, agents and occasionally, letting agents. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a headline has made nationwide news which details a dispute between a landlord and tenant.

The landlord in question recently requested compensation in regards to a new cooker, which was found to be missing from the rental property when an inspection was conducted as the tenancy came to an end. However, the landlord made a grave mistake and did not take an inventory at the start of the tenancy, which meant that this issue of proving the existence of the cooker became extremely difficult. Companies such as InventoryBase are able to help letting agents conduct thorough and professional inventories for rental properties.

In addition to this, the landlord in question was still owed 25 days worth of rent payments from their letting agent, Assetgrove Prime. The agent, located in the Winchmore Hill region of London, was responsible for collecting rent payments on behalf of the landlord. Their failure to pass on this money to the landlord resulted in the landlord making an official complaint to the TPO (The Property Ombudsman) when the agent declined to pass on the final month’s rent. 

Despite protests from the letting agent that an employee from another agency was working at their office, and was therefore only provided with a temporary email address, the actions of Assetgrove Prime in facilitating this meant that a tenancy agreement was entered into between the letting agent and landlord, with a sub-tenancy also created between the sub-tenants and the letting agent.

As such, The Property Ombudsman was satisfied that the liability for any issues which arose as a result of this tenancy was the responsibility of Assetgrove Prime. The Property Ombudsman, therefore, awarded the landlord the total sum of £1,820.50, which also included £300 worth of compensation in addition to the rent owed to the landlord.

However, the letting agent failed to pay the compensation awarded to the landlord, and the TPO therefore referred Assetgrove Prime to the Compliance Committee. The CC was established to manage agents who fail to meet their obligations or who breach Codes of Practice which are relevant to TPO members. It has the power to take a range of disciplinary actions, and the Ombudsman only refers cases to the body in the most serious of circumstances, and in this case, the Compliance Committee ruled that the firm must be expelled from the TPO scheme. 

Assetgrove Prime has now been expelled by the TPO, and still owes the landlord £1,820.50. Now, the letting agent is not registered at a redress scheme, which is a legal requirement of all letting and sales agents in order to trade in the UK. As a result of the expulsion, Trading Standards were informed of their removal from the scheme. 

The company does not appear to be registered with the Client Money Protection Scheme, which is also legally required, and is not a member of any other industry bodies, although it still appears to be registered with property platform, Zoopla.

Chairman and non-executive director of the finance committee at TPO, Gerry Fitzjohn, commented that agents, as members of TPO, are obliged to comply with any compensation awarded by the Ombudsman, and Assetgrove Prime has not done so. He said this action acts as a warning to customers, as the website from the company appears to still be active, although it does refer to a different firm – Assetgrove Lettings Limited.