Agent continued to claim Ombudsman membership after suspension from scheme

by Gary Whittaker

A firm continued to show the Property Ombudsman logo after its membership was terminated over seven months ago. The firm, which blames an administrative oversight, was subsequently reported to Trading Standards.

Crestons, which has branches in Islington and Maida Vale, was still displaying the TPO logo on its website yesterday, together with the associated OFT logo. The logos vanished yesterday evening.

Sales manager Said Ahmed said it had been an oversight, and told EAT that the fee was now being paid. He said that his firm, which says it does both sales and lettings, has not done any sales transactions recently.

Lettings-only firms do not have to belong to an ombudsman scheme but it is a legal requirement under the Consumers and Estate Agents Redress Act that all sales agents must belong to a redress scheme

A spokesman for the Property Ombudsman said: "In October 2010, we terminated their membership as they had not paid renewal fees for sales or lettings – they were members for both.

"In January 2011, we reported them to Islington Trading Standards for using our logo on their website and stationery, which they were no longer entitled to do, and which they had been told they could no longer use when their membership was terminated.

"In February, Crestons telephoned and asked for the paperwork for registration under CEARA rather than full membership, but as yet they have not returned anything."

The matter came to light when property-finding agent Henry Pryor was annoyed when he had dealings with the agent over a rental flat the firm was advertising on Primelocation.

Acting for a celebrity client, he called the firm about the flat. He said he was told it was already let.

Pryor said: “When I asked why it still said ‘available’, she said that they only update portals once a week.

“I called their other office to ask to speak to the head of lettings. The person who answered the phone said he didn’t know. He also didn’t know who ran the company or who his boss was.”

Pryor then checked with the Ombudsman, but found the firm had ceased registration last October. He checked the websites, including Rightmove and FindaProperty, whose logos were also displayed on the website.

EAT was unable to contact Trading Standards in Islington for comment. Rightmove confirmed it lists Crestons' properties but said it would not comment on individual members.

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03-June-11General Lettings News