As reported by the Daily Echo, letting agencies Property Vibe and The Flat Agency & Michael Browns (TFAMB) were expelled by the Property Ombudsman (TPO), following numerous complaints that the letting agency failed to repay deposits.
This ban means that the companies cannot legally trade as letting agents or join another redress schemes unless they settle their obligations with TPO.
Andrew Whitehead, who was branded ‘dishonest and deceitful‘ by the industry watchdog, is ‘devastated’ by the minimum three year ban and has apologised to consumers, after the TPO warned them to watch out for his brands.
Cases like these are extremely rare but this agent has demonstrated a complete lack of regard for its clients, and failed to forward money to them which it should have been keeping in a separate clients’ money account. The firm committed several flagrant breaches of the TPO Codes of Practice for Residential Letting Agents and has been expelled as a result.
TPO Board chairman Gerry Fitzjohn
Mr Whitehead, 42, from Rownhams, who is allegedly the director of seven dissolved property companies with two currently in liquidation, made this statement following his ban:
As the director of the agency I apologise profusely for what has happened and for the distress caused to people. We have been operating since 2004, and although [we]changed company names a few times [it]has been the same business, once employing a number of staff. Over the past few years the business has begun to deteriorate and everything has been done to try and keep trading and trade through the issues. We have downsized offices and staff many times to cut costs but it just hasn’t stopped the decline. We as a business have many landlords as well, where we offer a tenant find service, and have been very satisfied with the service over a number of years. I am devastated to get to this point and never wanted to upset anybody at all, but understand now as the final director of the various businesses responsibility falls on my shoulders.”
Mr Whitehead has so far denied winding up companies and starting new companies in order to avoid debt.
Yell reviews of The Flat Agency & Michael Brown call the company ‘appalling’, warning consumers to ‘avoid [it]at all costs’, overall awarding it a generous one and a half stars.
Meanwhile, a 2015 Google review of Property Vibe – which markets itself as ‘an independently run letting agency with over 20 years experience in the business, specialising in both the student and professional markets’ – brands the letting agency ‘absolute thieves’, claiming the company owed them over £800.