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Booking.com Property

Booking.com

I recently posted about a negative experience we’d had with Sharif Miah of Trustee Property and Oracle Estates in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

One of the many unscrupulous things Sharif was doing was advertising our property on sites like Booking.com when, due to having dissolved his company when the accounts were due, he had no right to do so.

He claimed to have signed a shorthold tenancy agreement that prevented us from taking the property back, but Booking.com was showing verified reviews of the property from guests who had stayed there during a period when it was claimed the property was inhabited by that tenant.

Clearly something wasn’t right here, and if Sharif was continuing to let out the property to paying guests with the assistance of an accomplice who was claiming to be a tenant, while not in contract with us and while not paying rent, then clearly this was something that had to come to an immediate end.

With that in mind, I contacted Booking.com to report the listing and to ask them to remove it. The email included all the necessary details including a link to the listing, evidence of the dissolved company, and assurances that I could provide them with whatever evidence they needed that I was the legal owner of the property.

This post documents our experience.

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Property

Mohammed Sharif Miah of InCityNow, Oracle Estates & Azure MLC

Sites: www.incitynow.co.uk, www.oracleestates.co.uk & www.tch.im

Trustee Property & InCityNow

Trustee Property a.k.a. InCityNow a.k.a. Oracle Estates took over the management of one of our properties at the end of 2017. The company comprised of Mohammed Sharif Miah (who prefers to go by the names “Sharif” and for some reason “Alex”) and another guy who I will call Matthew (not his real name), both of whom are from Oldham in Greater Manchester.

We dealt exclusively with Matthew at first, who seemed friendly and professional. And for over a year things were running without issue… but then suddenly and as it turned out, unfortunately, Matthew left the business.

Sharif continued to pay rent on time but in every other way was setting off alarm bells left, right and centre. By now we had also signed over another property to Trustee Property but Sharif was allowing insurance to lapse and council tax to go unpaid – which we had to chase him for repeatedly.

The inspection videos that we were supposed to receive once per month also stopped.

Trustee Property is dissolved

The bombshell came one day when he text to ask if we could send him our bank details as he had dissolved his company “on the advice of his accountant” and needed to pay us from a different account.

[…] please can you send us your bank details for [redacted] and the penthouse so we can transfer the monies the current bank is closed we decided to dissolve the company after advice from our accountants your contract will still be honoured under our new company name Incitynow Ltd (12436784) which is actually always been our trading name I will put everything on an email for your reassurance and I will get the videos you asked for next week hopefully by Wednesday and the business bank has not been sorted yet so will be coming from my account S Miah for this month thanks Alex

Sharif Miah, 28th of February 2020

He sent the message on the 28th of February, but when I checked I could see that Trustee Property was actually dissolved nearly a month earlier on the 4th of February.

Interestingly, the “InCityNow Ltd. (12436784)” that he detailed in his message was established only on the 3rd of February 2020 – just days after “InCityNow Limited (11097226)” was itself dissolved.

With all the other warnings that he had set off over the last few weeks, dissolving the company that was contracted to manage our properties without any warning at all and leaving us completely exposed was the last straw.

Categories
Property

How to claim compensation from your estate agent

If your estate agent has lied to you about a property in order to secure a sale, there’s a good chance that they have violated the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. As such, you could be entitled to some compensation.

The level of compensation depends on the significance of the lie, but we received £500 from Reeds Rains after they failed to inform us about planning permission on a nearby field even though they were aware of it.

Claiming your compensation is straightforward:

1. Write a letter of complaint to the estate agent itself detailing your grievance and what you would like for them to do to make it right. Include any supporting evidence that you have.

The estate agent will either accept your complaint and put things right or, as Reeds Rains did with us, respond with nonsensical bullshit.

2. If your estate agent chooses the latter approach, check which dispute resolution scheme they are a member of. Most are members of the Property Ombudsman (TPO) but as this industry does not have a statutory ombudsman, some estate agents choose a different scheme.

You MUST attempt to resolve the problem with the estate agent directly before involving the dispute resolution service and they will ask to see the estate agent’s “final viewpoint” before getting involved.

Send all of the supporting evidence for your claim, along with all correspondence between the estate agent and yourself, to the dispute resolution scheme.

3. Wait a couple of months for them to review the case, and assuming your claim was valid (and that your case was air-tight), collect the compensation that is awarded.

Important: Note that you have 6 years (5 in Scotland) from the date of purchase in which to make your complaint.

Also note that the dispute resolution schemes – the Ombudsman included – are all funded by their members, which means the estate agent is paying the service an annual fee. For larger estate agents like Reeds Rains, this annual fee runs into the tens of thousands of pounds and as such they can be considered to be valuable clients of the scheme.

With that in mind, claims made by the scheme that it is fair and impartial can be considered to be completely false so you will need to ensure that your case is air-tight.

If the scheme can find any way to protect their client and either side with them in the dispute or at least limit the amount of compensation in disputes that are irrefutable, they will do so. After all, if the agent isn’t satisfied by the service provided by a given scheme, they are free to switch to an alternative!

A black and white example of the Property Ombudsman (TPO) sabotaging a complaint in order to protect a member can be found here. So make sure not to allow any room for defensive manoeuvring.

In cases where the dispute resolution service in question is the Property Ombudsman (TPO), if you believe it has acted improperly then be sure to report it to the Ombudsman Association.

Categories
Property

The Property Ombudsman (TPO)

Site: tpos.co.uk
Twitter: twitter.com/TPOmb
Purpose: Ombudsman for the property industry

What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman is an official or a body who is tasked with representing the interests of consumers by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of consumer rights.

Ombudsmen are a superset of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services, but not all forms of ADR are referred to as ombudsmen.

In fact, ombudsmen are special because only they are allowed by Companies House to refer to themselves as ombudsmen (which is a protected word) and they earn and maintain this right by:

  1. being a statutory complaints organisation; or
  2. being a non-statutory body that:
    1. is certified as a provider of Alternative Dispute Resolution by a competent authority;
    2. has a proven track record in dispute resolution in the relevant complaints area, normally for at least 12 months; and
    3. holds Ombudsman-level membership of the Ombudsman Association which demands that its members adhere to strict criteria to ensure fairness, impartiality and accountability.

The UK has a number of ombudsmen including but not limited to communications and internet services, finance, housing, legal, pensions and property.

Although they all share the title of “Ombudsman”, there is a wide variance in their remit, their powers and arguably their susceptibility to bias.

Categories
Property

Reeds Rains

Site: reedsrains.co.uk
Twitter: twitter.com/ReedsRains
Purpose: Estate Agents

What is Reeds Rains?

Reeds Rains is an estate agent that operates nationwide, with approximately 150 branches around the country. According to their website, they were established in 1868.

That same website makes a big deal of the fact that they have been trading for over 150 years with a lovely little blurb on the homepage designed to convey a wholesome feeling of time-honoured tradition, friendliness and high standards:

In our 150-year history we’ve never lost sight of the need for local expertise or moved away from our founder Samuel Rain’s principles that building great relationships, being genuinely interested in our customers and getting the job done, is the way to achieve success for our customers.

In the website’s footer, they refer to their membership of the Property Ombudsman (TPO), how that is there to protect customers’ interests, and how they abide by the Ombudsman’s code of conduct.

We are members of The Property Ombudsman (TPO), there to protect your interests. We abide by the TPO code of conduct.

Below that is an image of TPO’s logo to reinforce the association.

But does this association actually mean anything as far as the customer is concerned?