Righting the wrongs

first_imgWhen a vendor was recently advised by the estate agent to reduce his asking price and complete additional works on the property, it seemed like sound advice to speed up the sale of his property, especially as the house went under offer just a few days later. But when it materialised that the buyer was actually a member of staff at the estate agency, the seller issued a complaint to the Ombudsman Services on the grounds that the company had failed to disclose this conflict of interest, which may have influenced the negotiation.“In the small number of cases where people have complaints these should be addressed quickly and effectively.” Brandon Lewis, Minsiter for Housing & PlanningBrandon LewisThe estate agent maintained that it sold the property to the highest bidder. It also stated that the complainant was aware of the conflict in interest.However, upon investigation, the Ombudsman Services could find no evidence to show that the conflict of interest was disclosed to the complainant (the vendor) in writing, which is a legal requirement, in accordance with the Estate Agents Act.Following its failure to follow the rules, Ombudsman Services ordered the company to reduce their commission for selling the property by half, acting as a warning that all complaints from clients should be treated seriously, and not just by estate agents.As most readers will know, it is now also mandatory that all letting agents and property management agents register with one of three Government approved redress schemes, and has been since 1st October 2014. Failure to do so is a criminal offence and could result in a fine of up to £5,000.Although in many cases disputes are resolved without a formal referral, these Government approved schemes, run by The Property Ombudsman (TPO), Ombudsman Services: Property and the Property Redress Scheme (PRS), provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disagreements between members of the public and property agents, ensuring that tenants and landlords have a straightforward option to hold their agents to account when required.“Most tenants and landlords are happy with the service they get from their letting agent, but in the small number of cases where people have complaints these should be addressed quickly and effectively,” said the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis. “This means that anyone who feels they are not being treated fairly has somewhere to go with their concerns – and could receive compensation,” he added.Sharp rise in complaintsWith more agent branches now signed up to redress schemes there has been a significant increase in complaints over the past year.TPO reports a 42 per cent year-on-year rise in complaints to 12,915, up 28 per cent on the previous year, which it says is largely owed to a growing trend in consumer challenge when something does not offer satisfaction, in addition to a sharp rise in the number of letting offices now signed up to the TPO. This brings the total number of sales and lettings offices offering the TPO’s free, independent route to resolve disputes to 26,735.Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman, said, “With an estimated 1.6 million private landlords, many of whom have limited experience and understanding of their responsibilities, and large numbers of consumers seeking tenancies, the role of letting and managing agents in providing quality customer service based on a comprehensive knowledge of relevant legislation, is more important now than ever before.”Lack of trustAside from a rise in the volume of agents signed up to redress schemes, the increase in the number of complaints also reflects the fact that there is a perceived general lack of trust and respect between landlords and tenants, at least, that is what the national press and tenant pressure groups claim.A recent survey by online tenant portal, The Tenants’ Voice, found that almost half of tenants – 47 per cent – do not trust letting agents to protect their interests, while 28 per cent believe that agents do not provide them with a suitable duty of care.Glenn Nickols, Founder of The Tenants’ Voice, commented, “What’s clearly lacking in the relationship between tenants and letting agents is trust. In some cases it’s there, but in many more it’s not.“Given the vast number of people who rent these days, the fact that nearly half do not feel their interests are protected by agents should make the industry sit up.“More needs to be done to drive awareness of the schemes that exist to protect tenants’ interests. Many tenants have to find their way in the dark and the industry often appears happy for them to do so.”Among the largest areas of dispute for the lettings sector are “miscommunication and repairs,” according to Rajeev Nayyar, Managing Director of Fixflo.“Time is running out for lettings professionals to get their repairs processes in order before the Deregulation Act takes effect in October 2015.“Agencies that fail to do so, leave themselves open to litigation and to reputational damage as tenants take advantage of their operational failures to successfully defend a Section 21 notice.”Tenant feesA recent report issued by the PRS found that of the complaints about agent members raised with the scheme, the most common grievance involved unfair or excessive fees being charged to the consumer. This has been reinforced by the latest data issued by Citizens’ Advice, who have hit out at agents’ ‘inexplicable fees.’“Do not assume that the tenant is trying it on, is wasting your time or will go away if you ignore them.” Sean Hooker, The Property Redress SchemeTo aid fee transparency and educate its member agents, the PRS recently issued two guides – one for agents and their landlords and another for agents and their tenants, available to download from their website – to help each party understand what may be deemed as an obscure or unjustifiable fee.Sean Hooker (left), Head of Redress for the PRS, said, “We felt that the subject of agent Fees needed to be looked at in an objective and reasoned way and that agents should be provided with guidance on what they can and can’t charge. Tenants and landlords also need help understanding what they can complain about and which practices are legitimate and legal.”Clear CommunicationAccording to the PRS, there are two areas that agents should be aware of – ‘documentation and communication.’Clear and unambiguous documents, in particular those that relate to terms and conditions, charges and management agreements, are essential to ensure that the customer is fully protected. This also protects the agent, defines the business relationship and manages customer expectations.Communication is also essential and agents should ensure that they do everything to keep the channels open even when the relationship is breaking down. Not doing so inevitably leads to the situation deteriorating and by the time of scheme involvement, the consequences have moved far beyond the initial dissatisfaction.Mr Hooker added, “Do not assume the customer is trying it on, is wasting your time or will go away if you refuse to engage with them. Treat the complaint seriously and professionally and learn from your mistakes.”Consumer awarenessMany property professionals, including the Head of Redress for the PRS, accept that there is still further work to be done to make more customers conscious of the scheme.The PRS actively encourage agents and landlords to spread the word about redress schemes and report agents that have failed to comply, because there are still a small group of agents shirking their obligations.Sean Hooker continued, “It is still, in my view, the duty of the industry to help police this legislation. There are a number of agents out there who either through ignorance or wilful defiance have not signed up to a scheme. We are therefore working with local authorities to ensure the law is enforced as vigorously as possible and consumers remain protected.”As of 27th May 2015, it became a legal requirement for all letting agents to clearly publicise their fees, state whether or not they are a member of a client protection scheme and publicise which redress scheme they are signed up to, which should help to ensure that more agents comply with the new requirements.David Cox, Managing Director of Association of Residential Letting Agents, said, “All our members should comply fully with the new measures; relevant information should be placed prominently in offices where letting agents have face to face contact with clients, as well as on their websites.”North of the borderConsumer awareness of redress schemes should be aided by the recent launch of TPO Scotland. Although redress schemes are not yet compulsory in Scotland, TPO Scotland has already attracted 500 members and its Non-Executive Director, Malcolm Cannon, wants to encourage people to seek out TPO Scotland agencies, “It is imperative that good lettings businesses, providing high quality and reliable customer service, are not damaged by the rogue agents and non-compliant landlords acting at the edges of acceptable practice. It is equally important that members of the public are made aware of what standards they can expect.”Greater regulationLeaders’ CEO, Paul Weller, believes that landlords and tenants would prosper from the formal regulation of letting agents, “More people and families than ever use the PRS and letting agents – most are unaware that letting agents are not regulated by the Government and that anyone can set up a letting agency, with no experience, knowledge of lettings law or client money protection in place.”The only way to tackle the issue, he says, is to make it mandatory for agents to abide by an agreed code of conduct, be professionally qualified with a sound knowledge of the laws governing lettings and to have client money protection and professional indemnity insurance, but until that happens, a Government approved redress scheme remains the fairest and most impartial service for dealing with unresolved disputes between sales and letting agents and consumers.Redress schemes:The Property OmbudsmanThe Property Ombudsman, formerly, the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA), established in 1998, charge registration costs of £294 including VAT per application per office.www.tpos.co.ukOmbudsman ServicesOmbudsman Services does not charge property firms a joining fee per office, with one membership fee of £180 including VAT covering all the services offered by the company. RICS members may find that the cost of joining the scheme is included in their subscription fees.www.ombudsman-services.org/propertyProperty Redress Scheme The Property Redress Scheme is a new, straightforward and easy to use consumer redress scheme for property agents and professionals, with registration costs starting from £114 including VAT per application per office.www.theprs.co.ukPRS agent fees property redress schemes redress schemes Section 21 notice consumer awareness consumer complaints tenant fees Deregulation Act 2015-07-16The Negotiator Related articles BREAKING: Evictions paperwork must now include ‘breathing space’ scheme details30th April 2021 Lawyer leading RICS governance probe asks members to help with evidence30th April 2021 Government takes next step towards controversial property developer tax29th April 2021What’s your opinion? Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Please note: This is a site for professional discussion. Comments will carry your full name and company.This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Home » News » Regulation & Law » Righting the wrongs Righting the wrongs16th July 20150782 Viewslast_img read more

Attorney General Curtis Hill Attends White House Meeting To Discuss Efforts To Protect Schools…

first_imgIndiana Attorney General Curtis Hill visited the White House today to speak with President Donald Trump, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and others about improving school safety and strengthening firearm laws.The meeting came a week after a tragic mass shooting at a Florida school and a day after Attorney General Hill sent an advisory to public safety officers statewide reminding them of Indiana’s “Red Flag Law” – a statute enabling officers to take possession of guns, pending formal hearings, from people they believe pose threats to themselves or others.“I shared with the President today the same themes I have shared with Hoosiers at home,” Attorney General Hill said. “We must strengthen school security through the effective use of technology and personnel. We must keep guns from dangerous people through more deliberate application of Indiana’s Red Flag Law. And we must double down on gun crimes by further enhancing penalties for offenses committed with guns beyond what current laws provide.”Attorney General Hill is expected to discuss his conversations at the White House on several national news programs later today – including Fox Business News’ “After the Bell” (at approximately 4:05 p.m.) and CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” (at approximately 7:05 p.m.).###FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

Composite labels to spur healthy baked products

first_imgA new wave of healthy bakery products could hit the market after the publication of industry guidelines for labelling whole and half portions of fruit and vegetables in ’composite’ food products.The Fabulous Bakin’ Boys and United Biscuits (UB) have recently launched bakery products that contain a whole portion of a person’s recommended ’five-a-day’ fruit and vegetables, but further new products could follow after the IGD issued guidelines on half and full portions in composite products.Bakery companies UB and Greencore helped develop the voluntary recommendations, which state that a product must contain 80g of fresh fruit or 30g of dried fruit to make a ’full portion’ claim. Salt, sugar and saturated fat content must also be limited to no more than 30% of a person’s guideline daily amount for sugar and sat fat, and 40% for salt.Earlier this year, the Fabulous Bakin’ Boys launched Fruit ’N Oat Slices and UB launched go-ahead Fruit Bakes, which both contain one whole portion of fruit.”Composite foods are an important source of fruit and vegetables in the diet. Labelling the number of portions in composite foods helps consumers to increase their five-a-day intake and encourages food businesses to add more fruit and vegetables to their products,” said Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive.last_img read more

Chance The Rapper, Preservation Hall, George Porter Jr. Close Bonnaroo SuperJam With “Hey Ya”

first_imgThe Bonnaroo SuperJam has become one of the most unique and collaborative sets of music at any festival on the circuit today. Artists from different genres come together for one night only to produce something wonderful, memorable, and timeless. This weekend’s SuperJam theme was “The Soul Shakedown.” Presented by Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the SuperJam featured Jon Batiste (Stay Human, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), members of The Head and the Heart, Sam Cohen, George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Lecrae, Margo Price, Tank and the Bangas, Lukas Nelson, Nicole Atkins, Flint Eastwood, and several unannounced sit-ins.The SuperJam performance was a smash hit, playing through some serious favorites, like “Happy,” “Superfreak,” “Can I Kick It,” “Love And Happiness,” “Waterfalls,” and “24K Magic.” The decade-spanning soul shakedown closed with a surprise appearance from Chance The Rapper, who performed Dr. Dre‘s “Ain’t Nothing But A G Thang.” The rest of the artists came out to close the set with a rocking version of “Hey Ya” by Outkast.Watch the exciting set-closer below, as uploaded by Michael Weinbaum:Preservation Hall Presents: The Soul Shakedown – A Bonnaroo SuperJam! featured the following set list with Preservation Hall Jazz Band and guest artists:“Everybody Dance Now” with Preservation Hall Jazz Band“Happy” with Jon Batiste“Get Up Off That Thing” with Flint Eastwood“Superfreak” with Boyfriend“Little Red Corvette” with Rayland Baxter“Hand Clapping Song” with George Porter Jr.“Can I Kick It” with Lecrae“Love and Happiness” with Lukas Nelson and Margo Price“Time Is On My Side” with Nicole Atkins“Waterfalls” with Joseph“24K Magic” with Jason Huber of Cherub“Keep The Same Old Feeling” with Tank And The Bangas“Ain’t Nothing But A G Thang” with Chance The Rapper“Hey Ya” with Chance The Rapper and entire Superjam 2017 artist lineup[Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival]last_img read more

Guatemalan Armed Forces, U.S. SOUTHCOM Cooperate in ‘Beyond the Horizon’ 2016

first_imgGuatemalan officials considered bringing the humanitarian efforts to the departments of Jutiapa and Alta Verapaz, but decided to concentrate on San Marcos after evaluating the needs of these regions, Infantry Brigadier General Hugo Fernando Rodríguez Cifuentes, the Chief of the Guatemalan Army’s Press Department, told Diálogo. San Marcos battered by earthquakes The countries agreed to work together, along with Guatemala’s Ministries of Education and Public Health and Social Assistance, from March 5th-July 7th. SOUTHCOM is investing $10 million in this humanitarian effort, while Guatemala is contributing 1 million quetzals (approximately $130,500). Officials determined in 2014 that Military authorities would provide humanitarian assistance to Guatemala through the “Beyond the Horizon” initiative. The program’s objective is to bring civic and humanitarian support and medical and engineering assistance to civilians, Staff Sergeant Luis Alvarado, a native Guatemalan from SOUTHCOM’s Army South, told Diálogo. Two other SOUTHCOM officials – Lieutenant Colonel Michael Caro and Sergeant Major Miguel Espinoza – worked as liaisons for the initiative during the January meeting, which was also attended by observers from Colombia, Chile, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago. Schools and medical clinics By Dialogo February 19, 2016 As for the medical clinics, the Guatemalan Military and SOUTHCOM officials will build one in the village of Pojopón in the municipality of Esquipulas Palo Gordo and another in the village of Tocaché in the municipality of San Pablo. The medical facilities will be staffed by physicians that will provide services to the San Marcos villages of Villa Hermosa, La Blanca, and San Pablo, according to Infantry Brig. Gen. Rodríguez. “Beyond the Horizon” is an annual exercise funded by SOUTHCOM. The initiative, which began in 1993 when it was named “Strong Paths” (“Fuertes Caminos”), focuses on creating medical and engineering projects in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean each year. Various government agencies from the participating partner nations and the United States cooperate in each initiative. The Guatemalan Army’s Corps of Engineers coordinated rebuilding efforts after both tremors. The Military built homes for 5,011 families victimized by the two earthquakes. Less than two years later, on July 7, 2014, San Marcos was struck by another earthquake that killed two people, injured 272, and forced 6,341 families to leave their homes because they were destroyed or sustained severe damage. About 765 of these families lived in shelters for months while authorities rebuilt their homes in San Marcos. Guatemalan Army Civilian Affairs officials and Civilian-Military representatives from the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) met from January 25th-31st to define and standardize protocols for humanitarian missions. The officials developed approaches to building three schools and two medical clinics in villages and small towns in the San Marcos department as part of the “Beyond the Horizon” 2016 mission. Guatemala’s Armed Forces and SOUTHCOM determined that Nueva Florida, Santa Catarina, and San Rafael La Cuesta will each receive a school. The initiative will assist people who live in a department that sustained serious damage from two major earthquakes in recent years. Many buildings in San Marcos, a department located on Guatemala’s shared border with Mexico, were destroyed or seriously damaged when an earthquake registering 7.2 on the Mercalli-scale struck the region on November 7, 2012. Overall, the earthquake killed 48 people in Guatemala, including 30 in San Marcos. last_img read more

River City FCU’s outreach targets new core group

first_imgCU focuses on the growing Hispanic population.by: Claire DragichAlthough River City Federal Credit Union in San Antonio didn’t begin its Hispanic outreach efforts until 2010, management sowed the seeds of that mission six years earlier.That’s when NCUA granted the $131 million asset credit union approval to serve surrounding Bexar County, where Hispanics comprise more than 50% of the population and continue to grow in number.The board of directors decided to focus on making the credit union more relevant to its full field of membership, and recognized the potential of this emerging demographic.“When we began to look at how we were going to truly serve our community, we knew that we had to build capacity to serve this market,” President/CEO Kim Heinze says.As part of Credit Union Magazine’s focus on Hispanic membership growth initiatives, Heinze and Eve Hernandez, River City Federal’s vice president of marketing and business development, provide insight on the credit union’s current initiatives and strategic goals. continue reading » 2SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

CUNA engaged with regulatory relief on House floor

first_imgCUNA is engaged with House consideration of a regulatory relief bill, Congressional discussions for funding the federal government and hearings in both chambers of Congress this week.The House is expected to consider the Mortgage Choice Act (H.R. 1453), which would remove certain items from the definition of “points and fees” in a mortgage loan, designed to give consumers and lenders greater flexibility.CUNA has supported the bill in past Congresses and wrote to House leadership Monday urging them to vote in favor of H.R. 1153.Federal government funding is set to expire Thursday at midnight, and Congress is expected to vote early this week on another continuing resolution to fund the government to a date in March. continue reading » 10SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Olympic great Susie O’Neill’s Cabarita Beach sells for $3 million

first_img1 Cypress Cres, Cabarita Beach. Swimmer Susie O’Neill after winning 200m freestyle final of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Picture: Brett Costello.AUSTRALIAN swimming great Susie O’Neill’s Cabarita Beach house has sold for $3 million to a Singaporean-based expat.The Olympic gold medallist nicknamed Madame Butterfly bought the two-storey five-bedroom beachfront house with her husband Cliff Fairley in 2003 for $2.3 million.It had been used as a holiday rental in recent years fetching between $1700 and $3200 in rent per week. The view from the deck of 1 Cypress Cres, Cabarita Beach.The property at 1 Cypress Cres passed in at auction on the weekend but sold soon after through mother and son team Lorna and Brent Savage of LS Properties.“The buyer was the first person through the doors when we opened the house,” Ms Savage said.“He was interested in the location, the land and the views.“He’s an astute buyer and travels around the world and knows that particular strip of beachfront is unique.”More from news02:37Purchasers snap up every residence in the $40 million Siarn Palm Beach North10 hours ago02:37International architect Desmond Brooks selling luxury beach villa1 day agoShe said both the vendor and buyer were happy with the result.“Susie and Cliff seemed very happy when we spoke to them on the phone,” Ms Savage said.“They were happy that it had gone to someone who is going to keep it as their private family beach home.”center_img Soak up that beach lifestyle at 1 Cypress Cres, Cabarita Beach.Brisbane-based O’Neill said surfing trips and a dream of buying a property in northern NSW initially led her family pair to Cabarita Beach.“We preferred the quiet lifestyle and village feel that Cabarita provides,” the mother-of-two said.“When the kids were young we would spend a lot of long weekends there and most of our holidays. But swimming’s golden girl said, despite her status, it was an intentional move not to buy a holiday house with a pool.“We specifically didn’t want to maintain a pool and with the beach so close we would rarely have used a pool,” she said.The 607sq m property has a wide veranda overlooking the beach as well as a modern kitchen, two bathrooms and wooden floors.last_img read more

Woodmac: Total-Maersk deal is mostly about North Sea

first_imgFollowing yesterday’s big news of France’s Total taking over Denmark’s Maersk Oil in a $7.45 million transaction, Wood Mackenzie has offered its view on the deal.According to Dr Valentina Kretzschmar, a director in Wood Mackenzie’s corporate services unit, the proposed deal is mostly about Maersk Oil’s North Sea assets, where the company is developing the Culzean HPHT field in the UK, and has a share in the giant Johan Sverdrup oil development in Norway.Commenting on the proposed transaction Dr. Kretzschmar said:“For Total, the deal is first and foremost about consolidation in the North Sea. Cost synergies should add value, with the North Sea a key area of overlap. The deal will also reduce Total’s weighting towards areas of high above ground risk.”According to Woodmac, the transaction is the biggest North Sea-weighted deal since the Statoil / Norsk Hydro merger in 2006.Dr Kretzschmar added: “There are a number of strategic drivers at play here. The acquisition improves Total’s near-term growth outlook – it provides Total with an immediate 6% production increase and strengthen near-term growth.“It will further shift Total’s weighting towards OECD regions, a core strategic driver for the company as it looks to balance the portfolio away from areas of high above ground risk.”The acquisition also strengthens Total’s North Sea exposure, through Maersk’s core positions in the UK, Norway and Denmark. Total gains access to the prized Johan Sverdrup discovery (8.44%) and the UK’s largest gas development, Culzean (49.99%). Both are currently under development and are expected to come on stream towards 2020.While it says the North Sea is the main focus of the deal, Wood Mackenzie says Total will also strengthen it platform for growth in the Middle East and Africa.“Total is acquiring a deep specialist in unlocking complex reservoirs and boosting recovery factors through enhanced oil recovery techniques,” Dr Kretzschmar said. “Undoubtedly, there will be synergies across technology and mature reservoir expertise, in particular in Qatar and Iran.“Total took operatorship of the large Al Shaheen oil field in Qatar last month and will be looking to leverage Maersk’s intimate knowledge of the asset.”“In addition, Total will acquire legacy oil production in Algeria to help support its existing gas-led growth strategy in the country. It will also gain a foothold in the Kenyan upstream sector with exposure to longer-term oil opportunities.”last_img read more

LIAT announces new flight times and routes

first_img8:35 am DEPARTURE St. Lucia-Dominica ARRIVAL 5:30 am 11:05 am Share 10:05 am Tweet Dominica-Antigua Share ROUTING 9:15 am 8:15 am St. Vincent-St. Lucia The re-timing and re-routing of this flight has become necessary due to operational reasons. LIAT regrets any inconvenience caused as a result of these changes.center_img 6:45 am 6:25 am BusinessLifestyleTravel LIAT announces new flight times and routes by: – July 29, 2013 10:45 am 7:35 am 155 Views 2 comments Sharing is caring! 7:15 am St. Maarten-Tortola Antigua-St. Maarten 11:45 am Share ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, July 29, 2013 – LIAT wishes to advise its customers and the travelling public that effective August 1, 2013, flight LI 310 will be re-timed and re-routed.The new times and routes are as follows: Trinidad-St. Vincentlast_img read more