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Date issued: 10 January 2019
On 12 December, a Professional Standards Tribunal upheld Colchester Borough Council’s decision to fine property management company Titlecroft Limited £5,000 for failing to join a property redress scheme.
Titlecroft Limited, a London-based company, had appealed the council’s decision to fine them following a series of investigations into poor management of Pico Wharf, a block of flats in Whitehall Road, Colchester, which was converted from offices in 2016.
On occupying the building, residents had concerns regarding some of the building works, including unreliable electricity and water supplies, door security systems not working, rubbish and vandalism on the site and sewage overflowing into a ground floor hallway.
Residents contacted the council after their attempts to contact the company about these issues failed. The council helped to resolve the issues, but remained concerned about the management of the site and that the company had not joined a government-approved property redress scheme, which is a legal requirement.
Despite the council’s repeated warnings to Titlecroft Limited, the company failed to register with a property redress scheme. As a result, in April 2018, the council issued a Fixed Penalty Notice to impose the maximum fine of £5,000 for this offence. The company did then join a redress scheme, but the council pursued the fine as the company had not been registered during the first 18 months it had managed Pico Wharf.
The company appealed this Notice in July 2018 and on 12 December 2018 Judge Peter Hinchcliffe, of the Professional Regulation Tribunal, reviewed all the evidence and dismissed Titlecroft Limited’s appeal.
Councillor Tina Bourne, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities, said: “With increasing numbers of Colchester residents living in private rented accommodation it’s essential that these homes are safe, and residents can exercise their right to complain if their homes are not well-managed.
“One of the aims of the council’s Strategic Plan is to increase the supply of good quality homes by using legal powers to improve standards in the private rented sector, and this action and fine is a great example of the work the council is doing to achieve this and deliver a Better Colchester.”
Information about property redress schemes is available on the council’s website. Any residents who are dissatisfied with the property management services they receive can ask for details of the property manager’s complaints procedures and their redress scheme membership. If residents find that a letting agent or property manager is not a member of a redress scheme, then they are advised to contact the council’s Private Sector Housing Team.