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Minutes of the Fast Track Tribunal by 1M8a92Y0

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									Minutes of the Fast Track Tribunal

Wednesday 18th April, 2007, Unipol Student Homes

Present: Dr CAG Brooks (Chair); Mr S Kettlewell (Vice Chair); Ms J
Piddington (Vice Chair)

In Attendance: Simon Kemp (Code of Standards Administrator)

The Fast Track Tribunal discussed complaints brought against the following
owners:

Rory Aitkens of Leeds Lets – Three separate complaints

Complaint number 1
A former tenant of Mr Aitkens complained that he had breached two particular
sections of the Code: 5.02 – returning deposits within 6 weeks of the end of
the tenancy; and 5.03 - where monies are retained, providing a written
statement of account providing details of any and all deduction made.

The former tenant claimed that he had received a letter from Mr Aikens in
2005 stating that the deposit was being held because money was owed by
one or more members of the joint contract. A year later he was informed the
deposit was withheld because of damage caused to the property.

In response to the allegations Mr Aitkens claimed that the tenants of the
property were aware that they were to be charged for damage caused to the
property. However, Mr Aikens was unable to provide evidence that the former
tenants had been supplied with a breakdown of the costs at the time he wrote
to him in August 2005.

Following correspondence with the Code of Standards Administrator, Mr
Aitkens provided a breakdown of costs in March 2007. As the dates given on
the breakdown were after the end of the former tenant’s tenancy, the Code of
Standards Administrator asked Mr Aitkens to explain this. Mr Aitkens’
response was that this is when his records were updated and that he had
been waiting to get information from the landlord about the exact costs of
repair/replacements.

The Tribunal Panel upheld the complaint against Mr Aitkens. Members were
of the opinion that the matter could have been dealt with in a better way,
including returning the remaining amount of the deposit within a quicker period
of time along with a written statement detailing why other monies were to be
withheld.

The Tribunal Panel were informed that Mr Aitkens’ company will cease to
operate from the end of June 2007, and that another agency – albeit with a
different name and set of directors – will take over the operation. Given that
some of the people managing the new company are have been involved in
Leeds Lets, the Panel recommended that the Code of Standards
Administrator meet with the staff of the new company in order to discuss
concerns that previous management failings are not repeated by the new
owners.

Complaint number 2
Existing tenants of Mr Aitkens complained that he was in breach of sections of
the Code relating to repairing obligations (3.07) and responding to disputes
(6.02).

An inspection of the property was conducted which revealed that although
some of the repairs mentioned in the original complaint had been completed,
the property was found not to comply with certain aspects of the Code – the
most significant of which was the lack of a fire door on the kitchen.

Mr Aitkens was written to and asked to reply within 7 days. As he had not
done so by then, another letter was sent in which it was made clear that
unless he were to do so within 5 working days the matter would be referred to
this hearing. The deadline for this response was also not met

The Tribunal Panel was informed that a letter had been received from Mr
Aitkens on the morning of the Panel’s meeting, stating that although he was
prepared to fit a fire door on the kitchen, the tenants had requested that the
work not take place until after the end of the tenancy.

The Tribunal Panel therefore agreed that, subject to confirmation from the
tenants that this was indeed the case, the complaint could not be upheld.


Complaint number 3
An existing tenant of Mr Aitkens complained that he was in breach of sections
of the Code relating to repairing obligations (3.07) and failure to enter into
correspondence in respect of a complaint (6.02).

An inspection of the property was conducted which showed that whilst some
work was in the process of taking place, the property did not contain a fire
door on the kitchen – itself a breach of the Code

Mr Aitkens was written to and asked to provide an action plan for undertaking
the required work of fitting a fire door as well as to offer an explanation for
delays in responding to requests from the tenants to deal with disrepair.

Mr Aitkens reported that a fire door had been fitted, but offered no explanation
as to the delay in responding to the tenants’ previous requests. It was
subsequently alleged by the tenants that although they were promised work
would begin on repairing the roof by March 16th, it had still not started 5 days
later. Mr Aitkens was therefore asked to respond to this matter before the
Panel meeting, but failed to do so.

The Tribunal Panel were extremely concerned to ensure that work on the roof
had begun and recommended that the tenants be contacted to see if this was
the case. If it had not then the Panel agreed that Mr Aitkens should be
suspended from the Code until the work had been finished and then be
required to reapply for membership.

Postscript – The tenants have confirmed that the work has now been
completed.


Robina Bowers
A former tenant of this owner complained that Mrs Bowers had breached a
number of sections of the Code, especially with respect to dealing with
deposits. It was alleged that Mrs Bowers had not provided guidance for
bringing the tenancy to an end, returned the deposit (or balance) within 6
weeks of the end of the tenancy, responded promptly or reasonably to
complaints, or responded to correspondence within given timescales and
maintaining courteous professional relations.

Mrs Bowers responded to these allegations and supplied some additional
information to support her case. Mrs Bowers provided what she claimed to be
a ‘written statement’, along with photos indicating alleged damages that had
been caused.

Mrs Bowers was written to on several other occasions and asked to respond
to issues relating to the complaint, but failed to do so by the date of the
Panel’s meeting (failure to respond to complaints was the main reason why
she was suspended from Code membership for 6 months at the February
meeting of the Panel).

The Tribunal Panel upheld the complaint. The Panel were also concerned that
Mrs Bowers had not taken on board their previous recommendations to
respond in full to all complaints. It was agreed that unless she responded in
some detail to letters from Unipol and the former tenant’s representative then
the period of her suspension from the Code should be extended indefinitely. It
was recommended that her status be reviewed at the next meeting of the
Tribunal Panel.


Oliver Rooke
Former tenants of Mr Rooke complained that he had not administered their
deposits efficiently and reasonably and had withheld monies for purposes
other than for which they were levied (5.00); that he had not provided a written
statement of account within 6 weeks of the end of the tenancy providing
reasonable details of deductions to be made (5.03); and that he had not
responded to correspondence about the dispute that had arisen within given
timescales (6.02).

Mr Rooke responded to the allegations, giving his reasons for withholding
money and providing some evidence for his reasons. Because he claimed to
have undertaken some of the work himself, he was asked to give indications
of how these costs were broken down. The former tenants then raised
concerns about these. In response, Mr Rooke provided some photocopies of
receipts he claimed were for the works he carried out.

Mr Rooke submitted a letter to be given to the Tribunal Panel on the day of its
meeting. In the letter he claimed not to have been a member of the Unipol
Code for the whole of the period of the tenancy of the former tenants bringing
the complaint. The Tribunal ruled, however, that as he was a member for the
2004/05 period and the former tenant’s contract had begun in 2004, then the
complaint should be heard.

The Tribunal Panel took the view that there were faults on both sides. They
were of the opinion that as most of the deposit deductions related to unpaid
rent, they could not uphold the section of the complaint relating to
administering the deposit efficiently and reasonably.

The Tribunal Panel did uphold the complaints in respect of the non-provision
of a written statement of account and failure to respond to correspondence
about the dispute within a given time period. Mr Rooke would be issued with a
written warning by the Code Administrator.

								
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