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Delayed Property Purchase

Mr B (name changed) was dissatisfied with Poplar HARCA’s handling of a complaint regarding a delayed property purchase through an independent agent, so contacted the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).


  • Mr B purchased a property owned (under shared ownership) by Poplar HARCA. The sale of the property was managed by an independent agent on Poplar HARCA’s behalf.
  • During the sales process, Mr B was not satisfied with the independent agent as there had been many errors causing unreasonable delays. Mr B raised a complaint with the agent directly who in return acknowledged that there had been poor administration and communication through the sale process, causing significant delays. The agent offered Mr B £300 in compensation, noting that there was no material loss to justify a higher award. Mr B requested compensation for two months’ rent he paid for whilst waiting for the completion to take place. The agent declined and said that this was not material loss because Mr B would have otherwise have been liable for rent, mortgage costs and service charge for the new property.
  • Mr B then approached the Housing Ombudsman, who referred the matter to us as the property landlord to take a view. Upon our investigation we found that our agent’s service fell far below what we would expect. We advised Mr B that the legal advice he had received that a verbal or written promise to complete on a certain date is not binding if it is made ‘subject to contract’, as a letter from the agent had stated. We also noted a document which ‘forecast’ a completion date and advised Mr B not to give notice on his existing tenancy until exchange dates were confirmed. We found that the delays were unreasonably long and had subsequently caused Mr B distress, however no firm commitment was given by the agent regarding an exchange or completion date for the purchase. We apologised for the poor service from the agent and offered compensation equivalent to one month’s rent.


  • The Housing Ombudsman Service found no Maladministration in our handling of Mr B’s complaint. HOS found that our response to the complaint was reasonable and fair as we acknowledged the poor service from our agent, apologised and offered compensation that was fair in respect of distress and inconvenience.


Housing Ombudsman Service website