I was relieved doing some research online to find out that the overall experience people have with this agency, and in particular its owner, are less than positive and that a number of locally reported articles support what can only be described as one of the worst experiences.
I am currently renting a property which was arranged as a let only by Morna Petrano Property Leasing (MPPL) - notably, most of the properties appear to be let only which is fairly unusual for a leasing agency and in light of more recent experiences raises questions if there are some aspects which previously would have perhaps disbarred the director of the agency to act as a suitable landlord. I'll return to this later.
I have rented a number of properties through Morna Petrano Property leasing over a period of three years with only the first property not having had any issues - I put this down to the simple fact that the landlord was an amazing landlord, as is my current one by the way so perhaps her selection of landlords is the only positive aspect about MPPL. In any case, circumstances required a move into a new property, which again, was a let only arrangement. The arbitration clause of the lease issued, nominates Morna Petrano as an ¢â‚¬Ëœarbitrator' where there is a dispute in terms of the lease or the property, though Morna appears to be unaware of the terms and conditions of the leasing agreement. It would be beyond the scope of this review to dissect the terms of the tenancy agreement and how Morna Petrano choses to selectively apply those terms depending on perhaps her mood or indeed the circumstances of the issues which may require Morna to actually listen - something she is not very good in, which would make her a rather appalling arbitrator in any case.
Anyhow, the second property I rented through the agency had a leaking roof with water poring through the ceiling at quite a significant rate with it also accumulating in the roof which, if left unattended would have resulted in parts of the ceiling coming down. This would not have been, I would have though, in the interest of either the landlord or the tenant. Having been unsuccessful at the time to contact the landlord for a period of two days, I contacted MPPL and spoke to Morna explaining the situation who rattled of what appeared to be a never-ending and well rehearsed spiel how the property is a let only and that this would have nothing to do with her but that I could always get someone in to fix it, charge it to the landlord and withhold the rent. This after I simply asked if she would have any alternative contact details for the landlord or if there may be an emergency contact in case the landlord was on holiday. Aside from the fact that the rules in Scotland about withholding rent are very complex and complicated, the ¢â‚¬Ëœadvise' was simply wrong and of course had it been followed could have caused serious issues in terms of the tenancy. I would imagine that from a landlord's perspective it is not desirable either for their tenants to be advised by what some may reasonably believe to be an expert in matters surrounding the law of leases and tenancies to withhold rental payments. I myself rent a property in a different city and would be very concerned if my tenants were ever advise to withhold the rent, though appreciate that there are some circumstances where this may be justified though there are very clear rules relating to the process and in any case, this issue would not have justified the withholding of rent. Also, to do so under the circumstances described above would have constitute a breach of Section 4 of the tenancy agreement stating that if rent is unpaid for more than 10 days the landlord may re-enter the property. Of course, this clause itself is subject to statutory limitation and anyone knowing anything about leasing and tenancy law will be aware that repossession is only possible under certain circumstances. From a tenant's perspective, who may have very limited knowledge about the law surrounding leases, it is very worrying, however, to be advised by MPPL to breach the tenancy agreement.
Without the assistant of MPPL the roof issue got resolved eventually and the tenancy continued without any issues.
The most recent incident, however, is the most worrying. Despite some concerns to arrange another lease through MPPL I done so for my current property as, prima facia, MPPL appeared to be working much more comfortable within the boundaries of the law compared to a number of other agencies in terms of refusing to levy various fees etc, which has always been the reason for the bad reputation the leasing agency sector has had in Scotland and, albeit some time ago, I remember my law lecture telling us on the topic of agency law that leasing and estate agents are viewed by the legal community as being lower than cockroaches. Personally, I never had a bad experiences with leasing agencies until I encountered MPPL and I have successfully rented, without any incident, properties in London, Aberdeen and Edinburgh for a combined period of 12 years before returning to Aberdeen a few years ago. Perhaps my law lecture at the time had the displeasure of dealing with MPPL as, albeit reluctantly, my lecturer's description of leasing agents is now what I perceive MPPL to be.
Again the latest lease is a let only arranged by MPPL and applied the usual tenancy agreement. Most recently an issue arose between the landlord and myself which required some further investigation. It was suggested by the landlord that due to the time it has taken to resolve the matter that we would refer this to MPPL who, under the terms of the lease, would act as an arbitrator. I would say at this point that the relationship between myself and the landlord remains good (and indeed as it does with most of my previous ones apart from the one where I had the leaking roof as this caused some damage to my property which could have been avoided had it not taken so long to fix the problem). I am still in regular contact with my landlords in both London and my first landlord after returning to Aberdeen and never had any quarrels or issues. Perhaps because MPPL was not involved as her involvement and conduct would likely have caused the loss of a lot of good will both on the side of the landlord and tenant.
In any case, under the arbitration clause under the tenancy agreement which states that ¢â‚¬Å“should a dispute arise between [the tenant] and the landlord with regards to ay other matter in any way covered by the tenancy of the above mentioned property to let Morna Petrano Property Leasing act as arbitrators¢â‚¬Â the issue was referred to MPPL with Morna replying that this would have nothing to do with her - seemingly the generic response - as the property is a let only. This would indicate that the arbitration clause, despite being in the contract, is only valid in Morna's mind where the property is managed. If that is what is desired then it would be wise to have two separate sets of tenancy agreements, one for managed properties and the other for let only as by signing the agreement, regardless of whether it is a let only or not, the arbitration clause becomes incorporated. Of course, after Morna's determination that this matter would have nothing to do with her and confirming so in writing, she also stated that she has also told so a person who has no link to the lease and is not, in fact the landlord. Depending on what information she passed on and what details she provided - for example forwarding a copy of the e-mail (which contained a PDF copy of my letter), may well be a breach of the Data Protection Act but in any case is very unprofessional. It is likely that I will refer this matter to the ICO for investigation.
I thereafter referred the matter to my solicitor for advise who will now deal with the particular issue with the landlord and we both agreed that this would be suitable in light that I will be going abroad for some time.
A day later MPPL made contact by e-mail making some very serious allegations which are unfounded and untrue and a clear misrepresentation of the issues, claiming that she has was contacted by the landlord who is very distressed, angry and upset - though I spoke to him earlier that day and there was no animosity or any kind of tension. I consequently called Morna directly to ask what the basis of her allegations are and was subjected to around 5 minutes of insults ranging from referring to me as a ¢â‚¬Ëœconman' ¢â‚¬Ëœliar' etc before proceeding that she has a number of experts in her office ¢â‚¬Å“right now¢â‚¬Â who have looked at all the evidence and confirmed to her that it's all made up and the landlord has provided her with all the evidence she needs and that her experts have verified his evidence as being genuine and true. When asked who those experts were, she replied by ¢â‚¬Å“oh wouldn't you like to know. All you need to know is that they are experts and we all know you are lying¢â‚¬Â. I, thereafter, referred her to my correspondence from the previous day to which she replied that the letter and supporting documents was around 3 pages or so long and if I honestly believed that she would have the time in her busy schedule to set aside to read anything I would send to her, before resuming with a number of insults. The whole conversation took place from within my in car bluetooth system and was listened into by 4 other people as I was on my way to a work meeting which I made Morna aware off though it would seem unlikely she heard this as she was talking over me. My work colleague then commenced after a very short time to record the conversation on the her iPhone and again I attempted to interrupt Morna saying that this is now being recorded due to her making very serious allegations. I then advised her that there are a number of supporting documents in my possession which would make it difficult to argue that I am in the wrong, the existence of them having consequently been denied by Morna stating that this could never be. I then scanned and e-mailed her copies of those documents which triggered a very short response saying that this is ¢â‚¬Å“all very strange¢â‚¬Â and that the landlord would be in touch with me. Clearly having failed to understand that it was mutually agreed for this to be dealt with through my solicitor given that I am to go abroad for a while shortly.
During the conversation Morna proceeded by stating that she would now get in touch with my previous landlords and already had e-mailed some of them saying that I am a liar, conman etc and indicating that if I dared to leave the property on the ish date, i.e. the end date of the lease, that this would be ample evidence that something ¢â‚¬Ëœfishy is going on' and that I would ¢â‚¬Ëœfind [myself] in court'. The insults and accusations ranged from personal insults to insulting my character and making allegation of criminal conduct, all supported and backed up by a multitude of experts in her office. At that stage, I have driven down to her office as it was on my way to the meeting and gestured to one of my colleagues to go in - under the pretense of picking up a leasing list - and, of course it was no surprise, that the only people present in the office were Morna herself and a receptionist.
Morna, being the director of MPPL has shown herself to be an incredible dishonest, unprofessional and generally unpleasant person. She has also proven that in terms of the arbitration clause, she is absolutely not qualified in any way to act as an arbitrator due to her subjectiveness and inability to listen and consider information provided to her. She of course likes the noise of her rather grinding voice and her reputation across Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council is that she is a woman who can ¢â‚¬Ëœnever shut up¢â‚¬Ëœ and has numerous complaints against her through both council's trading standard's departments. She has shown to be far from ¢â‚¬Ëœindependent' when dealing with tenancy issues and choses sides without fully assessing or even enquiring about issues and proceeds directly to making allegations and does not care about the wellbeing of her tenants - who, too, are her clients.
Morna then proceeded by threatening court actions but when asked upon what basis simply stated ¢â‚¬Å“you just listen to me, this will go to court and you will lose so don't drag this out¢â‚¬Â before saying that she would ensure that I will never again be able to rent a property in Aberdeen and then finishing the phone call, after a few more personal insults, and attempting to twist my words and making what most would probably consider to be a derogative comment about my nationality. I believe I managed to say about two short sentences which fell on deaf ears out of a a nearly 12 minute long recorded telephone conversation, though perhaps it is best described as Morna's soliloquy, rather than a conversation, albeit much less pleasant to listen to than Hamlet's one.
It is also quite concerning Morna Petrano, as a director of the company, is not a registered member of any professional body but that instead, a registration certificate for ARLA is held by Chantelle Petrano who is no longer working in an official capacity for Morna Petrano and perhaps not even residing in Aberdeen anymore with her only affiliation being, judging by some of the comments on here, that she is a director of the company now - I am reluctant to pay for a company check to verify this. It may well be that Chantelle, following previous complaint to ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) by various individuals, both landlord\'s and tenants was appointed a director of the company, thus permitting the agency to display the ARLA logo, but the purpose of membership is that members would play an active part within the company and apply and uphold the professional code and as such ensure that they apply professional high standards and act in a way which supports and upholds the reputation of the profession. This would surely imply that in order to do so, one must be actively involved in the business. It would be questionable whether ARLA membership would be extended to individuals who have no direct involvement with a business and have no means of ensuring compliance with the professional code. It would not seem to be in the spirit of the ARLA to extend membership and allow for its logo to be used and / or displayed in cases where the registered member is not involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that the agency is not subscribed to any Ombudsman Service - neither the The Property Ombudsman Service or the Ombudsman Services: Property could confirm to me that Morna Petrano Property Leasing is a member of them. Also an online enquiry for Ombudsman Services: Property at http://www.ombudsman-services.org/memberlists/property/ or The Property Ombudsman Service http://www.tpos.co.uk/find-member.php list Morna Petrano as a Member. It is a requirement for membership to NFOPP, which Morna Petrano Property Leasing claims it is, to register with either of the two ombudsman services: "it is [...] obligatory that Members must join a Consumer Redress Scheme" (http://www.arla.co.uk/complaints/what-to-do-if-you-have-a-complaint/)
Morna clearly brings the profession into serious disrepute and is less than mindful of her responsibility as a professional person towards her clients - landlords and tenants alike and fails as a role model for maintaining the highest standards of ethical conduct, which both ARLA and NFOPP would expect from any of their members. Add to that the false advertising and her inability to act in a ¢â‚¬Ëœsane', reasonable and measured manner you have all the necessary ingredients to create what surely is one of the most unprofessional leasing agency businesses in - certainly Aberdeen, if not in a much wider context.
Questions must surely also be asked why a person which claims to have in excess of 20 years experience in the leasing business is not registered herself with any professional body but instead relies on the registration of her daughter? After all, the business carries Morna's name and she is the face of the company and I would not be surprised if there are some historic issues which would have prevented Morna herself from joining any of the professional bodies, which surely, after her daughter leaving, would be in her interest?
In any case, I felt very strongly that MPPL is not a business which should be accredited as being a fit and suitable landlord under the Landlord Accreditation Scotland scheme and neither do I believe that they are fit to hold membership to either ARLA of NFOPP. The advantage of working in a local government capacity is having the ability to progress certain matters to a more suitable authority level and I have reported MPPL and Morna Petrano to Aberdeen City Council's Trading standards department as well as the Landlord Accreditation Scheme with a view to investigate whether MPPL's membership to the scheme - if indeed she holds a valid registration certificate - should be revoked and have perhaps the forlorn hope that after assessing all the facts ARLA, NFOPP and Scotland's landlord accreditation scheme will find Morna to be of unsuitable character to be a member of either, thus ensuring the closure of an agency which is one of the very few left who bring the entire leasing sector into disrepute. In addition to this on the basis of the voice recordings I have also instructed my solicitor to write to MPPL advising that I would be raising proceedings against Morna Petrano for defamation and it will be interesting to see the numerous experts, ranging from accountant and finance experts to IT experts, which will provide the basis for Morna to have reached the conclusion to refer to someone as a conman and liar as without such evidence - and in defamation cases the truth of course is an absolute defense - it would be very difficult for Morna Petrano to defend her actions.
Morna, in my eyes, and judging by various comments on here as well as from discussions with other people locally in Aberdeen appears to have made a fool of herself over the years and indeed is being laughed at by many of her ¢â‚¬Ëœpeers'. She enjoys a reputation of being a preposterous woman with no manners and while I have always been polite and courteous, it is clear that behind her friendly smile is a woman who acts unprofessionally and carries on her business in a way which many more reputable agencies would only shake their head at.
There are other aspects of the tenancy agreements she issues which will be deemed unfair and unenforceable, such as levying interest at a rate of 6% above the base lending rate for any rent or money due from the tenant under the agreement which is more than 2 days in arrears as legally rent is only deemed to be late after 7 days though admittedly this simple statement, basically true, conceals a certain amount of complexity. But this in itself shows the limitations of an agent which claims to have 20 plus years experience.
I would strongly advise prospective tenants, but perhaps also landlords, to carefully consider if MPPL is the best agency to meet their needs and requirements.
It should be remembered that under the law of agency the landlord, in a managed property, will ultimately be liable for any wrong-doing by MPPL who can almost act with impunity. Had this been a managed property I am in, then the landlord would have to answer for some of the conduct of Morna which could become very costly as indeed there may be ground to have brought a defamation claim against the landlord rather than Morna as in all likelihood it would have rendered the landlord liable as being the one who controls the agent. Of course, we do not, unlike the US, live in a litigious society, and litigation is always expensive and it is very easy to issue threats of litigation - as Morna herself is very good in - but in reality, the costs of litigation can be prohibitively high and people will not fight for their rights and move on, which in the past has allowed many leasing agencies to behave in a less than respectable fashion and it is this what Morna Petrano both as a business but also as a person relies on.
From a tenant's perspective, to deal with an agency who is unable to listen or has the time to read any e-mails and tends to simply shout people down, it does not create a comfortable and durable tenant / landlord relationship and even in let only cases, my current landlord will lose out as I will no longer be prepared to remain in a property where Morna may think she can exercise any rights to contact me, insult me, demean me or indeed threaten and intimidate me or telling what clearly are untruths. Indeed, I have replied the telephone conversation to the landlord and it is my hope that he will no longer use MPPL in future. Consumer Protection Regulation as applicable to leasing agencies would have prevented Morna from making any further contact after she stated that the matter in question had nothing to do with her. To later establish contact is less than appropriate particularly if it is done in a way which proofs that she does not carry out her business with reasonable care and skill. It would require a lot of complaints to trading standards to ensure the closure of the business under consumer protection legislation invoking the ¢â‚¬Ëœreasonable care and skill' aspect. However, perhaps once Morna is faced with a law suit for defamation and has to answer for her lies in the appropriate forum and to put her money where her mouth is, a business whose debts are nearly equal as much as its liabilities will quickly close and it will make for a much better leasing environment.