Resolution Statement 07191-19 Cintra Estates v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Cintra Estates complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Students are left furious after being forced to wait up to THREE MONTHS for nearly £10,000 in rental deposits to be returned by estate agents”, published on 10 September 2019.
2. The article reported on the claims of several students who had not had their housing deposits returned following the end of their tenancies. It reported that students were waiting for their “deposit to be returned by Cintra Estates in Reading” and called the landlord of the students’ houses “an affiliate of Cintra”.
3. The complainant, who represented Cintra Estates, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code. He said that Cintra Estates provides a service to the landlord, but that the landlord alone held the students’ deposits and therefore it was for the landlord to return the deposits. The complainant also disputed that the landlord was an affiliate of Cintra Estates.
4. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said it had not stated that Cintra Estates held the deposits but had reported the accusations of students who said that Cintra Estates had failed to return their deposits. It also referenced that Cintra Estates had taken a holding deposit directly from the students which was deducted from the total deposit. Furthermore, it believed that the landlord was an affiliate as Cintra Estates is a guarantor for the landlord, and all properties once managed by Cintra had been transferred to the landlord, amongst other reasons.
5. However, the publication amended the article to remove any reference that the deposits were to be returned by Cintra Estates or by the estate agents. It also altered the bullet point from “Cintra Estates and [the landlord] accused of keeping tenants' deposits” to ”Cintra Estates and [the landlord] criticised in row over deposits”. It also amended the description of the relationship between Cintra Estates and the landlord from “affiliates” to business associates.
Relevant Clause Provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. The publication offered to print the following footnote and to delete a photograph of Cintra Estates from the article:
“This article has been amended since publication to remove suggestions that the deposits were due to be returned by Cintra Estates. We are happy to make clear their position that they do not hold deposits for any of [the landlord’s] properties.”
9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
10. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 13/09/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/10/2019