Fake Letting Agents Jailed

by Readers Question

9:05 AM, 20th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Fake Letting Agents Jailed

Make Text Bigger
Fake Letting Agents Jailed

If you ever did business with any of the following agents you will now be regretting having ever met them. Fake Letting Agents Jailed

Belgravia Property Group, Carlton Residential, Park Lane Residential Ltd and Mayfair Residential were all fake agencies operating from serviced offices in London, Birmingham and Bristol.

The scam affected both landlords and tenants.

With a rental demand booming properties get snapped up extremely quickly due to demand, especially when they are advertised bills inclusive it would seem. As the age old adage goes though “if it looks too good to be true it probably is”.  However, the offering was difficult for desperate tenants to resist and with posh offices, men and women in suits and glossy brochures why would they think anything was wrong?. The properties were real, as were the landlords who owned them.  The fraud was to take fees to reference tenants and then tell them they didn’t qualify. However, if the tenants paid 6 months rent up front they would be accepted.

As you might guess, the rents were never passed on to the landlords and the utility bills were never paid. The agencies would then vanish over night leaving the landlords and tenants to sort out the mess.

Following a joint investigation by trading standards officers, the police and a local authority, the prosecutions resulted in Adam Coote being sentenced to 28 months in prison; Andrew Rickard received 18 months in prison and Sahila Kauser was also sentenced to an 18 month custodial sentence suspended for two years, with 140 hours unpaid work and a 12 month supervision order. They all used an alias in business to pull off their scams.

The Landlords Union said that both landlords and tenants can easily avoid scams like this by carrying out just two simple checks.

  1. Make sure agents are currently a member of ARLA, NALS, RICS, UKALA or The Law Society and that they are also registered with an Ombudsman redresss scheme(re-check this every three months). Don’t take the agents word for this, check with the official bodies directly.
  2. Ask to see copies of their Client Money Protection and Professional indemnity insurance policies

Landlords Union Fighting Crime

There are many examples of landlords having been victims of fraud by abuse of position committed by their letting agent where Police and CPS have dropped cases due to lack of resource.

We have seen many cases where agents have used client money to pay themselves significant bonuses before putting their businesses into liquidation. As a result of the Police failing to get involved the Landlords Union has been helping to raise the funding necessary to mount private criminal prosecutions on behalf of our members.

Landlords Union pay all initial costs associated with private criminal prosecutions where groups of 15 or more of our members have been victims of crimes perpetrated by the same business. The Crown picks up legal costs once Magistrates agree that a trial is in the interests of the public, regardless of whether the accused is found innocent or guilty. We are happy to take on victims of crime as new members in order to justify taking a case.



Comments

DALE ROBERTS

12:09 PM, 20th October 2016
About 2 years ago

The managing agents we utilised, who subsequently defrauded both tenants and landlords in the last six months of operation, had been in business for several years, were members of the Property Ombudsman and had client protection insurance.
When the scale of their fraud began to unravel, several affected landlords and tenants attempted to get recourse from these organisations only to be informed that - as the premiums to belong to said organisations were in default - no claims could be entertained.
As a non resident UK BTL investor I am continually appalled at the lax and desultory regulations governing property agencies in the UK. As far as I am concerned, any organisation taking vast amounts of money from the public should be regulated. If they cannot comply with those regulations - they should not be allowed to operate.
The above article merely illuminates the egregious failings of government in permitting fraudsters to take full advantage of such disinterest. The present setup is in fact an open invitation to the corrupt.
Sentencing the perpetrators (the few that are actually brought to court) is somehow purposeless if landlords and tenants are not reimbursed their missing funds.

Mark Alexander

12:19 PM, 20th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "DALE ROBERTS" at "20/10/2016 - 12:09":

Hi Dale

I'm sorry to hear that.

If you can get 15 or more victims together and they all join The Landlords Union we will fund a private prosecution. From what you have said, it seems like a very worthy case. If the perpetrators have assets they can be confiscated and sold if they are found guilty and the sale proceeds can be used to compensate those who bring the case. Please see http://privateprosecutions.org/

It is crimes such as the one you have been a victim of that makes The Landlords Union membership so important.
.

DALE ROBERTS

12:38 PM, 20th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Action Fraud are pursuing Oliver-Knights after receiving numerous complaints. But neither your offer nor the response from AF - as welcome as it is - addresses the core of the problem.
No-one should be able to operate as a business without formal registration. And this registration should be lodged in a court of law with all the pertinent details of the directors. Thereafter it should be legally mandatory for a separate trust account to be established for all public monies received and a detailed return submitted to HMRS on an annual basis to prevent embezzlement. And proof must be provided in that company registration of : membership to deposit protection organisations, client money protection and an arbitrating organisation with the power to close down the company and refund misappropriated monies.
The onus of ensuring managing agents act within the law should not be for the cost nor the responsibility of landlords or tenants. Tacitly, the UK government is actually aiding those who take full advantage of an unregulated industry. This needs to be challenged.

Mark Alexander

13:20 PM, 20th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "DALE ROBERTS" at "20/10/2016 - 12:38":

Hello Dale

The law is there to protect is all, criminals cab be and are prosecuted.

Be careful what you wish for!

Would you want all landlords to have to be licensed and to comply with all the regulations you have suggested for agents?

Do you have any idea what it costs solicitors to be regulated in this manner? Why do you think they charge so much?

A bit of due diligence would stop most criminal operators in their tracks. Healthy membership levels within The Landlords Union would ensure that criminals are dealt justice. The two things combined would make it feasible for The Landlords Union to organise a block insurance policy for our members which would pay out in the event of members of ARLA, NALS, RICS, UKALA or The Law Society abusing their position with client money within say 12 months of their membership lapsing.It is merely a case of economies of scale. I believe the proposition I have outlined above would be far more cost effective than full on regulation.
.

DALE ROBERTS

14:20 PM, 20th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "20/10/2016 - 13:20":

I am most certainly going to continue advocating for industry regulation. Landlords ARE heavily regulated - if I don't protect a deposit I am liable for 3x the amount AND I cannot evict a tenant without that deposit being protected plus other punitive regulations being adhered to.
Fraudsters operate with impunity in the property industry in the UK because they do not have to have any type of accreditation to prove they have the knowledge/expertise to be agents nor or they mandated to protect the funds they collect from citizens and most importantly anyone can open a managing company on any high street. Frankly it's ludicrous and unacceptable.
Furthermore, the fact that you are lobbying to gain members for a private organisation to tackle criminals in the industry because your law enforcement agencies won't/can't merely illuminates the paucity of protection provided by the UK government.
This should not be tolerated by landlords and tenants alike.


Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

Taking rent from tenant overlap?

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More