Justice for victims of rogue agentsMake Text Bigger
During a rare period of downtime this week I have been catching up with some of the vast number of articles, readers’ questions and comments posted on Property118.
I have read with interest (and despair) some of the tales of agents having shut up shop and disappeared with deposits and rents belonging to both landlords and tenants.
What is more disturbing to me though is that so few of these rogues have been prosecuted in the criminal courts, through lack of action taken by the authorities. It seems that, because of the protection given to limited companies against civil claims, once a business has been wound up a line is drawn under the matter.
It doesn’t need to be that way though.
The charges that a rogue agent could face include:-
- Fraudulent trading, where the agent is a company that trades/traded with the intention of defrauding creditors or for any fraudulent purposes. The case is brought in a personal capacity against a person in management or control of the company. This applies whether the company is trading, has ceased trading or is in the process of being wound up.
- Fraud by abuse of position, where the agent abuses/abused their position of trust regarding financial dealings for financial gain for himself
- Theft. Simply stealing money belonging to someone else. This can include ‘borrowing’ where there is no real prospect of repayment.
You would probably be shocked at how little it costs to instruct a Direct Access Barrister like me to instigate a private criminal prosecution. If affected landlords and tenants were to form an action group, with each member contributing say £200, enough money would soon be raised to gather evidence, witness statements and have a case in front of a judge very shortly thereafter. Once the court accepts a case as fairly brought, even if no conviction results, the costs of investigation and prosecution are paid by the State, as indeed are the defence costs, and the initial payments made by the victims would be refunded.
Everyone coming forward to support the case and show their personal losses would be able to claim compensation, but those that are not involved will not be able to benefit, simply because the court will not know who they are. It is therefore vital that anyone affected, if they want compensation in the criminal proceedings, comes forward and gets involved in a case before it gets to Court. At Cotswold Barristers we endeavour assist groups affected to attract media coverage for this purpose. It only takes one victim to get a case started and with the right level of media attention other victims soon tend to make themselves known.
Private prosecutions are not reliant on the financially pressurised police or other government agencies. Numerous viable prosecutions are not pursued by the State because of financial or resource limitations in these austere times.
If found guilty the offender would be punished by the Court, and compensation to their victims would only be limited by the value of assets that the offender has. In most cases he cannot hide behind the lack of assets of a failed limited company; the orders are made against the offender personally. Criminal prosecutions have higher profile, are far speedier than civil cases, and are often the cheapest and most effective way to secure proper recompense from dishonest agents.
If you have been the victim of a rogue agent and want to see justice done please feel free to make contact via the form below.
Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.