Justice for victims of rogue agents

Justice for victims of rogue agents

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Justice for victims of rogue agents

Justice for victims of rogue agentsDuring 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.

Contact Mark Smith (Barrister-At-Law)

Comments

4 years ago

Hi Mark,

How interesting! Especially the bit about going after the individual's assets.

I am sure you won't mind me saying that prevention is better than cure though.

Letting through a registered SAFEagent ensures landlords and tenants money is protected, even if the agent misappropriates the money or goes bust.

I am interested to learn if your service extends to wealth creation gurus who have taken money and not delivered on a service?

Only this week I have heard from a lady who was conned out of £54K equity of her house in a dodgy SARB transaction that caused so much financial distress that her husband tried to take his own life. I am also in correspondence with another lady who who paid £7,600 for mentoring only to find that each session was spent trying to upsell her to more expensive products and services. She wants her money back but is not sure how to go about it.

These sharks are a disgrace to our industry and I hope services like yours will bring them to account. Good luck with it!

Mark Alexander

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Vanessa Warwick" at "31/05/2014 - 19:23":

Even a SAFEagent badge and ARLA membership is no guarantee that a letting agent will not go bust and take clients money it would appear - see >>> http://old.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/Latest-collapsed-letting-firm-was-SAFEagent-member

I agree that looking for the right badges and making sure an agent has Client Money Protection is a vital part of due diligence but how many landlords actually then continue to check on a regular basis that their agents keep these memberships and insurance policies in force?

I can see Mark being swamped with enquiries from victims of bankrupt agencies, we must have carried half a doxen or more such stories on this website alone in the last few years.

Two letting agents, both ARLA members went bust in Norwich last year! They were both franchisees of big names in the industry, and that's only the ones I heard about.
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4 years ago

Hi Mark,

If you read the article the most important word was "HAD been a member of SAFEagent".

They were expelled prior to going bust, probably because their accounting practices were found not to be meeting the required standards.

No one loses any money when a SAFEagent goes pop. That is the whole point of the scheme, but you make a valid point that landlords should check if a membership remains current or perhaps somehow be notified if the agent is expelled.

One current name of a completely unregulated rogue agent is Daniel Burton who is now the subject of a police investigation following departing from three agencies under a cloud - Unida Place, Whitegates, and David Parkinson lettings.

I believe you have a story about him here:

http://www.property118.com/daniel-burton-unida-place-resurfaces/61006/

He has resurfaced in the last few days due to irregularities that have attracted the attention of the police at the last lettings agents he ran.

Daniel Burton was much touted as a Rent to Rent expert and asked to speak at events just two weeks before the story broke that UnidaPlace had gone bust. He claimed to be earning £35K a month net from R2R and was running courses to teach others how to do so.

He has been through three lettings agents and I have reason to believe there is a lot more to come out about his rogue activities.

Mark Alexander

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Vanessa Warwick" at "31/05/2014 - 19:48":

Maybe his victims should be talking to Mark S
.

Mark Alexander

4 years ago

Just a thought for you Vanessa, based on the volume of people who confide in you, have you considered becoming an Affiliate of Litigation Warranty?

The scheme is provided by Mark Smith's chambers (Cotswold Barristers). Property118 are Affiliates of this scheme and have earned £270 in the last week as a result of referring members 🙂
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andrew townshend

4 years ago

surely it it comes down to you only get what you pay for , some of my properties i manage myself , others are spread over two local agents who i totally trust , i would never go for a big national name because these are the very agents not to be trusted. never deal with an agent who is a ltd company- know who you are dealing with- common sense surely?

Mark Alexander

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "andrew townshend" at "31/05/2014 - 21:03":

Hi Andrew

Several agents use limited companies for tax purposes, that doesn't make them rogues.
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andrew townshend

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "01/06/2014 - 10:06":

point taken, but for sake of £1 i would check out on companies house site to get names & addresses of directors, after many rouges hide behind ltd companies names.

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