Police won’t accept it’s theft?

by Readers Question

9:18 AM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Police won’t accept it’s theft?

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Police won’t accept it’s theft?

In a nutshell (as I’ve had nearly two months of stress and anxiety), agent I used 2 years ago without problem, found tenants for me in February. The tenant paid her 4 months rent up front plus deposit, plus 4 months council tax up front – all to obviously then pass to me.

I have had daily lies and excuses from her making me more and more angry that she’s got my money. I need it. I am a single parent and live off the rent. She told me to back off because off her mental health, then she said she’d had a miscarriage, banks closed etc etc. I’m furious and admit I’ve sent her some pretty nasty messages to give me my money out of desperation, but she won’t.

I’ve taken out a CCJ but know that I won’t get my money through that as she has 2 others against her. I spoke to the police who said it’s a civil matter which I disagree with – it’s not a debt, she’s taken my money. They spoke to her then they ended up telling me that I’m the only one breaking the law for harassing her! She even told them she had paid me which she hasn’t. She’s not a member of a MPS so I’ve reported her to trading standards. She said that she’s closed the company since finding me the tenant.

I realise that because she did nothing with the deposit that the tenant can potentially sue me plus I don’t have the option of eviction so I have that hanging over me and on top of it all I still have to find the money to give back the deposit to him anyway.

So all in around £8k plus threat of deposit suing.

I cannot tell you how angry I feel at the injustice of her both having my money and her being allowed to get away with it. My own mental health and my family’s is suffering.

Any suggestions please? Thank you

Hasty Peck


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Comments

Milltown

9:40 AM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Was your agent a LTD COMPANY. Does she own her own home. Check with the land registry for £3.00. Report her to Action Fraud and trading standers,

Graham Bowcock

10:13 AM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Dear Hasty Peck

This is a very sad tale and it's disappointing that an agent can do this and think they can get away with it. It gives agents generally a bad name. It sounds like she has had some life changing events which have caused the problems, if you used her for a couple of years without problem.

If you have a CCJ against her, you could consider enforcing this, although if she has no money herself, you may be throwing your limited good money after bad.

Based on what you have said, it certainly sounds like theft/fraud (there is a fine line between the two) so my suggestion is that your persevere with the police to try and get a charge. If they won't help, perhaps you need to get some help from a solicitor (do you have a tame one who could help you?) to review matters and see if they can help in getting charges pressed.

It does seem unlikely, however, that you will get your money back, unless the agent still has it and is simply refusing to pay you. if she's spent it then it's gone.

Seething Landlord

10:30 AM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

You say that you have "taken out a CCJ" but I am not sure that I understand what you mean. A county court judgement is the result of a successful claim in the county court and can then be enforced in various ways if the defendant has the financial resources to meet the judgement. That is the only legitimate way to enforce payment of a debt under our legal system. If you mean that you are at the stage of having commenced proceedings in the county court you will just have to wait until you obtain judgement before you can take any further steps.
Trying to involve the police or other agencies will not help you to recover your money and if fines are imposed will potentially reduce your chances of getting your money back.
The only other possibility is to seek compensation through a redress scheme if the agent is or was a member but that seems rather unlikely - is that what you are referring to as an MPS?

David

10:33 AM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Dear HP, An established letting agent in my area used deposit money to prop up his lifestyle. Somehow the fact he had not protected the deposits did not come to light for sometime.He was charged with theft . As Graham says persevere with the police, they are not always that helpful, but Trading Standards are and this could be fraud, meaning jail time which may jolt her in to remembering she does have your money. Otherwise the courts could at least arrange for her to repay you in time.

Edwin Cowper

10:45 AM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

You might find it useful to contact the others with ccjs if you can, and get them to tell their stories to you and the police. That would help to show this is a deliberate pattern, which I suspect it is.

As a lawyer, I suggest that you return to the police and say you have been advised by a lawyer (me) that this appears to be theft. You should also say that the lawyer says this is likely to be the tip of an iceberg, from his experience dealing with fraud.

None of this is going to get you your money of course, but it may get you the satisfaction of getting her prosecuted.

Insist on speaking to whoever is above the officer you have dealt with and if that person won't authorise investigation, go to the next highest one and so on.

If you are faced with a continuing refusal, then make a complaint then and there.

If you still can't get anywhere then write to your MP.

In the big fraud case at the beginning of my career, the police initially refused to investigate. A lot of pressure was put on them, and the directors and the accountant were after some time held at her majesty's pleasure. And we ended up getting the money too.

Some of the posts refer to investigating the person's financial position. If it is a limited company, if she has walked off with the money she still can be prosecuted.

Kate Mellor

12:26 PM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

The difficulty in dealing with debt of a limited company is that the director is removed from the debt. In order to make the director liable personally for the debt you need to prove one of the charges which can make that possible. Such as a deliberate fraud, where you can prove business funds where used to fund the directors lifestyle, or a company clearly trading in insolvency, (ie taking your money to pay off existing debtors with no way to fulfill future obligations to you and your tenant). This would involve an examination of her personal and business financial records. A difficult ask for understaffed and underfunded police, hence their reluctance to take action in these type of circumstances. They tend to act only where there are huge sums of money involved; many, many instances; or when the information required to prove the theft is compiled and handed over to them. Otherwise they want you to pursue the legal options yourself. Often this is absolutely no use to you. You can bring civil charges against her, however that would involve a huge cost and risk to you with no guarantee of a return. If she doesn't own anything personally even a win will be a pyrrhic victory. It seems to me that your only true option is to a) stop harrassing her, b) compile as much evidence as possible to present to the police (All emails, documentation of phone calls, letters, terms of business, bank records showing any transfers made or received between you, bank statements from the tenant showing all payments made to the agent highlighted, terms of business of the agent, details of her existing CCJs, witness statements from yourself and your tenant and any other customers who've lost money if you can find any (perhaps you could advertise on a local facebook group for people to contact you who've had dealings with her agency), does she own a fancy car and a fancy house which don't make sense with a failing business? provide details or photos), c) hand the information to the police and make an official complaint against her, escalating as recommended already by a solicitor who has offered you advice (Edwin Cowper).
I've assumed she has operated her business through a ltd company structure because you used the word 'company' in your question. If she operated as a sole trader then the debt is personally owed by her. Whilst all the above remains my advice, (I'm sure you are still keen to see her charged if possible), you can obviously, in addition, obtain a judgement against her personally with little cost to you. You then have the option of applying for a charge against her home if she owns one, getting an attachment to her future earnings if she is employed, among other things. My advice to you would be to find a private process server in her area to serve all notices to her once she has a CCJ issued, as the county court bailiff service is literally a joke when it comes to serving notices. I waited a year with only limited success, I then used a private guy who was very reasonable and he ultimately caught up with my evasive lady by posing as someone else and arranging an appointment to meet her at the property. He definitely earned his money.
Your story is a true cautionary tale to all that you MUST do your due diligence when using an agent and ensure they have current Client Money Protection Insurance, have current membership of an approved redress scheme and that they are members of a professional body such as ARLA. You should check with the organisations directly that your chosen agent is a current member and ask to see a copy of their CMP insurance schedule before each instruction.

Paul Essex

13:09 PM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

It is not clear from your message what has happened to the deposits. Did the agent give the tenants any paperwork regarding these, could be evidence if they did. I guess you are assuming that deposits have been spent - if you can prove that is the case it must surely be fraudulent.
It would be interesting to know if other readers think that the tenants are victims as well, as the deposit is technically their money - and who is guilty you or the agent.

Rob Thomas

13:24 PM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Unfortunately, this isn't any help for you on this occasion Hasty Peck, but for future reference and to other landlords, I have always insisted on asking for money to be paid directly from new tenants into my bank account when dealing with an agent. They have never refused in my experience because if they did I would refuse to take tenants through them.

There is really no legitimate reason for a letting agent to hold rent or deal with putting a deposit in the deposit protection scheme, which is simple for you do to. Always be in control of the money.

Sjp

16:09 PM, 20th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by David at 20/04/2020 - 10:33
Hi David. Please do you have any more details of the case you said ended in charges of theft? Which area? Police for e? How do you know , was it in the press so I can research and provide this to the police. Anything would be helpful. Thank you.

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