7:50 AM, 31st October 2019, About 2 years ago 3
Yesterday the 30th October Countrywide Residential Lettings Nottingham faced a RICS Disciplinary Panel Hearing to defend the following charges:
“Between 2008 and 2018, the Firm transferred a sum of £10,093,866 of client funds, representing unclaimed and unidentified client balances that had not been claimed for six years or more, from the Firm’s client account into the Firm’s office account, when it was not permitted to do so. In doing so, the Firm failed to preserve the security of client funds.
“Contrary to Rule 8 of the Rules of Conduct for Firms 2007: The Firm’s conduct above represented a serious and prolonged disregard towards the Firm’s professional obligations as set out in the RICS’ client money guidance document”
Countrywide accepted the charges, a reprimand for breaking the RICS rules of conduct and a fine of £100,000.
A RICS statement following the hearing said: “A disciplinary panel considered two charges against the firm, both of which were accepted by the firm.
“The disciplinary panel received joint submissions from RICS and the firm that the appropriate sanction in light of the firm’s admissions and all of the circumstances of the case was a reprimand and a fine of £100,000. The disciplinary panel agreed with the parties that this was an appropriate and proportionate sanction and imposed the agreed sanction.”
Countrywide issued a statement in Property Industry Eye saying: “Back in 2008 we started to accumulate many thousands of individual small amounts on client accounts in our lettings businesses, where funds over six years old could not be traced to source.
“Some would have been rightly Countrywide funds and others small amounts of landlord and tenant sums that could not be traced.
“It was agreed at the time to move these untraceable amounts to an office account and put in place an indemnity that, should ever a recipient be identified, the amount would be paid across. In reality less than 1% were ever traced after six years. Immediately we paid over the amount due and customers did not suffer any loss.
“After ten years of audits an issue was raised in 2018 that this may not be in accordance with RICS Rules. Countrywide repaid all of the funds that had been transferred from office to unnamed client accounts.”
“Importantly nobody has been disadvantaged, but we decided to resolve the RICS matter immediately through a full transfer.”
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