Runaway letting agent disappears owing thousands

Runaway letting agent disappears owing thousands

17:11 PM, 28th February 2012, About 12 years ago 16

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Landlords and tenants are trying to track down a letting agent who has shut up shop leaving them thousands of pounds out-of-pocket.

Husband and wife team Mark and Samantha Hamilton-Smith stopped trading as The Property Showroom in Leeds on February 18.

The firm’s office in Town Street, Farsley, was closed without warning, computer equipment was stripped out and the doors locked.

The website is still online, mail is uncollected and telephones are connected but ring out.

Other nearby estate agents report visits to the offices by around 20 disgruntled landlords who have not received rents for up to three months – and they have no forwarding address or information about if they will be paid.

Some landlords have called from Switzerland and Australia.

Mr Hamilton-Smith is the sole director of Ayrton Properties Ltd, the firm trading as Property Showroom. His wife resigned as director and company secretary on January 30.

Property Showroom does not belong to any lettings industry client money protection, so few landlords are likely to see the return of any cash.

If tenant deposits are lodged on a protection scheme, the tenants can apply to have the money released.

The firm advertises membership of the Property Ombudsman Scheme and claims to follow the Office of Fair Trading code of conduct for letting agents.

Letting agents The National Property Group have offered to take on landlords abandoned by The Property Showroom and have waived administration fees for managing transferred properties.

“I’ve informed any landlords in difficulty that we’d be happy to take care of the handover and administration to take back control,” said spokesman Glenn Ackroyd. “We will waive all admin costs and do this free of charge.”

For more information contact The National Property Group or contact Glenn Ackroyd via this Private Messaging facility

If it worries you that Letting Agents are completely unregulated please see our article calling for Compulsory Licencing of Letting Agents and sign our Government e-petition.

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Mary Latham

17:38 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

I just hope that all these landlords kept copies of their paperwork including safety certs etc.

If you are a landlord who let with this agent make certain that your deposits are protected and that your tenant have the correct paperwork before April when the law changes.  Regardelss of that fact that you did not see the money you will be responsible.  See my post The Devil is in the Detail to find out how this could impact on your lettings.

20:32 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

I think well done for NPG stepping up to the plate and offering to rescue these Landlords.
I think NPG could easily pick up even more rescue business as more of these wrongun LA go belly up.
It is getting quite ridiculous now as to how many LA are ripping off LL.
Surely it has reached critical mass now that something must be done.
It seems every week there is a LA doing a ruuner.
These wrongun LA are doing a massive disservice to good LA.
How much business might good LA be missing out on caused by LL being scared of doing business with LA.
Mostly probably caused by LL not recognising what contitutes a good LA.
But then how are they supposed to know?

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

20:40 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

Fortunately Paul, as we continue to report on the rogues the word spreads and more and more landlords subscribe to and read the free News feeds available here at Property118. As a result of our readers spreading the word amongst other landlords and also with the welcome boost of becoming a Google News feed we have jumped from being 4,600 busiest website in the UK to 1,500th in less than a month. We just need our readers to keep telling their friends and sharing our articles using the social media buttons at the foot of every article and word of best practice will continue to spread.

20:52 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

I think a lot of the LL being caught out are these 'accidental landlords'.
They reckon there are 300000 of them!?
These by their very nature are perhaps what could be deemed as not wordly wise LL.
Essentially they have been forced into the situation and are clearly not aware of the issues that they will have to contend with now they have found themselves to be a landlord.

20:55 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

Also I can confirm that my google alerts have started picking up your website messages.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

20:57 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

I completely agree Paul. I do often wonder how many people who rent out property actually realise that they are landlords! There are over one million of us according to government statistics and yet from what I can gather, all the Landlords Associations combined probably have less than 50,000 members!!!

I wrote an article about this recently - see the link below

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

20:58 PM, 29th February 2012, About 12 years ago

That's great news Paul, what key words and key phrases have you set your Google Alerts to pick up as a matter of interest?

Fed Up Landlord

8:48 AM, 1st March 2012, About 12 years ago

If you are worried about your letting agent going belly up and they hold a number of your deposits then as Mark recommended when letting your properties yourself use mydeposits. You can also join mydeposits and ask the letting agent to transfer the deposits to you for £60 joining fee and £30 a property for piece of mind. Or if you join the RLA its nothing to join the TDS and £15 per property.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

8:55 AM, 1st March 2012, About 12 years ago

The principles of what you are saying are great advice Gary. Thanks for sharing.

Let's hope our constant reports of letting agents dipping into client money and vanishing when the going gets tough inspires landlords to re-think their strategies.

I recently ran an article comparing the various tenancy deposit scheme options. The pricing you have quoted doesn't quite match the research I did but the principles of what you are suggesting make absolute sense. Please see .......

10:04 AM, 1st March 2012, About 12 years ago

When we first let out our homes, we only considered agents.

- That had been about for some time

- Had lot of local properties under their management

- Changed enough that I could make a profit if I was running their

- I also run a basic company credit check on one agent

The agent I choose for my house was because he gave me good advice
before letting, including saying things that could have lost him the contract.

For my house, I asked each agent to send someone round that could advice on rental and sales options, over half the agents failed to do this and expected me to waste my time with setting up a 2nd appointment.   (I did not expect rental only agents to be able to advice on sales, but expected an agent that did both to only take up one slot of my time.)

It so happened that all the agents we considered were members of ARLA, but that was more by lack then planning.  No agent gives us a leaflet explaining the ARLA and client accounts etc, why does the ARLA not have a leaflet for all their members to give out?

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