9:38 AM, 11th November 2022, About 11 months ago 12
A tenant who tried to sell the house he rented without his landlord’s knowledge has been jailed.
Andrew Smith, 41, was only caught out in his ‘truly brazen crime’ when a prospective buyer conducted a drain survey at the property.
Smith claimed he was moving to the area for work when he began renting the three-bed house in Argyle Street, Cambridge, in February 2020.
But less than two weeks after receiving the keys, the property appeared for sale online via a fake estate agent company.
Two potential buyers unwittingly contacted the fake estate agent company, and a price was agreed with one of them.
In June 2022, the victim, who believed they were purchasing the house, visited the property with a drain surveyor.
However, the surveyor spoke to neighbours who explained they thought the house was tenanted and not for sale and advised him to contact the letting agent.
After discovering the property wasn’t for sale, he immediately contacted police.
Officers discovered many documents Smith had provided to the letting agent were fraudulent.
Not only this, but he had made payments to a furniture rental company, which supplies furniture for show homes, shortly after moving in.
Officers caught up with Smith at an address in Bedford and arrested him.
He eventually pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and entering into money laundering.
Smith, of Gardeners Close, Flitwick, Bedford, was sentenced to a total of two years and six months in prison at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.
Detective Constable Dan Harper said: “This is an almost unbelievable and truly brazen crime, which saw an innocent buyer almost part with more than £400,000 for a property that was never for sale in the first place.
“The investigation has been long and detailed, and we have worked tirelessly to make sure justice has been served.”
Property118 has previously highlighted that landlords can thwart fraudsters by registering for a free Property Alert service that if offered by HM Land Registry.
Whenever someone tries to acquire the title, a warning will be sent to the landowner.
More than 515,000 homeowners have signed up to the service and the process takes just a few minutes.
For landlords worried about fraudsters taking ownership of their property, there’s more advice about the Property Alert service on the Land Registry’s website.
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