Tenant fraudster who tried sell landlord’s house jailed

Tenant fraudster who tried sell landlord’s house jailed

9:38 AM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago 12

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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.

Buyers unwittingly contacted the fake estate agent

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.

Smith provided fake documents

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.

Sentenced to a total of two years and six months

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.”

Landlords can register for a free Property Alert service

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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Ian Narbeth

9:53 AM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago

I strongly advise landlords to use the Land Registry Property Alert service. This is especially so if your property is not mortgaged. You can register up to 10 properties against one email address. If there is an application or official search (the usual precursor to a sale or mortgage) made against the property, you will be notified.


14:36 PM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago

Surly the buyers solicitor would have to check who is the legal owner with land registry? Or they would be liable for the mistake 🤔

Dave Baker

14:58 PM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago

I've heard it's something of a nightmare trying to use this service.

Ian Narbeth

15:32 PM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mr.A at 11/11/2022 - 14:36
Yes, but if the crook impersonates the true owner the buyer may not discover until it is too late.

Ian Narbeth

15:33 PM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Dave Baker at 11/11/2022 - 14:58
You heard wrong. It is dead easy to set up. I have used it for years.

LordOf TheManor

17:04 PM, 11th November 2022, About 7 months ago

Yes, to Ian's excellent advice. You get a message whether or not there has been any activity. It works!
It's also a great reminder to question and triple check any referencing outsourced by an agent using an auto-ref supplier such as Goodlord. Nothing that the prospective tenant says at the viewing is verified prior to the commencement of referencing. The 'wanter' is taken a face value (aka wolves in sheep's clothing).
Auto-referencing is so extremely basic that it's completely worthless - and agents don't bother to read the reports when they come back anyway.
I find my own tenants via OpenRent - and having met them - I follow up by not using the auto-ref 'Homelet' add-on. I pre-vet with a tenancy application form prior to spending money. I use NRLA for a far more substantial report, usually ready within 48 hours.
Last month I had to invoke a one-off plan and use a letting agent. The flat is an uptogether large one-bed Victorian conversion with parking, Council Band A, EPC C. Market rent is £925pcm.
I chose the agent that claims every ARLA bell and whistle, 900 gold star reviews and boasted that they were LA of the year - yet again! - for the 4th year running. Wow!! (That's even though I have no idea who all the various voters are).
Offer 1: Mr X has offered £25 less pcm and says he'll move in sometime hence.
Offer 2: No offers, actually. The agent turned up without the key for their block viewing session.
Offer 3: Mr Y definitely wants it - tenant will pay for an electric car charging port for the deal. Has wage slips to prove that he earns £50-70k per annum as an Uber driver. (Wouldn't we all be Uber drivers, not landlords, if that were true??)
Result: No dice x 3 agency attempts at letting it for a finders fee agreed at £600+VAT. Why am I not surprised??
NB: Goodlord reported 'garbage in and garbage out' i.e. the Uber driver earned £18k p/a! The agent didn't read it before it was sent to me, nor did they ever question the pay slips, etc. Did I want to proceed with the tenant they'd found for me? Duh??
NBB: The 'obvious-from-the-start unsuitable viewer' paying a holding fee meant the flat was off the market for a week - at cost to me and to the loss of the other keen renters. Was that holding fee offered to me? NO - the ARLA agent has kept it for themselves for services not rendered.
NBBB: I advertised the flat from abroad on Thursday and had 6 viewers lined up for Sunday 23 October. 4 offers on the day at full rent, 1 not viewing due to offer elsewhere, 1 no-show. By Monday offers were 5 in total as non-viewer hadn't secured elsewhere afterall.
My thoroughly referenced new tenants moved in on 28 October.
Such was the competing interest for the property, I banked £5500.00 (6 months rent upfront), plus the deposit, from a professional relocating couple keen to clinch the deal.
The others - highly suitable prospective tenants at face value - unfortunately had to start their search again.
I doubt they'll rely on the agent I used - any more than I will - ever again!

Mick Roberts

11:01 AM, 12th November 2022, About 7 months ago

It's annoying this alert service only allowing us to put on 10 properties. I want someone to teach me how to set one of them email addresses where u can just change the last bit ie. MickRoberts10 MickRoberts20 to I can have all the emails within one email account as such, then I can start to register all my houses.

Martin Thomas

11:02 AM, 12th November 2022, About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 11/11/2022 - 09:53
Great advice again from Ian Narberth. I've just set up the alerts for our properties in no time at all!
Piece of cake!

Martin Thomas

11:02 AM, 12th November 2022, About 7 months ago

Great advice again from Ian Narberth. I've just set up the alerts for our properties in no time at all!
Piece of cake!


11:15 AM, 12th November 2022, About 7 months ago

This alert service
Not available in Scotland.
Basically says the Scottish land registry system is Far superior than its English counterpart.
Solicitors in Scotland are required to do thorough checks and have a statutory duty of care for applicants and corresponding criminal offence if they breach this.

"Many solicitors use an online multiple verification service to cross-check identities, reducing identity theft and fraudulent activity. We have strong confidence in these checks, as there are low incidences of fraud in relation to property in Scotland."

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