8:33 AM, 29th June 2011, About 13 years ago 6
Landlords are regularly falling victim to rogue letting agents who suddenly shut up shop and take their money and run.
The two most common scenarios are a letting agent facing business difficulties closing down with money owing to landlords and tenants or some who are plain thieves milking their business bank accounts for as much as they can before they are caught.
Either way, the people left out of pocket are landlords.
The latest letting agents to close under a cloud is Thomas & Co, with branches in Northampton and Milton Keynes. Owners Paul Collins and Louisa Thompson are believed to have had 250 properties under management when the business closed last month.
Police and trading standards are investigating the firm after allegations of malpractice from angry landlords.
If a letting agent goes bust, here’s some pointers for landlords:
• Stop the tenant paying rent to the letting agent and make alternative arrangements
• Make sure the property is legal – that any services arranged by the letting agent like gas certificates, HMO licences and insurance are up-to-date, and tenant deposits are protected.
• Take a copy of tenancy agreements and make sure any notices have been served. If trading standards are involved, they will probably have seized the letting agent’s files.
• For landlords owed more than £750, find out the trading status of the letting agent and consider serving the appropriate bankruptcy or liquidation notices, depending on whether the agent is an individual, partnership or company.
This lets the courts unravel any financial shenanigans to siphon money from the business over the past two years.
If the letting agent is bankrupted, a landlord can still pursue a lawful debt after the bankruptcy has ended – take legal advice over the best way forward
Check out a letting agent’s credentials before paying over any cash. Letting agents are not regulated, so landlords have no special financial protection. Agents who are current members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or SAFEagent will have bonded insurance that covers missing money.
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