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Estate Agent jailed for committing Fraud

Landlords with large property portfolios or other occupations generally rely on letting or estate agents to manage their properties for them for a fee. The fact that letting and estate agents have so much control over a landlords’ property – and ultimately their income – means that there has recently been calls for stricter regulations to be applied to them. Rogue agents not only lead to landlords losing their livelihood, but also tenants living in houses which are not properly maintained with nowhere to turn.

This is why one rogue estate agent from Lakes Lane, Newport Pagnell, was recently sentenced to ten months in prison at the Amersham Law Courts after pleading guilty to ten counts of fraud. The court heard how Paul Collins not only failed to pass rental income onto landlords, but also neglected to protect tenants’ deposits by registering them in an approved scheme. Landlords that used the company Mr Collins was a partner of, Thomas and Company Rentals, began complaining in 2010 after they stopped receiving payments from him, which led to the Milton Keynes Council’s Trading Standards Team to launch an investigation.

Mr Recorder Laird QC said when passing sentence: “On occasion you met landlords yourself and face to face. With barefaced cheek, you lied to them saying that the business was sound when it wasn’t. The losses were around £110,000. Deposits paid by tenants were not protected in the appropriate way. You told the authorities that you were aware of the legislation that required the protection of deposit monies. You were eventually made bankrupt, and there is little prospect of these people receiving any recompense for their losses. These were offences of a serious nature. The money was never the property of Thomas and Company Rentals. It was other’s money.”

Meanwhile, Head of the Regulatory Unit for Milton Keynes Council, Karen Ford, said: “The sentence imposed reflects the seriousness with which the court views those who defraud businesses and consumers. Trading Standards will always look to take action to protect the rights of the consumer and support legitimate traders in Milton Keynes.” If you are a landlord and want to find a letting agent that you can trust then you can always talk to your landlord insurance provider who will advise you of agents in your area that have voluntarily registered to regulation bodies that prove their services are of a good standard.

Huge number of social housing tenants committing fraud

Research has revealed that thousands of tenants in social housing are committing fraud by illegally sub-letting the property. The problem is thought to be much more widespread than official figures suggest which indicate the cost to be close to £2billion each year.

Researchers estimate that almost 170,000 properties were being fraudulently sub-let in the United Kingdom, which is 3% of the nation’s five million social homes. The detailed research examined data covering 150,000 properties which are all protected by landlord insurance and run by ten local councils and housing associations. While looking for potential fraud they looked at the tenancy lists, compared the registered tenant’s credit activity and whether the results matched the address it was associated with. They also looked at any credit activity by other adults who were using the council or housing association property as their home address.

Social housing tenancy fraud is the use of social housing by a tenant who is not entitled to live in that property. It includes unauthorised subletting for profit to individuals who are not allowed to live there. It also includes submitting false information in the housing application and acquiring buy to let insurance to get the tenancy. Illegally sublet properties is a nationwide problem and is forcing councils to put people in temporary accommodation, which costs around £20,000 each year per tenant.

Nick Mothershaw, a director of fraud and identity solutions, said “Our initial research suggests that the level of social housing tenancy fraud in Britain could be much higher than previously estimated. It also demonstrates how more effective data matching can quickly provide a reliable indication of what could be illegal occupancy and subletting. This means investigators can prioritise and deal swiftly with fraudulent cases. Reducing social housing tenancy fraud will significantly reduce the cost of temporary accommodation which we estimate to be at over £2billion a year.”