We all know headlines sell newspapers, but a report in yesterday’s Daily Mirror brought shame on a host of letting agents across the country that have either been accused or convicted of 'ripping off' landlords and tenants, acting as a timely reminder that landlords must conduct careful due diligence and considerable thought when deciding on which letting agents to instruct when renting out property.
Daily Mirror investigative columnist Andrew Penman accused the government and councils of failing landlords and tenants by not enforcing their own rules.
He highlighted ‘greedy’ letting agent Nicholas Dowse of Harmsworth Estate Agents in Portsmouth who pocketed almost £30,000 in rent, deposits and service charges and spent the money on trips abroad, as well as Amy Williams and boyfriend Glen Austin of a Birmingham letting agency who were convicted for stealing deposits and rent paid in advance by tenants.
Darren Briggs of Cambridge based Morgan Fox (Lettings) Limited and Anthony Morgan UK Limited also didn’t escape unscathed after “repeatedly failing” to protect tenancy deposits to keep his business afloat.
One of many online complaints posted by a landlord read: “Not only has Darren Briggs not registered my tenant’s deposit with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, he was of course also charging me a sum of money to be in the scheme.”
In Luton, Beds, letting agency Cash Property Management Ltd failed to protect the deposits of 45 tenants housed in an illegally-converted commercial building, while Glyn Robinson, of Harbour Properties and Services Ltd in Wakefield, was banned from being a director for seven years last month after failing to protect 139 tenant deposits of nearly £54,000.
In Glasgow, Shaban Rehman , of Better Homes Glasgow, lied to a family which had put down a deposit on a flat when he told them that it had been flooded and had become uninhabitable in order to keep the deposit. He also ripped off another tenant’s deposit.
Letting agents are supposed to belong to a government-approved redress scheme, with a civil penalty of up to £5,000 for failure to comply.
But the Mirror report that just 16% of councils have issued penalties against rogue agents and just 46% sent warning letters to known offenders, according to licensing body the National Approved Letting Scheme.