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How to spot a rogue letting agent

24 February 2016

Rogue agentsLandlords and tenants are still falling victim to fraudsters despite rules aimed at reining in cowboy letting agents.

By law, letting agents in England should register with a redress scheme that allows speedy resolution of complaints.

Letting agents should have signed up by October 2014, but some rogues are claiming they belong to the scheme when they don’t and others who were scamming customers before the scheme started are still coming to attention.

In the past two weeks, two letting agents have faced the courts for stealing rents and deposits from tenants and landlords.

Russell Baker, who ran Ashby’s a property firm in Bovey Tracey, Devon, admitted stealing £255,000 in rents and deposits

Harpeet Garcha, the owner of a Belvoir franchise in Corby and Kettering, Northants, was jailed for 33 months for siphoning £200,000 from landlords in a fraud

Spotting a fraudster is tough as many come over as plausible and professional – but here are few tips to help spot a rogue:

• Ask which redress schemes the agent is registered with and check the registration numbers by directly calling the scheme or checking the agent’s details online

Here are the contact details of each government -approved redress scheme

The Property Redress Scheme
­ The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
­ Ombudsman Services Property

• Keep a monthly reconciliation of rent payments – that means checking off statements issued by the agent with payments into your bank.

Make sure the amounts match and if payments do not appear, contact the agent straight away and ask why.

• If rent is late regularly or the tenant is in arrears, speak to the tenant to check if the rent has been paid.

If the tenant has receipts or bank statements proving payment, set up direct payment missing the agent out of the loop to minimise losses and pursue the agent to pay the money.

• Speak to other landlords who are with the agent if you can to see if they are receiving their payments in full and on time.

• Talk to your local trading standards office if you suspect a scam. They may decline to help because they regard renting property a business and are set up to help consumers, but they may offer some off-the-record hints if they have had complaints about the agent.