News & Blog

Rogue letting agent jailed

A letting agent in Barnet has been jailed for four and a half years after he admitted five counts of fraud at Harrow Crown Court. This concludes a four-year investigation by Barnet Council Trading Standards. Letting Agent Martin Marcus had defrauded landlords and tenants of a total of £200,000 in rents and deposits and worked under a number of aliases and company names over the years.

 

Clients were informed that their money was held in separate accounts, however the investigation brought to light that payments were made to a gym, an airline and also to Marcus’s son as well as withdrawals at cash machines in Spain.

 

One prospective tenant told BBC News that her alarm bells first started ringing when her deposit was not placed in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

 

The Local Government Association (LGA) reported that only 5% of scams are reported as victims feel embarrassed. Action Fraud, the national policing lead for fraud, states that figures for rental fraud in England and Wales have gone up from 2,216 in 2014 to 3,193 in 2015.

 

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, says: “It is terrible to see landlords and tenants scammed out of their money. Mr Martin was especially cunning as he pretended he was keeping the client money accounts separate. I can only urge clients to make sure their agent is a member of a property redress scheme and a client money protection scheme and to ask to see proof. If you’re a tenant, you should also ask that your deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit protection scheme like mydeposits.”

 

Paul Shamplina, member of the PRS Advisory Council, says: “Never suffer in silence. As a consumer, there are many options open to you. By law, all lettings and estate agents need to be a member of a redress scheme. You can make a complaint to the one your agent is a member of. Alternatively, you can contact National Trading Standards to report the agent. In any case, you need to take action to make sure that the agent doesn’t continue to defraud others of their money.”

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