A property campaigner says the failure of the police to investigate a lettings agent who was eventually convicted of fraud after a private prosecution is “stunning and alarming”.
A court recently heard that Timothy Shinners failed to place deposits in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme “time and time again” over a six year period, instead spending the money himself.
A fellow company director at Bolton-based Platinum Properties was forced to invest £200,000 to cover deposits which had gone missing.
Evidence later showed that Shinners took at least £76,352 of company money, prompting outspoken deposit reform campaigner Ajay Jagota to ask: “How many more times does this need to happen before something is done?”
“Some people are trying to convince us that nothing needs to change in the tenancy deposit system. Cases like this are proof things do. How many more times does this need to happen before something is done?” asks Jagota.
“My real concern is that it appears there are countless agents who under current schemes are allowed to keep these deposits and appear to use this money for their person or day-to-day business use because they think it’s a handy pot of cash lying around. This money legally belongs to the tenants and should not be left unregulated – not least when we are talking about overall deposits which will soon be close to £6 Billion. No wonder the police don’t have the resources to police it all” he adds.
Jagota, who operates the deposit-free Dlighted system, keeps a running total of the deposits which crooked letting agents are convicted of stealing each year, and says he will be publishing figures for the second quarter of 2017 next week.
Shinners was last week sentenced to three years imprisonment and banned from acting as a director for eight years.
A jury at Bolton Crown Court earlier found Shinners guilty of failing to comply with the statutory requirement to register tenant deposits with an approved tenancy deposit protection scheme and fraudulently adapting tenancy deposit protection documents to disguise irregularities.
The court heard that Shinners had knowingly received deposits and failed to transfer them into a Deposit Protection Scheme account “time and time again”.
These deposits – totalling at least £200,000 - were only registered and protected following an injection of cash by another company director, an act described as an “act of decency” according to the judge.
The director had earlier reported the matter to the police, only for police to decline to investigate on the grounds it did not have the resources required.