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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Departed ARLA chief executive sets out his achievements in post

David Cox’s departure as chief executive of ARLA Propertymark last Friday was well signposted, particularly when he was advised he could not apply to become CEO of the ‘unified’ Propertymark combining the lettings agent division with the NAEA.

Cox’s departure has prompted many agents to say he was less ‘formal’ than many other industry leaders, and very knowledgable of the sector given his previous experience at the National Landlords Association.

One comment on Letting Agent Today described his departure as “madness”; another called him “one of the leading voices for the sector … willing to speak up when others don’t”; yet another wrote “I found him to be measured and knowledgeable and not the least surprised when he was appointed CEO…He was a good fit.”

A few weeks ago - by coincidence, and without knowing Cox was shortly to part company with Propertymark - Letting Agent Today asked Cox himself to outline his achievements during his six years at the organisation. 

This is not Cox showing off about his achievements, but responding to our questions: here are the 13 aspects of which he was most proud.

- membership up 50 per cent;

- doubling of attendance at courses and events;

- the growth of the ARLA conference into the largest in the agency industry;

- annual increases in agents taking ARLA qualifications;

- a range of commercial and training opportunities for agents through the Industry Supplier Scheme; 

- a free legal helpline which receives up to 25,000 call per year;

- regularly updated AST tenancy documents integrated into all major CRMs;

- a wider range of information channels to members, including Property Professional magazine, fortnightly e-newsletters, individual up-to-the-minute new alerts, local updates such as licensing scheme, social media, website articles, press releases and comments, video blogs and webinars;

- a part in the rebranding to Propertymark, with brand awareness amongst the general public increasing to 25 per cent in its first three years;

- an increased mainstream media profile for ARLA Propertymark and the lettings agency industry;

- greater interaction with the government and the various industry reforms being planned by the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government;

- assisting the industry through the Coronavirus lockdown, including getting agents’ commissions payments included in the furlough scheme, getting estate agents covered by the business rates reduction, securing concessions on local authority licensing schemes, and providing guidance to agents;

- finally, as of May 2020, ARLA Propertymark members now manage almost half of all private rented properties in the UK, including properties self-managed by the landlord.

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    All of the above points may well be true but during David's tenure the NAEA / Propertymark had at least one major financial flaw, forgetting to pay HMRC the VAT, as in the recently released NAEA Propertymark annual report and financial statements for the year ended 2019, on page 14, appears this howler ...

    'we (NAEA / Proptertymark) have identified that our tax position was not properly ordered and that has led to a significant payment to HM Revenue and Customs of outstanding VAT which has arisen through misdefinition of our liabilities and exemptions over a number of years.'

    So, how can anyone who has held senior office formerly, including the Financial officer be credible, and how can the NAEA Propertymark laud itself as a fit organisation to 'regulate' and give advice to the government on how estate agency is run, especially concerning financial matters such as anti-money laundering etc.

    In the same report NAEA Propertymark actually congratulates itself, about how important it is, quote,

    ... 'It is clear that those formulating new legislation value the input from Propertymark and indeed seek out information as to market activity and members views. Whilst a formal regulatory regime for the sector is as yet in the future, our strategy is to ensure Propertymark has a role in that future regulated world and will continue to be a regular presence at Government working groups specifically, amongst other aspects on Regulation.'

    My thoughts, it should immediately disclose how much money was paid to the HMRC, including no doubt a sum for interest, also was there a fine. Second it should apologise to the 17,000 members whose subscriptions went into paying off this huge error.

    Third, what role did the financial officer have and is their position tenable, fourth is the recent revolving door of those leaving in anyway connected to the VAT matter or is it other factors. Fifth, at this crucial crossroads in the pandemic new world of business, should this organisation be trusted to advise the government committees on what is appropriate, given its own inability to be financially compliant.

    Lastly, which accountancy firm does the books and have they been changed since the VAT debacle that stretched many years came into focus. If you hold a senior position - there comes with this the duties of that position, oversight and competency.

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    I could have sworn that David headed ARLA Propertymark but if this self styled 'real estate influencer' claims it was NAEA Propertymark then who are we to argue?!! Surely the overall financial irregularity - which we need to remember was discovered internally and not through an external investigation - was not the fault of the divisional heads but of the guy at the top , Chris Hamer and his entire board.

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    Just so I get this correct Rita, if you are a senior part of an organization, and a huge amount of VAT goes unpaid, for years and years, and if Propertymark stumble upon its massive mistake, before HMRC, this in some way is a good thing?

    This is the sort of double standard nonsense that Countrywide came forward with, when they had 10M of deposits in the wrong account, famously they said we brought it to the attention of the regulator as soon as we found it. Maybe the £125,000 fine that followed was a bit of a stiffener.

    What would be really useful to know is exactly how much VAT had not been paid, I have heard some very large figures being mentioned, and how much interest needed to be paid, and if there was a fine.

    Also, as VAT 'fraud' committed intentionally or unintentionally can result in incarceration, fine and or loss of the ability to be a director, should the whole board not be thinking it is time to move on, and as for the CFO and the accountants what if any action is being taken her.

    Lastly, if you take the time to read my comment I neither state David is of the NAEA camp or the ARLA camp, I make reference to the fact that whilst he was in post - the umbrella NAEA Propertymark group - the organisation - as a whole failed to function correctly with regard to its finances.

    I am pretty aware that Mark Hayward was the CEO of the NAEA, until he of course resigned a few weeks ago.

    The bigger question is - will the membership now expect an apology for being kept in the dark, and will the NAEA refrain from being an advisor to government committees whilst the ramifications of their transgressions are more fully explored.

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