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Written by rosalind renshaw

Yet another letting agent has shut up shop leaving tenants concerned about tens of thousands of pounds in deposits. The agent in question had been a member of both NALS and the SAFEagent scheme.

Spencer Knight, in the upmarket Cheshire town of Wilmslow, was dissolved last Tuesday.

A notice to have Spencer Knight struck off was published in the London Gazette on March 13.

Yesterday, SAFEagent  confirmed that Spencer Knight was part of its scheme until May 10, at which time the firm’s registration was terminated. On the same date, its NALS licence was terminated.
 
Isobel Thomson, CEO of NALS, which administers the SAFEagent campaign, said: “Neither SAFEagent or NALS have received any inquiries from either landlords or tenants in respect of this agency. It is believed that Spencer Knight’s business portfolio may have been acquired by another company.”

She also said: “Anyone who believes that their deposits are missing should contact the TDS, of whom we understand the firm was a member, to seek reimbursement of their funds.

“They should also report the matter to the police.”

Under the SAFEagent scheme, agents must have client money protection insurance, which is obtainable only via membership of one of the trade bodies or the National Approved Letting Scheme itself.

The firm had been run by a husband and wife team, Jonathan Singh and Helen Bunch.

However, the pair split up, and Ms Bunch, who had been managing director, resigned her directorship at Spencer Knight last September, and is said to have physically left early this year. She now runs her own agency in Wilmslow called Benson Bunch.

Lettings specialist Rob Smith went to work at Spencer Knight this March, taking on a consultancy role.

Smith, whose own lettings agency is called Inhabit, said: “Mr Singh knew nothing about lettings, so I went to help out – doing the marketing, handling viewings and finding tenants, and so on.

“As soon as I did a spot audit, I realised there was a problem.”

Smith says he immediately warned Singh to put matters right, before leaving the company at the end of April.

He estimates that around £200,000 worth of deposits had been held by Spencer Knight, and said he is now being ‘bombarded’ by tenants demanding to know where their money is.

The management portfolio of Spencer Knight was taken over by Lime Lettings in Wilmslow, whose managing director Peter Luscombe said that the case underlined the need for all letting agents to be mandatorily licensed.

Luscombe, who is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, said he had paid no money for the management portfolio of around 30 properties, but had taken it over on the basis that he would sort out all the problems, audit the accounts and re-protect deposits wherever possible.

He estimated that around £60,000 worth of deposits were unaccounted for within that portfolio, and said he was working closely with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme which has written to some 90 people, telling them that the agent is no longer a member and that their deposits will no longer be protected from September 1.

The lets he has taken on are for between £1,000 and £5,000 a month.

Luscombe said: “This case really shows the need for compulsory regulation of all agents. Financial institutions are not allowed to hold people’s money without being licensed, so why should letting agents be any different?

“In my view, only ARLA agents are currently properly regulated. We have to have our accounts fully audited every year. It is a pain, but at least it reassures our clients.”

Helen Bunch was invited to comment but declined. She earlier told the Manchester Evening News: “He [Jonathan Singh] shouldn’t have any trouble with the finance. There was no problem when I was there. I have no idea what’s happened to their money.”

We were unable to make contact with Singh, who is understood to have been ill.

Ben Beadle, head of member relations for the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, said: “Obviously the Tenancy Deposit Scheme can safeguard the deposits of those tenants who have been registered with the Scheme, whether by the agent or the landlord.

“Where tenants are registered, we make every effort to ensure they know their position and what they need to do to protect themselves.

“All registered tenants are covered until September 1, and provided they respond to our letters as they have been asked to do, they will be covered until the end of their tenancy if it is later than that. Any of Spencer Knight’s tenant clients with specific concerns should contact us.”

The fact that a notice was published in the London Gazette on March 13 calls into question the ability of the different organisations involved to monitor the financial health and viability of their member firms. Spencer Knight was dissolved on June 26.

It is understood that the police have been made aware of the case.

* See also today’s blog by Steve Harriott, who says that if the Government won’t act, then the industry must

Comments

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    I was a tenant of property arranged through Spencer Knight. The landlord told me my deposit was protected by the agent through TDS. I have a Certificate of Tenancy Registration which names the landlord and myself as being the protected parties.

    My tenancy finished in December 2012, whereupon the landlord told me to contact TDS to get my deposit back. He did not know that Spencer Knight paid into an insurance scheme as opposed to placing the deposit in a custodial scheme. TDS said that the period of grace ended on September 26th 2012 and that they were no longer protecting my deposit. They said that they had written to me before the termination date to give me warning and that I had not replied. Had I seen the letter i would most certainly have replied. Neither did they contact the landlord as they said they did not have his address. Given that his name is on the contract I consider it remiss of them not to have contacted him.
    I consider it negligence on their part that they did not make more effort to contact me and am now considering action through the small claims court. A recorded delivery letter should have been the minimum precaution to ensure that I was aware of the situation.
    If folk have not claimed within the three months grace period that is a bonus for TDS.
    My understanding is that the landlord is still responsible for returning my deposit, but he is a decent man and the people who are failing in their obligations are TDS.

    • 20 February 2013 12:29 PM
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    Has anyone had the balls to Speak to Peter Luscombe about this, everyone who claims to be "industry experts: seems to be anonymous!!! I am sure that he would put you straight on your comments / thoughts.. From where I am sat it looks like Lime Lettings have stepped in and saved the day, I am a landlord with a property that was with Spencer Knight, Lime Lettings have done a fantastic job in rectifying a very bad situation. From what I understand they have just had an ARLA compliance audit which they passed. I am sure Peter would be happy to speak to anyone who has any questions for him. Lime Lettings are a credit to the Lettings industry!

    • 06 August 2012 22:56 PM
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    I dont want to risk getting sued - but come on guys - hasn't anyone else worked this out? Should now be filed under 'worth a try'

    • 10 July 2012 17:09 PM
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    Why is the audit a pain? We just handover keys to accounts and leave them to it. We know all is in order

    • 06 July 2012 10:49 AM
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    There is something about this whole story which just doesn't add up - and I am not referring to the clients account

    Its all too convenient - portfolio 'sold' for nothing - missing money, but not one claim, and an ARLA sound bite combined with a pop at SAFE.

    Very curious indeed

    • 06 July 2012 08:59 AM
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    I wonder what the Landlords feel about their business being transferred for nothing. Buying a business is one thing - transferring clients from one company to another.....

    • 06 July 2012 08:43 AM
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    The simple fact is that NO ONE has lost money according to all reports which if anything endorses the SAFE membership - the subject agent was a a member and it appears that the money was safe as well.

    What is the issue other than hypothetical speculation.

    • 06 July 2012 08:27 AM
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    The simple fact is that NO ONE has lost money according to all reports which if anything endorses the SAFE membership - the subject agent was a a member and it appears that the money was safe as well.

    What is the issue other than hypothetical speculation.

    • 06 July 2012 08:27 AM
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    All this talk about SAFE and the mixing of the actual people who provide CMP (RICS, NALS, ARLA)

    In my understanding SAFE is a marketing organisation. They exist only to ensure that those that are authorised to use the SAFE collective common logo are indeed in possession of current membership of one of the providers. If they do not do that it is useless.

    SAFE can do nothing other than supervise their membership and use of the logo and if necessary withdraw permission to use it. Claimants have to approach the providers?

    • 05 July 2012 14:26 PM
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    The TDP concept, including the legislation, encourages the public (and the industry) to believe that tenancy deposits are fully protected in all circumstances. Obviously the custodial scheme is the purest form of protection. If you allow the industry, with its own vested interests (agents and landlord organisation) to own and run schemes that are backed by 'insurance', then they must 'fail safe'. There should never be circumstances where the tenants position is compromised by the failure of TDP and CMP. The Law demands that the landlord bears the ultimate responsibility for the safety of those funds - there should be no ability for a TDP scheme to 'unprotect'.

    • 04 July 2012 12:11 PM
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    @ eromallid

    I don't think any of the TDP providers would be keen to renew their contractsa if they ever thought they would have to pay out on something like this, so while I think the basis of your suggestion is good, I doubt it will ever happen.

    We had a large unregulated agent go bust here in Milton Keynes in March/April last year. The figures involved haven't been released to the general public yet but they are truly astounding; makes this look one look like penny pinching. Both co owners have been made bankrupt, no one got any money back.

    All the deposits had been registered with one of the insurance based schemes but the LA was kicked out about a year before they went bust. The scheme didn't write to ONE single landlord and very few of the tenants by all accounts; they left it to the agent to pass on the news and, suprise suprise, he didn't let on.

    We tried to help half a dozen tenants claim but they were all rejected on the grounds that they company was no longer covered.

    • 04 July 2012 10:59 AM
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    I think this only goes to prove that:-

    a) having been included in a CLG approved 'insured' TDP scheme, there should be no mechanism whereby a tenants depost can be 'unprotected'. The TDP scheme having issued the prescribed information should deal with the shortfal in the first instance and then recover from the CMP or landlord.

    b) There is significant merit in the TDP provider being insured by the same underwriters as the 'regulators' CMP provider - as is the case with RICS, ARLA, NAEA, - all shareholders in TDS Ltd.

    • 04 July 2012 09:56 AM
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    Latest collapsed letting firm was also a cub scout once.

    • 03 July 2012 18:44 PM
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    In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories....

    • 03 July 2012 17:54 PM
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    Peter Luscombe 26 says: "“In my view, only ARLA agents are currently properly regulated"

    This view is: flawed / naive / ignorant.*

    * Delete as appropriate.

    • 03 July 2012 16:16 PM
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    Malcolm Harrison, from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, said: “In these circumstances we believe very firmly that people should always use letting agents who have a client money protection scheme.

    The begs lots of questions.

    When was the 1st September deadline imposed?

    When did NALS become aware of the Gazette Notice and how?

    Did the TDS fail to communicate or did NALS fail to act?

    When did the TDS write to Landlords & tenants?

    How many deposits are unprotected and unregistered?

    When did Lime Lettings take over and to whom did they report apparent shortfalls?

    What happened to the money and over what time-scale?

    • 03 July 2012 15:59 PM
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    A bit of a sensationalist headline here. I suspect more of a TDS issue than a SAFE one - what action did TDS take after 1st September and why this cut off date?

    In those 2 question lie the key.

    This isn't about SAFE, NALS or ARLA, its about what was the trigger and what action was taken to protect consumers.

    Ms Bunch left around September & will have the answers.

    Clearly something happened around this date which lead to her departure, the sale of the management portfolio and the TDS date.

    • 03 July 2012 15:50 PM
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    I respectfully suggest we wait until the dust has settled and see if anyone has actually lost money or whether the mechanisms in place have actually worked. If they haven't then its the proper time for a post mortem.

    Its simply insane to start blaming people for failings - they have been many ARLA agents whose clients have made claims on CMP. How is this different?

    • 03 July 2012 15:42 PM
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    Well, I am truly shocked.

    I was expecting Mr Potter to announce "This is why we recommend using only a Licensed ARLA agent" - I hope he is OK?

    • 03 July 2012 15:22 PM
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    How is this for an idea - start a Letting agents Crimestoppers with a task force of auditors ready to do spot checks when frequent complaints are made about the same firm.

    I have a friend who worked for a firm who has 'dipped in' to the clients account (an ARLA agent) and who reported it to trading standards - nothing happened. They have now left ARLA, BUT landlords who instructed this firm did so in the belief their money was OK - it isn't. It's a time bomb

    • 03 July 2012 15:13 PM
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    Why can't all these regulators, organisations and bodies just join in one voice, share intelligence and work together. I absolutely include Companies House in this as well as Trading Standards and OFT.

    • 03 July 2012 15:09 PM
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    Harry H

    There are only three parties who think more than one Custodial scheme is needed - the other two insured ones and CLG!!

    • 03 July 2012 14:56 PM
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    @Petetong - its a valid point - but there is more to the regulators than simply protecting deposits - that said - I agree - one custodial scheme would be a good idea.

    • 03 July 2012 14:43 PM
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    Please can we revert to one custodial deposit scheme then that 'hand in the till' job can be removed.

    In respect of the rents, the only way is to educate landlords about ensuring they have contact details of THEIR tenant and the common sense to check their bank statements for rental payments. Dont forget the tenant will NOT lose if the agent runs off with the money as it will be deemed as the landlord having received the rent.

    Personally you can ditch ARLA NALS and SafeAgent in the nearest bin

    • 03 July 2012 14:16 PM
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    Its people like Peter Luscombe who cause confusion by suggesting his pet trade association is the ONLY true regulator.

    If he switched from ARLA to RICS he would find out how much tougher their checks and audits are.

    I assume Luscombe discharged his duty of care and reported his finding to the proper authorities rather than waited until some free 'knight in shining armour PR' to come his way.

    • 03 July 2012 14:15 PM
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    Having CMP is not an indication that an agent will not get into trouble. Nor is being a member of any regulatory body.

    It's what happens next which is indicative and until someone demonstrates who has lost how much and why, many of these comments are purely speculative and misinformed.

    This is sad event, not a ARLA v NALS v RICS points scoring exercise.

    Members of all regulatory bodies have gone bust. Banks have gone bust.

    So have Lehman Brothers and General Motors - even countries have gone bust. It happens.

    Don't point the finger until you have the facts.

    • 03 July 2012 14:10 PM
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    Another agent with lots of 'Scout' badges goes under. Is this really news. The non custodial schemes drop their responsibilities as soon as they can and the affiliation scheme expels them. Who is taking responsibility for sorting it out? If you want a scheme, give it teath and make it responsible for backing up what the agent will be telling their customers. eg. Use us Mr customer because we are safe and protected!' But only to a point!

    • 03 July 2012 14:05 PM
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    It seems to me that the agent concerned didnt pay their quarterly subscription to the TDS and as a result - all future tenants and landlords were simply abandoned.

    Surely, the TDS should have reported the issue to Trading Standards or the OFT and sent an alert to the CMP provider, in this case NALS.

    If cover ceases, so must trading in the absence of a replacement scheme.

    Also, one thing no one has mentioned - what about the effect on the landlords who tenants deposits may not have been registered. Just a thought.

    • 03 July 2012 13:59 PM
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    I am livid. Really.

    Luscombe said: “This case really shows the need for compulsory regulation of all agents. Financial institutions are not allowed to hold people’s money without being licensed, so why should letting agents be any different?

    Er - Banks are a great Example Peter. Next you will be asking the tax-payer to bail out the agent - or arrange a cartel to manipulate commission rates perhaps?

    “In my view, only ARLA agents are currently properly regulated. We have to have our accounts fully audited every year. It is a pain, but at least it reassures our clients.”

    Really? Clearly you nothing about RICS (far more invasive, spot audits) and the Law society. ARLA agents never go bust - no one have ever claimed on ARLA's CMP - WRONG.

    And, Peter, if you are such a bloody expert, when did you report these missing deposits to the CMP provider? Or to SAFE agent?

    Or are you part of ARLA's PR team - there has to one somewhere.

    • 03 July 2012 13:51 PM
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    Just ONE minute. Read between the lines here chaps.

    TDS said: "“All registered tenants are covered until September 1, and provided they respond to our letters as they have been asked to do, they will be covered until the end of their tenancy if it is later than that. Any of Spencer Knight’s tenant clients with specific concerns should contact us.”"

    That implies their membership of the TDS ceased on this date - oddly the date of the quarterly payment. If tenants depsoist were not protected after this date, why did it take the TDS so long to act and what action did they take and when?

    I can't see how SAFE are to blame. I think this matter needs to be investigated rather than used a political gain.

    • 03 July 2012 13:40 PM
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    @Denise: I have never read such tripe.

    "Much as it grieves me to say it - ARLA membership is the only truly safe way to prove to the public that you are trustworthy."

    Really? We have an agent nearby who is known to have a shortfall on the Clients account - we know this as we tried to buy them. 2 out of 3 front line staff in their nearest office have the ARLA badge. They do not have CMP. FACT.

    They are renowned as late payers of rents as they rob Peter to pay Paul.

    I object strongly as an ARLA licensed member that they use this logo to convince landlords they offer the same as we do. I have raised this at regional meeting and am told "Yes, its confusing and we are reviewing it" BUT STILL it goes on.

    On top of that, ask ARLA how many CMP claims they have. They wont tell you - but if you were correct - the answer would be "NONE".

    Take the splinter out of your own eye.

    • 03 July 2012 13:36 PM
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    How in all that is holy can anyone point the finger at SAFE. At the time of registration - the agent had CMP and would have been the subject of accounts vetting and had a ring-fenced clients account. SAFE kicked them out before this hit the press and not long after the gazette announcement.

    If tenants lose out, then it makes a mockery of the TDS allowing agents to hold onto monies in the first place. The same could happen with any NFoPP member and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous and self serving.

    • 03 July 2012 13:30 PM
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    Surely the focus here is on the CMP provider - not a body who endorses the fact that the agent correctly had CMP - a body which identified issues and withdrew the said accreditation.

    Its the TDS who are there to safeguard deposits and, as far as we know, no one has as yet lost out.

    Frankly this seems a non story targeted at undermining the immense work SAFE has done in raising awareness.

    The reason none of the ARLA agent mentioned who went bust got headlines is, frankly, in no small part due to the inadequacy of the ARLA PR machine and lack of consumer awareness over this important issue.

    • 03 July 2012 13:27 PM
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    I dont remember much negative PR when Eleys Management, a residential letting and management agency based in Lincolnshire, collapsed and Arla confirmed that over £150,000 had gone missing.

    Odd that

    • 03 July 2012 12:56 PM
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    Surely the fact SAFE expelled them in May shows that such things are monitored. Couple that with the TDS writing and advising contracting parties and this becomes a non stroy seized by anti the SAFE brigade.

    How many on here are having a pop at the TDS?

    • 03 July 2012 12:52 PM
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    Agent with CMP goes bust is rather like saying Insured driver crashes.

    Has anyone said yet that claims have been dismissed? No.

    Have any claims been filed with NALS? No.

    Does this denigrate the SAFE agent status or reinforce it?

    Have ARLA agents ever gone bust? Yes. Lots of them.

    Another example: "We rented our home out 3 months ago as we were going to Australia. We entered into an agreement with Lassiters or Sandhurst to rent out house out (managaged service) which they did. We have not received any money from Lassiters and they have now stopped answering calls or emails. We contacted the TDS (who the deposit should have been bonded with) and they had no record of the Deposit. We can't even phone ARLA as they only have an 0844 number as far as I can tell which is no good for me out in Melbourne."

    • 03 July 2012 12:50 PM
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    Sorry thick again but all this talk about what date membership ceased of whatever, and September 1st etc.

    If this firm paid their subs say in January for this calendar year, and the 'misdemeanours' if there are any and whatever money went missing during that year, or at least before they were expelled from membership, why is there any time limit or cut off date for claims on the cmp policy?

    Surely if NALS and TDS start messing about and denying liability for any of the recompense on this it is going to be a disaster for the whole industry and the credibility of cmp and deposit protection insurance generally- never mind the "told you so" SAFE critics gleefully posting here.

    • 03 July 2012 12:37 PM
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    This was reported in the Manchester Evening News around 2 weeks ago and there were tenants and landlords out of pocket.

    • 03 July 2012 12:30 PM
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    It would be very interesting to know when the Client Cash Account was last Audited and what the results were.

    Not being a Nals member- is there a requirement to have the Client account audited for NALS or SAFE?

    If this is a problem that existed before MS Bunch left the firm and therefore occurred partly during her stint as MD I think I would question whether she is a fit and proper person to be running a new firm in the same industry. Certainly if I were Isobel Thomson or on the Safe steering group I would be keeping a very close eye on the new firm too , perhaps a spot audit there wouldn't go amiss

    • 03 July 2012 12:22 PM
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    “In my view, only ARLA agents are currently properly regulated. We have to have our accounts fully audited every year. It is a pain, but at least it reassures our clients.”

    UMMMM...Don't NALS and RICS agents also have to get their accounts audited at least once a year.

    • 03 July 2012 12:15 PM
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    Someone correct me if I am wrong but all this talk about TDS and protection is a little misplaced isn't it? Let's remember the money is not held by TDS only an insurance policy and again correct me but wasn't there some hoo ha a while ago that this policy was there to protect the Landlord/agent, NOT the tenant or their money?

    TDS unless I am very wrong will not be paying out any money to these tenants. I do not have time today to scrutinise their rules on this aspect but the last time I did when you read what the insurance did and who could claim on it and under what circumstances it made surprising reading.

    For example presumably the agent is the insured - or is it the Landlord (bearing in mind it is the tenant's money).

    Suggest someone has a good look and quickly!!

    • 03 July 2012 12:13 PM
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    @Denise

    ARLA is no proof you are trust worthy. You can still hold all the tenant’s deposits in your client account as ARLA recommend you use the TDS which allows you to do this. You can then just transfer by one click of a button and transfer all those monies to your own private account. No-one can stop you! However it is called Fraud!

    Lassiters in Sandhurst, Camberley are living proof that even ARLA members run off with client money. They disappeared last year with all the deposits and 3 months of rent for about 50 properties. One landlord I spoke to said ARLA said the investigation will take about a year before they see any of their money which is not guaranteed.
    I pretended to be a tenant and contacted ARLA to say I had just paid £360 in Admin fees for referencing and they said the client money protection that Lassiters paid ARLA for did not cover tenant's even though I would have had to transfer that money to their client account!

    ARLA IS NOT WORTH BEING A MEMBER OF AS IT IS DOWN TO THE OWNER IF HE OR SHE IS HONEST OR NOT.

    • 03 July 2012 12:12 PM
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    TO ALL MEMBERS THE ARLA LYNCH-MOB TRADE ASSOCIATION


    I just dug out this tit bit regarding a local agent:

    Seems that people in glass houses have short memories.

    "Riverside Property Management, trading as Riverside Housing, Canvey Island, Essex, shut up shop last Wednesday after asking landlords awaiting rent payments to come back later in the day. When they called at the office in Furtherwick Road, the doors were locked – later, a sign was put up saying the firm has ceased trading.

    The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and the Tenants Dispute Service both confirm landlords and tenants have complained about missing cash.
    David Oliver, ARLA compliance officer said: “We have already got some claims registered and we have had many more enquires.”

    NOTE: NALS and SAFE have received NO claims.

    • 03 July 2012 11:58 AM
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    Thank God you lot aren't on Jury service.

    You have tried and executed SAFE agent with any evidence that those affected aren't covered by the CMP which was in place!! Did you not see that NALS has not received ONE claim?

    Cries of 'Burn them' seem a little premature.

    • 03 July 2012 11:53 AM
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    @missing the point - Hang on!! ARLA sent out a leaflet saying 'Only use and ARLA member' not mentioning other regulators including their sister organisation at NAEA - then allow individual members to use the logo and initials without having ANY CMP!!

    Double standards or what?

    • 03 July 2012 11:51 AM
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    Frankly this is a lot of hearsay and conjecture. Who is the source of this concern?; an ex employee. The ex MD says she is not aware there is an issue and Mr Singh has been ill. Is it not suppsed to be innocent until proven guilty?

    • 03 July 2012 11:45 AM
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    The only way to prevent this from happening again is to be totally transparent in how we do business.

    The only scheme that is offering any credibility now is Allagents transparent agent scheme.

    NO AGENT that knows they have been up to no good would consider signing up and if they did then the warning signs would be in the public domain for all to see.

    it is becoming clear to the public now that learning from previous customer experiences will one day eliminate this problem once and for all.

    • 03 July 2012 11:36 AM
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    Denise and Missing the point.
    Being members of Arla's toothless tigers club, does not make you better than a safe agent or a nals agent.
    Its all about the people who run letting agencies and their ability of getting up in the morning and coming into their office and dealing with the public fairly.

    you fail to get out of bed then you fail regardless who you are a member of.
    Its called work!!
    If it was easy then it would be called something else.......

    • 03 July 2012 10:21 AM
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    @ Ric

    The fine system is in place but not implemented - not even by the courts as too many precedents have been set which stops the fines.

    Another government led toothless law.

    Anyone goes bust they just wave 2 fingers at anyone not happy. Life is a bitch!

    • 03 July 2012 10:10 AM
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    The difference between ARLA and SAFEagent going bust is that SAFE are publicy promoting that consumers should only work with an agent that is a SAFEmembers

    Here is a quote from their wesite "WARNING your money may be at risk..."

    How true a statement that is!!!

    Time to scrap it before NOW before the whole industry is brought under scrutiny like the banks have!

    BRAVO to ARLA for not endorsing this

    • 03 July 2012 09:59 AM
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    Let's just remember that ARLA is a trade association whose members suffer the same fate on occasions.

    • 03 July 2012 09:31 AM
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    Denise. ARLA agents go bust too.

    • 03 July 2012 09:24 AM
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    Schadenfreude. Nothing more other than lack of understanding and the petty politics which have fractured this industry.

    • 03 July 2012 09:22 AM
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    Much as it grieves me to say it - ARLA membership is the only truly safe way to prove to the public that you are trustworthy. If only ARLA supported their members more by regularly publicising the reasons why landlords should only use ARLA Members - that would make the costs involved in Membership a bit easier to swallow!

    If you check out "SAFEagent" on google you will see that it is "supported" by loads of professional bodies (not ARLA!) incl TDS and Ombudsman. Are they all deluded? Anyone with half a brain should have realised that this was yet another case of smoke and mirrors.

    • 03 July 2012 09:22 AM
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    Time for a centralised insurance fund.

    • 03 July 2012 09:19 AM
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    It will be interesting to see how NALS reacts to landlord or tenant wanting to claim on the CMP; I'm willing to bet it will be "sorry, they were not members at the point they went under"

    This will be another Kings of Brighton fiasco when landlords tried claiming on the old ARLA fidelity bond in the 90's

    • 03 July 2012 09:16 AM
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    I agree with comment below. Custodial schemes should me mandatory and agents should be fined for delayed payment into the same.

    • 03 July 2012 09:14 AM
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    We had local ARLA agent go bust. Some deposits weren't registered. Money was lost. It never made the press. Odd that ARLA members focus on safe rather than the CMP provider and deposit scheme whose job it is to protect deposits.

    • 03 July 2012 09:12 AM
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    @missing the point. If the agent had CMP and deposits were registered isn't that the 'point?'

    • 03 July 2012 09:09 AM
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    Agent goes bust but has CMP. Isn't that better than the alternative?

    The fact SAFE, Nals and TDS took action proves a mechanism IS in place

    • 03 July 2012 09:06 AM
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    SAFE, ARLA, NALS, CMP, audits, regulation and licensing are all b*ll*cks and will not stop crims doing the above.

    Locking the perps up for 10 years will end it.

    I doubt he will even become a disqualified director.

    The UK is rapidly turning into Nigeria.

    • 03 July 2012 09:06 AM
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    what about all those poor tenants and landlords that got sucked in believing that their money was SAFE?????

    It is morally wrong to mislead the public like this.

    • 03 July 2012 09:05 AM
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    Mr Luscombe's comments here are truly outrageous and show his own limited and blinkered view of the residential lettings market.

    I am not a member of ARLA, and have absolutely no intention of ever being so. Yet my accounts have just undergone a most rigourous examination by the RICS regulation team.

    I am quite insulted by Mr Luscombe's comment and hope that he will be man enough to put the record straight.

    PS It would also be helpful to see someone from RICS putting all these wonderful ARLA members fully in the picture.

    • 03 July 2012 09:02 AM
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    A lot more people were protected because they were in a 'club' than had they not been. Warnings were issued.

    The ONLY solution is custodial schemes. Sorted

    • 03 July 2012 08:55 AM
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    Fair play to Nals for commenting. There are many ARLA firms in the same boat - but they won't comment.

    It's time for people to stop being petty and all work together and frankly grow up.

    • 03 July 2012 08:53 AM
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    If you read things properly you will see in less than 8 weeks from gazette notice appearing, TDS wrote to all parties, safe terminated membership as did NALS. What more can they do? Even ARLA only discover shortfalls at annual audit!!

    Do you think Nals should employ tarot cards or hold a seance? These things happen. That's what CMP is for.

    • 03 July 2012 08:50 AM
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    God the vultures are our in force. These agents had CMP. Isn't that the point? When an ARLA agent goes bust - what's the difference other than safe doesn't promise to be the bastion of standards. Why is no one bemoaning the TDS who have the same requirements as safe?

    • 03 July 2012 08:45 AM
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    6th paragraph

    Why would approaching TDS get any tenant anywhere in getting their deposit back - the Landlord is personally liable to the tenant and then sues the (penniless) agent.

    • 03 July 2012 08:40 AM
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    See - it makes not a jot of difference how many 'clubs' you belong to if the man or woman at the helm is a crook then money will go walk about and all the regulation in the world will not stop it.

    This is no surprise to me and many others who trade with honesty.

    • 03 July 2012 08:30 AM
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    Full licensing with annual auditing of accounts is the only way forward - there is too much of other peoples money at stake. Those who oppose more control probably have something to hide. Pity someone from Safeagent doesn't check the London Gazette.

    • 03 July 2012 08:22 AM
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    Well, well, well...

    I always said SAFE was a marketing tool and nothing more - just look at some of the members.

    I had our accountant look at the balance sheet of one high profile member. He couldn't see how they were still in business. Intangible assets = worthless.

    Hundreds of journos across the UK just cut and paste SAFE's sanctimonious press releases over the last year, without any any interrogation of the scheme's practical worth and validity.

    Nice logo though.

    • 03 July 2012 08:14 AM
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    We have no entered into dangerous territory here. This is one of the most astonishing stories i have read for a long time!

    The safeagent scheme MUST go now before the industry is brought further into disrepute

    • 03 July 2012 07:49 AM
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