A case of a rogue letting agent convicted of £200,000 worth of fraud involving deposits has been described as ‘stunning and alarming.’
Mr Timothy Shinners of Bolton failed to put any of the deposits he received from tenants into a tenancy deposit scheme over a six-year period. Instead, he spent the money himself.
Shockingly, the case went to private prosecution after the police failed to investigate.
A director at Platinum Properties in Bolton, Mr Shinner took at least £76,352 of company money. He was last week sentenced to three years behind bars and banned as acting as a director for the company for at least eight years.
The jury at Bolton Crown Court found Mr Shinner guilty of:
- Failing to comply with statutory requirements surrounding the registering of tenancy deposits in a Government approved scheme
- Fraudulently adapting tenancy protection documents to cover-up irregularities
The court heard that Shinners knowingly received deposits and did not transfer them into one the three Government approved schemes.
These deposits totalled at least £200,000 and were only registered and protected following a cash injection from another company director. This was described as an ‘act of decency’ by the Judge.
This matter was reported to the police, only for them to decline to investigate.
A police statement said: ‘There are fewer police officers investigating reports of fraud at a time when the volume of fraud is increasing significantly,’ citing difficult decision that, ‘may not be satisfactory to the victim.’
It added: ‘Due to the changing face of crime, we are not in a position to investigate each report of fraud.’
Case of letting agent fraud described as ‘shocking and alarming’
Deposit reform campaigner Ajay Jagota, founder of deposit-free renting platform Dlighted, offered his response to the case:
‘This case is stunning and alarming. £200,000 of fraud involving deposits taking place over six years – and not even the police could stop it. 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?
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.
What happens when the money supposedly held in a segregated account runs out? They evidence suggests that these companies close shop and go under. And where does that leave their landlords and tenants?
We keep a running total of the deposits crooked letting agents are convicted of stealing each year, and will be publishing figures for the second quarter of 2017 next week. But all the indications are that this year’s figure will exceed the £1m recorded last year. In a sector which many are desperate to raise standards these incidents which are far too frequent do little to demonstrate it is changing for the better.’