A property campaigner has described the case of a letting agent only convicted of £200,000 of deposit fraud involving deposits following a private prosecution after police decided not to investigate as “stunning and alarming”.
A court heard Timothy Shinners of Bolton failed to place deposits in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme “time and time again” over a six year period -spending the money himself.
A fellow company director at Platinum Properties, Bolton, invested £200,000 to cover DPS money which had gone missing.
Evidence showed Shinners took at least £76,352 of company money.
Deposit reform campaigner Ajay Jagota commented: “how many more times does this need to happen before something is done?”
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 scheme.
- 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 DPS 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” by the Judge.
The director had earlier reported the matter to the police, only for police to decline to investigate as “there are fewer police officers investigating reports of fraud at a time when the volume of fraud is increasing significantly” necessitating “difficult decisions” which may not be “satisfactory to the victim”.
A police statement admitted: Due to the changing face of crime, we are not in a position to investigate each report of fraud
Deposit reform campaigner Ajay Jagota, founder of deposit-free renting solution Dlighted responded to the case.
He said: “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 with our traditional rent deposit scheme. 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.”