An estate agency in Leicester and it sole director have been expelled from RICS after losing an appeal against the original charges made against him last year at a panel hearing.
Richard Hopwood and his firm Acorn Lettings Midland Limited were accused by RICS of failing to adhere to the institution’s client account money handling rules.
The original RICS hearing in November last year heard that between 21st January 2016 and 28th February 2017 he transferred or instructed to be transferred £10,500 of client money to the office account of his company for the purposes of a ‘firm loan’ when he was not entitled to do so.
The disciplinary panel found that Hopwood showed either a lack of integrity or “reckless disregard for his professional obligations” when moving the funds.
It said he also failed “to act in a way that is consistent with his professional obligations in that he failed, in his capacity as the principal of the Firm, to ensure that [it] preserved the security of clients’ money entrusted to its care in the course of business”.
Hopwood and his firm faced expulsion from RICS and he appealed the decision under Rule 152 of the Disciplinary, Registration and Appeal Panel Rules 2009, arguing that the punishment was ‘disproportionate’ to the crime.
He also argued that he had an unblemished record prior to the incident, the money was repaid, there was no actual loss to the client, that his firm had been under financial pressure at the time and that he had both regretted the action and cooperated with the inquiry.
These arguments have now been heard but the disciplinary panel dismissed his appeal, making an order that Hopwood contribute towards RICS costs both for the original hearing and the investigation.
Read the appeal decision in full.