A campaigner who has spent a small fortune brining a rogue agent to book has voiced his frustration that after so many years, the legislation designed to keep bad apples out of the industry remains so weak.
Stephen Laycock, who until recently worked as an estate agent in and around Bolton in Lancashire, says he is astounded that rogue agent Timothy Shinners is still able to work as an estate agent despite being jailed for three years in 2017.
Shinners (pictured) was convicted of stealing £80,000 both in rental deposits from tenants and cash from a company he was a director of until 2015, Fuseon Ltd trading as Platinum Properties, following a private prosecution funded by Laycock, who was also a director of the company.
After the fraud came to light, Laycock paid £30,000 out of his own pocket for the lost deposits to be replaced and lodged correctly with an authorised deposit scheme. This, along with the costs of the court case, mean he has spent nearly £300,000 bringing the rogue agent to book.
Shinners, who was 32 years old at the time, was also banned from being a director for eight years but after being released from prison early, has continued to work in the industry, most recently for an online agency.
But despite having been convicted of fraud, Shinners’ crimes were committed prior to the range of measures introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to tackle rogue letting agents and therefore cannot be included.
Therefore, as he has been served with a prohibition order under the 1979 Estates Agency Act and cannot act as a sales agent, he is free continue as a letting agent.
Laycock, who is currently attempting to enforce one of the many County Court Judgements outstanding against Shinners, says he is astonished that agents who have been jailed for fraud are able to continue working in the industry and are falling in between the legislative cracks.
The Negotiator put Laycock’s points to Propertymark.
“We are aware of this situation and it’s appalling,” Mark Hayward (left), Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark and David Cox, Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymark, said in a joint statement.
“We have lobbied and canvassed for this legislation to be changed but to no avail.
“Ultimately, it’s an endorsement for the introduction of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) so that if a sale or lettings agent is banned from operating, they can be revoked across both sides of the industry.
“The process should be there to safeguard the consumer and unfortunately, at the moment, it is not.”