Newmarket letting agent prosecuted for fraudulent trading
Suffolk Trading Standards has successfully secured the conviction of a Newmarket business owner who left his victims out of pocket by over £80,000.
Francis Smart, proprietor of Smart Residential Letting Agents, pleaded guilty to two counts in respect of retaining rent and deposits under the S1 Fraud Act 2006 at Ipswich Crown Court today, Friday 12 August.
Mr Smart, aged 46, from Dowding Avenue, Cambridge, will be sentenced at a later date after officers from Suffolk Trading Standards, along with colleagues from the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigations Team, began investigating him and Smart Residential in Autumn 2018.
This was in response to numerous complaints from landlords and tenants who were unable to make contact with the company after its premises on 5B Wellington Street, Newmarket, closed in July 2018, leaving them out of pocket and without answers.
A spokesperson for Suffolk Trading Standards said:
“Many of these landlords entrusted Smart Residential with their rental properties, and to hold tenancy deposits on their behalf.
“By law, these deposits should have been placed into a Deposit Protection Scheme – offering protection to tenants in the event of a landlord or letting agency facing financial difficulties. We believe that Mr Smart failed to use this scheme, resulting in substantial losses for his victims.
“We spoke to over 30 witnesses, with numerous landlords telling us that they didn’t receive rental income and had to refund tenancy deposits out of their own pocket. This resulted in individual losses ranging from £700 to over £8,000 and an estimated total loss in excess of £80,000."
Since 6 April 2007, a deposit must be placed in a tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of the landlord receiving it. Landlords should also provide the tenant with information about where their deposit is held.
Cllr Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Public Protection, commented:
“This successful prosecution sends a very clear message to business owners, like Mr Smart, that fraudulent trading will not be tolerated in Suffolk.
“His actions led to countless landlords being significantly out of pocket, causing immeasurable personal and financial stress – and highlighting the importance of ensuring that any rental deposit is placed into a Deposit Protection Scheme.
“I’d like to thank officers from Trading Standards, and the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigations Team, for their incredible work on this complex case, along with everyone who provided information to enable this investigation to be brought to court and to see justice done.”
Anyone who suspects that an individual or business is fraudulently trading can report their suspicions in confidence by contacting Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133.