Both landlords and tenants are at risk from lettings agents and estate agents who disappear with rent and deposit money. A kitemark-style scheme has been launched to reassure tenants and landlords worried about losing money handed over.
The scheme is backed by organisations including housing charity Shelter, the NUS, the Trading Standards Institute, the Residential Landlords Association and the British Property Federation.
In practice landlords are more at risk from rogue agents than tenants – tenants need to ensure their money goes to the genuine owner of the property that they are going to live in, Landlords need to ensure that the business handling their money is protecting it in a client account rather than using it to fund their own activities.
During 2007 & 2008 someone claiming to be Joanne Pier/Zoe Fletcher claimed that her father had made money in property and the diamond trade, and that her grandfather had built South Africa’s Sun City development – she approached Ashdown Lyons Chartered Surveyors asking for valuations on a large number of residential properties including Belvedere House, Pimlico.
Mary-Jane Rathie, a senior surveyor at Ashdown Lyons, allegedly overvalued these top London properties in return for £900,000 plus a Bentley Continental and a Range Rover Sport, together worth nearly £200,000 which were both registered in the name of her husband David, 47, a Metropolitan Police officer with the central London traffic unit.
Ms Pier obtained more than £10 million of loans, based on valuations by Rathie, and has since left the country and cannot be found.
In February 2009 Ashdown Lyons was placed into adminstration with all staff made redundant, in total 60 staff lost their jobs, 35 surveyors and 25 administrative staff.
What lessons do you think we can draw from this sad & sorry tale?
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of “action” or “deed”, understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect, originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies. In Indian beliefs, the karmic effects of all deeds are viewed as actively shaping past, present, and future experiences. The results or ‘fruits’ of actions are called karma-phala. In Western thought processes Karma can be expressed as “What goes around comes around”, and also as a natural balance of the Universe. Melissa Cohen – when being fired from The Apprentice – hissed that her competitors would get their comeuppance “when the balance of the Universe was restored”.
The online property world is currently buzzing with the closure of the Property Forum Singing Pig, Liquidation of the Portfolio Building Company Rapid Property, and the Bankruptcy of their owner Phil Martin. Several who have met Phil have spoken up in his defence, saying what a nice guy he is. Others have countered that by saying that successful scammers have to appear nice for their scams to work. There seem to be many who paid five figure sums in advance for Rapid Property’s services, only to lose their money, and they quite naturally are outraged and distraught.
There are others who operate similar businesses to Rapid Property – some or all of:
setting up legal contracts,
managing property portfolios,
All currently trading in this area are very keen to demonstrate the difference between how they operate, and how Rapid Property ran it’s business.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of Portfolio Building the concept is as follows:
A Portfolio Building Company sources “BMV” Properties. BMV stands for Below Market Value, and most often the property is acquired below what it is worth because it is owned by a “Motivated Seller” – an industry euphemism for someone who is desperate. Typical motivations can be:
Suicide in the Property making it unlivable for the survivors.
The property was inherited and they want nothing to do with it.
Owners are ill, in poor health, elderly, retired or disabled.
Having acquired a property for less than it is worth, it can be Mortgaged for it’s full value, with the intention that the Investor can now withdraw the deposit that they used to buy the house, and use it to repeat the process. Rapid Property offered to build a portfolio of £1,000,000 worth of houses for a down payment of £50,000. The houses would of course be mortgaged, and the interest on the mortgages would need to be covered from renting the properties.
Some would consider that building a property portfolio based on the misfortune of others was morally unsound. Others would argue that the BMV purchaser isn’t the cause of the misfortune, but part of the solution of the problem.
Image by freebird (bobinson|??????????) via Flickr
Regardless of your view it is clear to me that people paying money in advance to Rapid Property were driven by a greed for riches which would fall easily into their lap. As always some will call for such people to be protected from themselves, and their own folly and greed. Others will say that we are all adults in a dog eat dog world, and people should be allowed to make their own mistakes. There may even be a view that the investors should lose their money, as a retribution for seeking to profit from other people’s unhappiness.
Has the balance of the Universe been restored? What is your view?