A lettings agent, who left more than £80,000 out of pocket for landlords, has pleaded guilty to fraud.
Frank Smart, owner of Smart Residential Letting Agents in Newmarket, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday where he pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding rent and bail under the S1 Fraud Act 2006.
The 46-year-old, of 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 fall 2018.
Trading Standards responded to several complaints from landlords and tenants who were unable to get in touch with the company after the sudden closure of its Wellington Street office in July 2018.
A spokesperson for Suffolk Trading Standards said: “Many of these landlords have entrusted Smart Residential with their rental properties and holding rental deposits on their behalf.
“By law, these deposits should have been placed in a deposit protection system – providing protection for tenants in the event that a landlord or rental agency faces financial difficulty. We believe that Mr. Smart did not use this scheme, resulting in substantial losses for his victims.
“We spoke to over 30 witnesses, and many landlords told us they were not receiving rental income and had to repay rental deposits out of their own pocket. This resulted in individual losses ranging from £700 to over £8,000 and an estimated total loss of over £80,000.
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 have led to countless landlords being heavily out of pocket, causing immeasurable personal and financial stress – and underscoring the importance of ensuring that any rental deposit is placed in a deposit protection scheme.
“I would like to thank the officers of Trading Standards and the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations team for their incredible work on this complex matter, as well as everyone who provided information to enable this investigation to come to light. the courts and dispense justice. Finished.”
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