As mentioned in the previous article, Chris Sheen of Imuvelettings let a block of houses belonging to 10 of his landlords on a 6 month contract, took 3 months money at the outset and then received no further monies after that and the contractors left the houses and moved back to Scotland.
Another landlord contacted us and complained that Fife Digs abandoned a tenancy during the fixed term and asked him to sign a release form in order to enable him to keep a deposit and some unwanted and no doubt low value electrical goods abandoned in the property. His agent, Christies, has quite properly advised him not to sign any such release form.
Looking at the publicly accessible information at Companies House, Fife Digs is less than 3 years old and on last listing has net assets of £3700 or so, so half what they owe just this one landlord.
2 of the 4 directors have histories of multiple dissolved companies whilst Mr Pitman is a director of 3 companies, none dissolved and oddly appears to reside in Wales (odd for a director if a Scottish Company).
One of our advisors said, "I therefore consider it to be a moderate risk of folding to escape multiple debts, but having said that they have a tidy looking website with a landline and do show evidence of trading. That they have a contract to house workers on a publicly funded contract may suggest that they would try to keep the show on the road to avoid repetitional damage. On balance, as a landlord myself, I would consider a robust opening move such as a letter before action setting out a formal demand. We have links with Larcomes and Saulet both of whom have been strong supporters of PDPLA You can also approach 12 College Place barristers chambers in Southampton to direct instruct a barrister but I think a solictors letter is your best opening bat" He went on to state, "Given that this is being done in the name of a public contract, one further approach might be to notify your MP and ask them to forward it to the Public Accounts Committee as evidence of sharp practice in defence procurement".
If Fife Digs were a local agent, we would be questioning whether they were members of a redress scheme (which in England, is a legal requirement) and we would be advising members to take up their issues with the scheme in question - but as an agency based in Scotland, operating here in Portsmouth with a director based in Wales the situation is at best, confusing as each country has quite distinct housing and letting legislation and enforcement practices, so in conclusion, all we can recommend is due diligence, extreme care, cast iron contracts, guarantors or sureties and where possible, deal with local companies or known ones. (Please note - as far as we now, Fife Digs is completely separate from Fife Lettings and the latter appears to be a bona fide agency operating only in Scotland).