Criminal letting agent ‘pretended to be member of ARLA’
Written by: Rosalind Renshaw | November 14, 2014
A letting agent who defrauded customers to the tune of £68,000 could barely read or write – but nevertheless was said in court to have passed his ARLA exams. However, in an extraordinary twist, last night it emerged that Roy Jackson had never been a member of ARLA and had not passed any exams. Jackson had, however, attempted to join and may have then falsely claimed to belong to ARLA.
Those who lost money will not be able to recoup it via ARLA’s insistence on mandatory client money protection insurance. ARLA managing director David Cox said the scandal underlined the need for industry regulation. Jackson has now been jailed for 20 months. It also now appears that the court may have been misled as to his ARLA membership.
The judge who sentenced him this week said it was clear from a report that an educational psychologist had given Jackson help to pass his exams. Judge Peters, Assistant Judge Advocate General, said: “Should the Association of Letting Agents [sic] have certified you? Probably not.” She told him: ““You never should have been running a business. “You clearly have the gift of the gab. Gift of the gab is what you had. The ability to run a business is not what you had. “You are quite frankly a dishonest man and there’s no getting round that.”
Jackson’s own defence said he was someone who “should never have been allowed to have got into that situation in a regulated industry”. Jackson, 39, ran Suffolk Lettings in Ipswich, which closed suddenly at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013, while Jackson himself seemed to vanish.
A police investigation began after it emerged that there had been fraud on a substantial scale. However, far from disappearing, Jackson went on to work for two more agents – first,] Bairstow Eves, part of Countrywide, followed by Martyn Gerrard, in London. Both were entirely unsuspecting and Jackson was still working for Martyn Gerrard as a lettings manager when he went on holiday to Ibiza and was arrested at Stansted Airport.
The first that Martyn Gerrard – the highly reputable family firm whose boss is Simon Gerrard, current NAEA President – knew of any problems was when Jackson failed to go back to work when his holiday was over. In reality, he was on remand in jail. At his sentencing, Roger Thomson, defending, said that Suffolk Lettings had been run by Jackson with help from his wife. However, the relationship with his wife broke down, and the business ran into difficulties, with Jackson “dipping into client account monies”. A total of 31 people were defrauded, with 50 properties involved.
In a statement yesterday evening, ARLA managing director David Cox told Eye: “ARLA can confirm that Roy Jackson is not, and never has been, a member of ARLA. “Although Roy Jackson did attempt to gain ARLA membership, he never passed the examination process and therefore did not receive the qualification level required for membership. “Despite this, it seems that unfortunately he has falsely been trading as an ARLA agent, when he is in fact not. “This would explain why his tenants’ and landlords’ money was not secure – ARLA agents are covered by a Client Money Protection Scheme, and also a mandatory redress scheme which gives the consumer an added level of protection when something, such as this, goes wrong. “This is also the reason that ARLA wasn’t able to warn landlords. “As Roy Jackson was not an official member, we were unaware of his activities.
If tenants have any doubt as to the authenticity of ARLA membership belonging to an agent, we urge them to contact ARLA who will be able to clarify and investigate this. “The case of Roy Jackson reiterates the need for regulation within the property sector. “The industry is currently not regulated. Anyone is able to open trade as a lettings agent or landlord, which clearly presents a number of risks as highlighted by this case, whereby thousands of pounds worth of customers’ money has been stolen. “If the industry was fully regulated, Roy Jackson would never have been able to abscond with this money. “ARLA strives for better standards and consumer protection in the private rented sector. “The benefit of using an ARLA agent is that tenants may be reassured they are dealing with a qualified letting agent or landlord who is able to provide the best level of advice and service, under the knowledge that any money which exchanges hands is protected.”
A spokesperson for Bairstow Eves said: “We confirm that Mr Jackson was previously employed by Bairstow Eves and his employment came to an end during February 2014. “We were not aware of a criminal case against him and were not contacted by the police in relation to this matter.”