Date Published 04 January 2013
The Office of Fair Trading has banned a former property agent from estate agency work.
But it appears that the ban would still leave Price Property Rental director Sharon Price, a former NAEA member, free to work in lettings, and even to set up her own lettings business again at some point in the future.
Her convictions in a magistrates’ court 18 months ago related not to sales, but to over £90,000 of money belonging to tenants and landlords. Her business went into administration in February 2010.
The OFT controls estate agents but not letting agents, who are not recognised under the Estate Agents Act.
The ban on estate agency work follows Price’s convictions for offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 by Huntingdon Magistrates Court on June 7, 2011.
Huntington-based Price Property Rentals had failed to register tenants’ deposits with an authorised protection scheme, failed to repay deposits when tenants moved out, and failed to pass on rent to landlords.
She was said in court to have run her business in a chaotic way, in some cases not to have paid landlords for a year. She was fined just £3,000 and banned from being a director for five years.
The NAEA is understood to have received 75 claims from tenants and landlords totalling £144,000. The OFT said it believes 45 claims have been settled with a total value of £94,000. The case affected NAEA’s members’ insurance premiums.
The then chief executive, Peter Bolton King, hit out at Price’s sentence, saying the court had been too lenient and had sent out `no meaningful messages`.
The OFT said that after the Huntingdon court case, it had launched its own investigation under the Estate Agents Act 1979 and determined that Price was unfit to carry on estate agency work.
Letting Agent Today asked the OFT whether the ban would, or could, include letting agency work. The OFT has so far not got back to us with their response.
Yesterday, Peter Bolton King, now global residential director at the RICS, said: `Due to the unfortunate definition of an estate agent in the 1979 Act, my understanding is that the OFT cannot use this as a reason to ban her from acting as a lettings agent.
`This example typifies the issue and has always been one of my concerns. Hence the reason why RICS continues to call for the definition to be revised. The consumer deserves full protection.`
Here is how we reported the case at the time: