Last month we highlighted the demise of D & G and the potential plight their landlords and clients may have found themselves in. It genuinely saddens us that there's been another one reported in Norwich as having gone awry.
This time step into the spotlight; Castle Estates run by a Stephen Phillips from a now closed office on the Sprowston Road. Unlike D & G who were alleged not to have protected client deposits, there seems to be less doubt in Castle's case as the Police have been called in to investigate. It was reported in the Evening News on 17th July that, " Trading Standards had confirmed that it was helping Norfolk police with its inquiries as part of an alleged fraud investigation".
What is particularly galling about these sorts of "Rogue Letting Agents" reports is that by the time they come into the public domain, opportunities to either prevent it in the first place or mitigate the amount of losses are invariably missed by the authorities. Although, we have to be careful what we say in a public forum, we do know several landlords who were caught up in the Castle debacle who several months ago raised their concerns with Trading Standards. We cannot believe these would have been the only complaints made but it appears, to us anyway, that nothing was done.
Here's another little anecdote about Castle. In November 2012 we received a visit to our offices by a then landlord client of theirs who said they were shopping around for a new agent as they hadn't received any rents from Castle for a number of months. This particular couple were only interested in knowing how much we would charge to fully manage their property, they didn't want to know about our credentials at all. Clearly motivated solely by Price rather than Value for money, they soon left when we told them. They seemed not to understand our argument that our monthly percentage (12%) was actually significantly less than the 100+% at that time being charged to them by Castle. (The "Plus" stems from the assumption that the secuirty deposit would also transpre to be missing as well and this would be the landlords responsibility to make good).
Across the country, letting agents seem to be going bust on almost a daily basis. Its no wonder, as an industry segment, we're held in such low esteem. Proper effective regulation of the industry is well overdue and while there is momentum gathering on this front, all we can say is choose your agent very carefully. As we keep saying, there are many fine letting agents in Norwich who can prove they do things entirely by the book by subjecting themselves to the rigours of professional bodies such as NALS or RICS or ARLA and show their credentials by belonging to the SAFE AGENT scheme.
As the founding SAFE AGENT member in Norwich we know that at Martin & Co., we are among this elite group of letting agents in Norwich who care about the needs of their clients.
To see how the Castle Estates story first broke in the Evening News Click Here