Actor who played conman tells how he was ripped off by agents

Actor who played conman tells how he was ripped off by agents

Actor Nigel Havers – who ironically rented his property while playing a conman in Coronation Street – told how he was ripped off by a rogue letting agent who vanished without trace.

Havers spoke of his case on last night’s Watchdog programme. He is the most high-profile victim of an unregulated agent who has allegedly run off with a member of the public’s money.

Havers said he paid six months’ rent in advance – but apparently not a deposit requiring protection – to Manchester agents Medlock Apartments, run by brothers Umer and Adnan Ali.

Five months into his tenancy he had to leave because he was told the apartment was being sold. He then found he was unable to get a refund for the final month’s rent of £1,300.

“Just like my money, Medlock Apartments had disappeared,” he said.

Havers took the firm to court and won an order for payment. However, he is still out of pocket and has been unable to contact the Ali brothers, although he has been told that one of them is in America.

Havers said that his experience made him realise that the lettings industry is unregulated, with anyone being able to set up as a letting agent without experience or qualifications. He also found that membership of a redress scheme is – for the time being – purely voluntary.

He said that the Government had not yet announced when a law compelling letting agents to belong to an ombudsman scheme is to come in. However, he argued that just belonging to a redress scheme will not solve all problems.

Havers also went on to criticise letting agents for imposing high service fees. He said that while they were allowed to make “reasonable” charges, the law failed to define the word.

In the final part of his package for Watchdog, he focused on utilities firm Spark Energy and its links to agents Foxtons, Your Move and Reeds Rains.

Foxtons tenant Lee Harrison said that he had been automatically signed up to Spark Energy when he moved in to his rental home last September, and had been given an “enormous bill”. He then found it “virtually impossible” to leave Spark Energy to switch to another provider.

Contracts shown in the programme and used by Foxtons, Your Move and Reeds Rains appeared to be worded in such a way that tenants were told they must use Spark Energy.

One contract included the wording that “the tenant understands” that utilities would be supplied by Spark Energy.

Havers said that what was in it for agents was that they were paid commission by Spark Energy. Watchdog said it had received over 200 complaints in the last year about the company.

Spark Energy confirmed to Watchdog that they paid £10 to £15 commission per tenancy to the agents, but said that they would check with all their “partner agents” that it was made clear that tenants could switch. Your Move also told the programme that they now highlighted that.

Your Move, Reeds Rains, Foxtons and Spark Energy were all invited by Letting Agent Today to comment further – and all took up the invitation. See next story.