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Lettings agent ‘kept Army cash meant for housing’
A LETTINGS agent whose business closed without warning is accused of failing to return £1,000 paid by the Army and the Royal British Legion to house a homeless veteran.
The cash was provided by the charity and the Royal Logistical Corps to provide a flat for former soldier John McGrath.
A tenancy agreement was signed between Brian Reaney, of Ferris Estates, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), who had arranged the money for the accommodation, in Rodbourne.
Philip Duncan, SSAFA’s divisional secretary, said: “We provided the money, which was £1,000 from the Royal British Legion and from John’s regiment, and arranged the tenancy agreement.
“He was placed in shared houses for a while but the flat never materialised, despite the fact we paid the money upfront, which included a deposit, first month’s rent and admin fees. John was given various excuses, including the windows were broken in the flat and it needed work to comply with regulations.
“We made every effort to try and contact Mr Reaney. I spoke with him a couple of times, and I was less than pleased. But after that his phone lines went dead and he vanished. I spoke with the legion but there is little that can be done.”
Mr McGrath completed deployments around the world as a private attached to the infantry in the former Army Catering Corps between 1988 and 1994.
But the charity worker suffered medical problems after leaving the Army and needed help getting back on his feet.
He says he was put up in shared houses around Swindon by Mr Reaney while he waited for the ground-floor flat to become available. The 43-year-old, has since been housed by Thres-hold Housing Link in Westlea.
“I was living in a number of different shared houses while I waited,” he said. “I only looked around the flat once and it was basically a building site with wires and plaster everywhere.
“I feel angry because that money was from the legion and my regiment. They never got a penny back and have had no explanation as to why.”
SSAFA signed the contract with Mr Reaney last April.
Ferris Estates’ office, in Andover Street, Westcott Place, was empty this week with ‘to let’ signs in the window. A neighbour, who refused to be named, said it had shut down several months ago after heated arguments in the building.
The paperwork issued by Ferris Estates says it is a member of the Property Ombudsman Scheme. But its spokesman said there was no record of the firm.
“Ferris Estates has never been a member of the ombudsman scheme,” he said.
Mr Reaney did not respond to requests for comment via email and at the lettings agent.