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Property agent accused of keeping tenants’ cash
A LETTINGS agent whose business closed without warning has been accused of yet another rip-off which left a landlady and her tenants more than £2,000 out of pocket.
Michelle Simpson says Brian Reaney disappeared with her tenants’ deposits after she used his company, Ferris Estates, to rent out her home.
She also says Mr Reaney, who signed a managed service agreement to look after the house, failed to check on the property and left her to foot the bill for repairs.
Miss Simpson contacted Ferris Estates in July 2010 and he found a young couple to move into the house in Birch Street, central Swindon.
Under the agreement, Mr Reaney took a seven per cent service charge from the £1,400 monthly rent before paying the remainder into her account via a standing order.
Miss Simpson, 42, realised something was wrong last October after one of the payments did not go through.
She said: “None of the numbers I had for him worked and I didn’t get a response from the emails I sent him. After a week of trying to contact him I decided to visit my tenants to see if they knew what was going on.
“Luckily they hadn’t paid Mr Reaney that month’s rent and they advised me they had been trying to contact him as they waited to give notice to move out.
“I then visited Ferris Estates’ offices in Westcott Place and discovered he had done a bunk with my house keys and tenants’ deposit.”
Miss Simpson, a manager at Nationwide, also discovered Mr Reaney had allowed tenants to keep a dog despite her having stated she wanted no pets in the house.
The lettings agent failed to return £1,200 from the tenants, having taken a £600 deposit from both of them.
Miss Simpson, from Old Town, also spent £1,000 on redecorating the house which she says had been allowed to fall into a poor condition.
She is among a string of people who have told the Adver they had bad experiences with Ferris Estates and believes there is little redress available for those left out of pocket.
Paperwork issued by the company carried the mark of the Property Ombudsman, which helps recover rent and deposits, but the organisation said it was never registered with the scheme.
Miss Simpson said: “Even if there is no way of getting the money back there should be someone making Mr Reaney accountable for his actions.
“It is wrong that he is allowed to disappear with people’s deposits, especially when it involves tenants who have very little money.
“But there seems to be very little you can do about it.”
Mr Reaney was previously accused of keeping money provided by the Royal British Legion and Royal Logistics Corps to house a homeless Army veteran.
When asked where the cash had gone, he said he had kept it because of damage by the tenant.
He also denied failing to return a £700 deposit to mum-of-two Anna Wilczak, claiming he had passed the money on to her landlord.
Asked about the latest allegation, Mr Reaney said: “I have been in hospital. I took a very, very bad turn which is not other people’s fault but there is not a lot I have been able to do in fairness.
“Now I am out, I will speak to my business partner and get the matter sorted out.”
Mr Reaney said three quarters of his foot had been amputated in hospital.
“I’m not after a sympathy vote but the situation was just dire,” he said.
“I think I did more than the average agent for a tenant, but it was a really, really difficult time.”
Ferris Estates closed without warning earlier this year after neighbours heard the sound of heated arguments from the offices.