This case demonstrates why it is so important for landlords to ensure their letting agent is properly regulated, and has clients' money protection insurance.
A father and son who ran a lettings agency which closed down suddenly after they pocketed thousands of pounds of client money, have pleaded guilty to theft and fraud.
David Carr, 58, and Peter Carr, 27, took more than £15,000 by keeping cash paid in to Town and Country Estates in Sunderland.
When customers began to realise they might lose their money, the pair shut up shop in the summer of 2009 and disappeared for more than a year, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
was only after some of their victims tracked them down that the police arrested them.
The Carrs admitted theft and fraud charges between October 2008 and June 2009.
Many landlords and tenants lost out because of their dishonesty, said Michael Graham, prosecuting.
Landlords were told tenants were behind with rents when they queried why nothing was being paid, when in fact the tenants were usually up to date with all their payments, and the Carrs had been keeping the cash for themselves.
James Goss told the Carrs: “I accept this was a business that became dishonest, having been an honest business.
“It became dishonest when the economic downturn caused increasing difficulties for businesses of this kind.
“There is no excuse for what took place. You have admitted your crimes. Your actions have caused anxiety and some hardship for your victims. They remain your victims, uncompensated.”
The judge sentenced Carr senior to 30 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200
hours’ unpaid work, and ordered him to pay £5,826 in compensation to the victims at a rate of £300 per month.
The judge deferred sentence for three months in the case of Peter Carr to allow him time to attempt to find employment so he can also pay compensation.
Judge Goss said that as well as punishing the Carrs, he had a duty “to ensure victims receive at least some compensation for having their money stolen from them or being defrauded of their monies”.
Defence barristers said the
pair did not set out to defraud and are determined to repay their victims.