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Consumers are real victims of letting agency fraud

It is disappointing that as the Franchisor of the Year at The Negotiator Awards 2008, Martin and Co considers itself to be a victim of the reported cases of fraud among its franchisees.

The Negotiator’s recent coverage [May 22] of fraud allegations in the lettings market highlights just a snapshot of similar cases that we are currently dealing with.

There can be no doubt that the consumer is the real victim when an agent misappropriates client funds. However, where this occurs and we accredit the firm, consumers are fully protected.

We have dealt with all claims that we have been notified about, and we continue to prioritise further cases. Our Client Money Protection Scheme ensures that consumer interests are protected, and that full reimbursement is made to affected landlords and tenants. Our procedures are straightforward.

We welcome any assistance that Martin and Co, as the franchisor, can provide in piecing together the wreckage left when its franchisees allegedly steal client money and swiftly vanish into thin air. We have written recently to all Martin and Co’s franchisees about this matter.

Over the past 10 years, we have highlighted the need for the independent regulation of all lettings and management agents operating in the sector. Regulation is fundamental to any industry framework going forward, and featured as a key recommendation in last year’s influential Rugg Review. This sentiment was recently reiterated by the response from Communities and Local Government. There can be no doubt that mandatory regulation of lettings agents will propel the sector forward in achieving best practice and increased provision and security for tenants and landlords.

As part of our continued commitment to drive the regulation agenda forward, we’ve recently held a series of licensing consultative forums. Our aim couldn’t be clearer – to devise a simple, inclusive, low-cost lettings scheme that delivers a good level of protection for consumers, with standards that are achievable by all well-managed agents. We’re planning to present our findings to Government, to ensure the interests of all parties, not least the consumer, are represented.

Caroline Pickering, Independent chair, National Approved Letting Scheme

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