A family of letting agents accused of defrauding landlords have had charges against them dropped at the last minute in court after repaying the outstanding cash.
Crown Prosecution Service barrister Alistair Verheijen offered no evidence at Plymouth Crown Court against Toni Burridge, 41, his wife Jacqueline, 41, and daughter, Kayleigh, 20, who had denied a joint charge of fraud by false representation.
The judge was told the CPS felt proceeding with the case was not in the public interest after the family handed £3,500 cash to police to pass on to landlords who alleged they had lied to them about the way their business Hothomes UK handled tenants’ deposits.
“If the lost deposits are repaid, the Crown cannot see the public interest in proceeding with the case,” the prosecutor said in court before the judge dismissed the charges.
The trio were directors of Hothomesuk.com Ltd, which traded as a letting agent in Plymouth until July 2011, when their office was closed.
Police interviewed them about alleged missing funds after landlords alleged they were told the firm ran a client money protection and deposit protection scheme, which proved to be incorrect.
The company is listed at Companies House as dissolved in May 2012.
The case is one of a number of incidents involving letting agents who have closed for business allegedly leaving landlords thousands of pounds out-of-pocket.
These cases have sparked calls for the government to regulate the lettings industry, as landlords and tenants have no compulsory financial protection if a firm goes bust, although some self-regulating schemes operate within the industry.
One self-regulator, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), which speaks for around a third of letting agents, has called for the government to take action.
The government has already started consultation over regulating letting agents.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is also urging letting agent regulation, while Lib Dem MP Annette Brooke has tabled an early day motion in Parliament also appealing for MPs to vote in favour of a new regulatory framework for letting agents.