A prominent Cambridgeshire estate and letting agent, with offices in Newmarket, has not been seen since early August.
All the signs are, according to recent reports, that established estate agent Frank Smart has gone to ground owning landlords and tenants many thousands of pounds in total.
Smart, who has operated his sales and lettings business since 2007, has been has not been heard from since early August.
Going under the name of Smart Residential, Francis or Frank Smart, who until recently operated his agency in central Newmarket. The firm is still listed on OnTheMarket.com and Facebook, but the office in Newmarket has been closed since July.
Disgruntled landlords have been posting on the firm’s Facebook pages https://en-gb.facebook.com/SmartResidential/ venting their frustration at not being able to contact anyone regarding their losses.
A sign went up in the firm’s office in July stating that he (Smart) had been forced to close the office after a move to new premises had gone wrong. But since early in August nobody has seen or heard from him.
Landlords have been reporting Smart to the police, worried because Smart holds keys to their properties, but despite all this there has been no sighting or any success in contacting him.
Smart was the operator of two businesses: Frank Smart Limited for his lettings business and Pivotal Homes Ltd, a company through which payments were made to his landlords. Both firms are active on the Companies House website and the accounts are filed up-to-date.
Further investigations show that several deposits lodged with Smart Residential from tenants have not been protected in any of the protection schemes. This means that the landlords involved will be liable to reimburse their tenants and could in fact face fines as well.
According to The Newmarket Journal reports, the situation appears out of character for Smart, a local businessman who has run his businesses for eleven years in Newmarket. This followed over 16 years’ experience in the industry working for agencies in Cambridgeshire, before he set-up his own business, successfully surviving the 2008 financial crisis.
It is situations like this, which have occurred with monotonous regularity, albeit usually involving less well established agents, that the government has sought to safeguard landlords and tenants with compulsory client money protection (CMP) schemes.
CMP is an insurance product for letting agents. It protects the rental money that tenants pay letting agents to pass onto a landlord or safeguard in a deposit scheme. The Government has now confirmed that mandatory CMP for letting agents will be introduced from April 2019. All agents will be required to have one.