A man from Luton has been told by a judge to prepare himself for a prison sentence after pleading guilty to property rental frauds.
Yet another rent-to-rent scammer, Mr Moses Ogoe, 24, has admitted six charges when he appeared before Luton Crown Court recently.
Rent-to-rent is where a tenant rents a property from a landlord and either with or without his knowledge proceeds to sublet or re-let the property out to one or more tenants.
Given the weight of demand for rental properties in some areas, R-to-R has become something of an “arbitrage” operation where the unsuspecting landlord fails to appreciate the true rental market value of the property or, or more commonly in these scams the value if the property is split and let as a multi-let – an HMO.
A lot more value can be squeezed out of a property if it is split into extra rooms, but this is probably something the unsuspecting landlord is not prepared for, and in any case the scammers rarely do conversions which meet regulatory safety standards and get the proper planning approval – they are opportunists in for a quick profit.
Ogoe is one such player in what has become a mushrooming industry. A new breed of self-styled property “experts” have been flogging books, seminars and courses extoling the rent-to-rent model as a road to riches for pretty much anyone. One such scheme claims you can “make £10,000 a month” without so much as putting your hand in your pocket to buy a property.
Ogoe admitted fraud involving Luton properties in High Town Road, Ashburnham Road and Hitchin Road, two counts of forgery and one of possessing an article in relation to a false tenancy agreement.
Bailing Ogoe, Judge Michael Kay QC told him: “Custody is a distinct possibility. You must prepare yourself for a custodial sentence.” And he was told he must not involve himself in the property rental business before he is sentenced on Friday 8 April.
Ogoe’s sister Rebecca, 19, of Dumfries Close, Luton was given a 12 month conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assisting Ogoe on one specific occasion by “possessing an article for use in fraud in relation to a false tenancy agreement”.
Moses Ogoe had been found to be obtaining properties with false documentation, converting them into Houses in Multiple Occupation, then renting the properties out claiming to be the owner.
An investigation had been carried out by Luton Council’s Trading Standards Department and found that Ogoe was renting out seven properties, and he even continued to pretend he owned them while on court bail.
To the landlords who owned the properties Ogoe represented himself variously as a doctor, a security manager and a catering manager using false documents. Ogoe’s real occupation is or was a temporary security guard. It was revealed in the trial that on more than one occasion he had evicted tenants without notice if they failed to pay an increase in rent immediately.
Ogoe refused to co-operate with council officials throughout the investigations and continued to insist he had done nothing wrong until he changed his plea to guilty, once the trial commenced.
Sentencing Ogoe, his Honour Judge Kay QC said:
“You saw an opportunity to rent relatively sizable properties and sublet them to desperate individuals who needed somewhere to live. You were not providing a public service because you did this for greed. You defrauded them as you did not provide a genuine tenancy and the protection that would give”.
Ogoe will now serve 16 months in prison; he must pay £7,500 in costs and have the computers he used to create the false documents to be forfeited.
Cllr Tom Shaw for Luton Council said:
“This case underlines the council’s ongoing commitment to ensure private tenants in our town have safe, high-quality accommodation. In situations like this, unscrupulous landlords are not only taking financial advantage of vulnerable tenants, but placing their lives in danger. Every landlord housing different families that share the same facilities under one roof must register for an HMO licence. We will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who show a disregard for the law and their responsibilities towards occupants.”
Rent-to-Rent scammer facing prison https://t.co/GCsy8kJCtH
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) May 6, 2016