Fine for “shambolic” Huntingdon property agent

A HUNTINGDONSHIRE property agent ran her business in such a “chaotic and shambolic” manner that she did not keep proper financial records, a court heard yesterday.

A HUNTINGDONSHIRE property agent ran her business in such a “chaotic and shambolic” manner that she did not keep proper financial records, a court heard yesterday.

More than �90,000 had to be paid back to landlords and tenants of Price Properties through industry recovery schemes after the company went into administration in February 2010 – but the lack of adequate records means the company’s full liabilities remain unknown.

At Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Tuesday), company director Sharon Price pleaded guilty to two charges of contravening the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, and Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations, between January 2009 and February 2010.

Prosecutor Mike Magee said Price, 49, had “singularly failed” in her duties to her clients, and added: “Ms Price held herself to be a competent and professional estate agent. It is the prosecution case that she was neither of those.”

Landlords, tenants and contractors were left out of pocket “such was the chaotic and shambolic way that the company was mismanaged”.

Rent paid to Price Properties by tenants was not passed on to landlords, deposits for houses were not ringfenced in separate accounts, and no proper financial records were kept, the court heard.

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According to one employee, there was no spreadsheet or database recording payments made to landlords.

Some landlords received no rent throughout the whole of 2009, despite their tenants paying on time and in full, while tenants who had paid deposits were not repaid them upon moving out.

Price believed she could trade out of the situation and continued to take new clients until January 2010.

Mr Magee said: “By her mismanagement, negligence and lack of professionalism, she caused those losses to the landlords and tenants who had placed their trust in her to manage their finances.”

Kevin Warboys, mitigating, said Price admitted mismanaging the company finances “disastrously” but had made no personal profit, and that her membership of estate agency bodies had allowed many creditors to reclaim their losses.

The slumping property market and a move to new offices in Huntingdon High Street had put pressure on the business, leading her to remortgage her home.

Magistrates fined Price �3,000 for the two offences, ordered her to pay �2,000 costs and barred her from being a company director for the maximum five years.

Mark Shipley carried out work for Price Properties over eight months and was contracted to decorate two new properties in January 2010, just weeks before the agent went into administration, leaving an �1,800 bill unpaid.

After yesterday’s hearing, he said: “At that point she contracted me in January, she knew full well she was going down the pan.

“I’ve had to write that money off and put it down as a lesson learned. Meanwhile, she’s come out of this smelling of roses.”

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