Landlords in call for police to investigate Newmarket lettings agent Frank Smart
Landlords and tenants owed thousands of pounds by a Newmarket lettings agent have been adding their voices to a call for the police to do more to trace his whereabouts.
Frank Smart, owner of Smart Residential, in Wellington Street, has not been seen since the end of July when a notice on his office door told callers that a move to new premises had been ‘delayed due to unforeseen circumstances’.
Landlords, some of whom are owed more than three months’ rent from properties he manages for them, have been unable to contact him, while tenants who rent properties through his agency have learnt that their deposits have not been registered with a scheme set up to protect them.
Many of them have expressed concern that the only advice given by Suffolk Police has been to contact Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, but people who have used this service have warned of up to four months’ wait for a response.
Meanwhile, they claim, Mr Smart still has possession of keys to their properties, as well as contracts and other paperwork containing personal information.
One landlord told the Journal: “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with Action Fraud so we need the local police to get involved with immediate effect. The files in that office need to be secured so that pending a court case we have evidence of any wrong doing.”
Another said that Suffolk Police had told her the only action they could take was to deal with the missing keys as a possible case of theft, which could then be subject to a criminal investigation.
More property owners and tenants have contacted the Journal since last week’s story revealing Mr Smart’s disappearace.
One tenant Anneili Drew, came close to losing her home in Cheveley Park because her landlady, Sue Holland, was preparing to serve an eviction notice as she had not received payments from Mr Smart who, she claimed, told her he had not received any rent from Ms Drew.
Property owner Philippa Fletcher said she became suspicious after hearing that the office in Wellington Street was closed. When Mr Smart failed to answer an email asking for his new address, Mrs Fletcher arranged to have August’s rent paid direct to her and moved the property to another agent immediately.
“However, we now know that the tenant’s deposit, paid in June 2015, was not lodged with the Deposit Protection Scheme so we have had to pay that amount – the equivalent of one and a half month’s rent – into the scheme ourselves to comply with the law and protect the tenant,” she said.
“Like many of the other landlords involved, we don’t expect to see our money back.,” added Mrs Fletcher.
The Journal has also heard from Alan Bedwell, who says he is owed two deposits and one month’s rent totalling £3,550.
“This all happened when I had just lost my father and been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer so I was unable to travel to Newmarket from my home in Norfolk.
“The properties have also been charged for works never completed and Mr Smart still has keys, contracts and inventories,” said Mr Bedwell, who, happily, is now in remission from his cancer.
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