Letting agent flies in nearly a year after running from jail

Disgraced letting agent Ryan Lee has given himself up to police after spending almost a year on the run after taking money from landlords who entrusted him with their business.

Lee, who ran Panache Letting Agents, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, fled abroad last year when due to face criminal charges at crown court.

Now, he his finally facing justice after pleading guilty to 11 charges of unfair commercial prqctices and lying to tenants at the court in Gloucester.

He defrauded them of £13,500.

Lee landed back in the UK in January on a flight from Malaysia. He was remanded in custody until February 26 when he will go back to court for sentencing.

He already faces a six month jail sentence for skipping bail last year.

Unscrupulous

Tenants and landlords went to the firm’s office in Cheltenham after failing to receive payments from Lee, only to find the premises had closed for business and had been stripped of furniture and computers.

The case is yet another story of an unscrupulous letting agent running off with client money, leaving landlords and tenants with no recourse for compensation.

Despite well-meaning self-regulating industry groups like the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and Safe Agent offering client money protection schemes, their window stickers are simply a band aid over the problem and not a solution to scammers and thieves.

A select committee is currently sitting in Parliament to discuss registering landlords, but in most cases, problems in the lettings industry arise from agents who dip in to client money because they are dishonest or simply cannot run a business – and usually a mixture of both.

No industry figures are available for the number of letting agents who appear before the courts, but with around 18,500 letting firms and 3.9 million private rental properties, the smart goes on a higher proportion of agents than landlords committing crimes against tenants.

Yet, politicians accuse rogue landlords of bad practice and want to legislate against them.

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