07 Feb 2020

Council probe draws deposit promise from former city letting agent

Private Housing Team investigated complaints

A former Bristol letting agent has been censured over the handling of tenancy deposits following an investigation by Bristol City Council’s Private Housing Team.

Andrew Rhys Thickett, who owned and ran Robert Rhys (Lettings and Management) Ltd, accepted he had not met required legal standards by failing to protect deposit money in a relevant government-approved scheme at his former business and signed a legal undertaking promising no repeat of this at any future property management or letting business which he controlled.

The letting agency stopped trading in May 2018 owing around £90,000 to landlords and tenants, the losses being mainly down to poor business practice and a failure to properly secure tenancy deposits, only some of which were subsequently returned.

The agreement, made under the terms of the 2002 Enterprise Act, means the council could bring legal action in the form of a court order should Mr Thickett fail to comply with the undertaking, with imprisonment a possibility should he breach any order made. While it is understood he is no longer operating as a letting agent, the agreement also means he must inform Bristol City Council if he wants to work in the sector again.

In April of last year, the government introduced new Client Money Protection laws requiring agents to protect clients’ money by holding in a separate account and making it easier for authorities to take action against agents who don’t comply. Bristol City Council is currently actively auditing letting agents in the city to make sure they are complying with the new requirements and can issue penalty notices of up to £30,000.

Councillor Paul Smith, the Cabinet member for Housing, said. “We will investigate any complaints of agents not being a member of an approved Client Money Protection Scheme.  We will use our full range of legal powers to protect tenants and landlords from unscrupulous agents.“

To find out more about Client Money Protection or how to report a letting agent that may not be a member of a Client Money Protection Scheme, visit: http://bristol.gov.uk/roguelandlords or email private.housing@bristol.gov.uk.