Crooked Estate Agent & the DPS

To start this story at the beginning, lets rewind back to 2011. I was looking for a new flat to rent and after days of trawling through rightmove, what looked like the perfect flat came up. It was trifle expensive, but there would be three of us living there, so the cost really wasn't too much. We called up the estate agent, and organised a viewing. The lady we spoke to indicated that the flat had received a lot of interest, and it had only been put up on the website that morning. We arranged a viewing for later that day, and immediately fell in love with it, put our deposits down and moved in.

Fast-forward 6 months, a change in circumstances and the end of our lease.

I had moved back home and was now living with my parents. I had paid my rent up until the end of the lease and was waiting for it to all come to an end.

One day, I was sitting at work after a conversation with the estate agent regarding my deposit (when they told me I would receive it back in 'a couple of days') and it dawned on me that I had been named the lead tenant on all documentation, and I had been the one who received all the documents for our deposit being but into the safety deposit scheme. I remembered I had logged in once, six month previous, when I received the documentation. So on my lunch break the next day, armed with my details I tried to log into the website. 
On the 5th February 2012 I logged onto the website for the first time and was able to view my deposit. I decided to give the DPS a call as I wasn't sure why it said my deposit status was closed or why a wrong email address was registered on my account.

I called the DPS (Deposit Protection Scheme) and after proving who I was, and explaining that I couldn't log in, I found out some alarming news. My deposit was gone, all £825 of it, from the scheme that was supposed to protect it.

Before I continue, I think it is best I explain how the scheme works. When you submit your deposit for your rented property your landlord is obligated to put it in one of these schemes (I think there are at least 2) and your deposit remains safe in there. When the tenancy ends, you, along with your estate agent fill out the release forms together and any agreed deductions and given to your landlord and the rest is refunded to you.

The man I spoke with at the DPS told me that my deposit status shouldn't read closed if I had no idea why. He then informed me that on the 29th January a new email address was registered on the account. Later that day an email from this unknown email address was sent to the DPS, containing all my personal details and details of my tenancy, and requested a new repayment ID number. The DPS have informed me that aside from me, nobody should have access to my repayment ID number and it is essentially the same as a pin number you would have for your bank account. The estate agent would definitely not have access to this number. It was because all the details in this email were correct and all security information verified that the DPS replied to this email, issuing a new repayment ID number. I didn't have access to see the forwarding address, and because of data protection the DPS were unable to tell me what the forwarding address is, however she could confirm it was not the forwarding address of where any of us moved too.

The DPS also informed me that on the 1st March 2012 a joint repayment was registered by the estate agent, and that this meant what should of happened is I would have been invited to go into the estate agents where we would fill out a joint repayment form on the DPS website, and at some point in that process I would enter my repayment ID, if I agreed that there were no disputes relating to the money. This form had been filled out without my knowledge, using the newly acquired repayment ID, that had been sent to the unknown email address. Therefore the monies had been released. 

The DPS had advised me that a fraud has taken place, with someone using my personal details from a false email address, posing at me to obtain my repayment ID. 

I spoke with the agent in the first instance to try and establish what was going on. I asked what had happened and was concerned my personal details had been used to gain something without my say so. The lady I spoke to got very angry with me very quickly, and when I explained what had happened she said "Well we have all that information anyway", which largely they do, but not the repayment ID. I stated that they may have my personal information but that doesn't give them the right to use it. She said they would need to check on the DPS from there end, I was told I wasn't able to hold and that they weren't able to access the DPS. However she did tell me they had the funds and they would be released to us. 

It was very clear what had happened - the estate agent had clearly pretended to me, changed the email address with the DPS, gained my personal pin and pretended to fill out the joint repayment on my behalf and gained out monies back.

Of course I didn't get my full deposit back, of course the agent disputed things like cleaning costs, thats why they went to these great lengths in the first place. I couldn't dispute the money, it had been removed from the DPS and therefore was unsecured money. The whole point in the scheme is so if there is a dispute, the money remains safe until an agreement is come too. By removing my deposit from the DPS the estate agent took anyway any rights I had to contest any deductions.

Angry as anything, I decided to take action. I was in touch with Consumer Direct who pointed me in the direction of Trading Standards, where I lodged an official complaint. I was advised to also lodge a complaint with Action Fraud, as everything that had happened constituted Fraudulent activity and Identity Theft. I spoke with Citizens Advice and they, as well as the others, all pointed me in the direction of the Police. However, the police didn't want to know, they said it was a civil matter, despite Fraud being a criminal activity. They didn't care and didn't want to know, so that avenue was cut off. 

I found out a lot of interesting information about the regulatory bodies for Estate Agents, which basically boiled down to not a lot, and I sent out a lot of queries, but my agent was not registered with any of these bodies and therefore they couldn't help me. Another dead end.

So next I set about to find out just exactly what the hell the estate agent thought they were playing at. I sought advice on the letter and wrote a great letter outlining the way I perceived the situation. I copied a letter to Trading Standards and Action Fraud.

I received a cleverly crafted letter back, clearly designed to throw me off and make me give up. They said the release of my deposit was due to a 'clerical error' caused by a unique chain of events. It did not allude to what there chain of events were, or how they managed to get the only copy of the new repayment ID. 

Again I sent another letter, trying to establish things and picking apart their letter as I went. 

Although due to the lack of support from the Police, and the badly regulated Lettings sector I wasn't able to get anything from this (all I wanted was the right to contest the charges), after 4 letters that went nowhere, and after seeking further advice, there was little I could do. Small claims was an option but I had just been made redundant and didn't have the money to file the claim, and the amount they took from the deposit wasn't worth it, not with the costs I would have incurred. 

All I wanted was an admission, in fact, all I really wanted was to be able to take it further with the police due to the theft of my identity to gain access to my personal details and therefore gaining an advantage by releasing my money and not giving the whole sum back, but it wasn't too be. 

It annoys me that they go away with it, but I hope my constant badgering and letters at least made them think twice before doing it again. I can only presume this is something that they do all the time and a lot of tenants don't know the ins and outs to know they are acting illegally. 

I just hope this isn't common practice. The DPS was set up to protect the Landlord and the Tenant, and this situation just proves that out there, at least one Estate Agent is bending the rules and taking what they want at  whatever cost to the tenant.


  1. Hi
    I just came to visit and say hello. Thanks for visiting my blog too. I'm your newest follower and am off to
    Browse the rest of your blog. Hope you I'll visit again soon.

    1. Thanks for visiting :) Hope you like it :)

      Amy x