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Written by rosalind renshaw

An agent who was named – and apparently shamed – by an MP in the House of Commons has said his conscience is crystal clear.

The debate, reported in Hansard, included a minister’s reply which described the agent as “callous”.

The adjourment debate on housing was called by Andrew George, the Lib Dem MP for St Ives in Cornwall.

He told the House of one family he had tried to help, who had been living in a one-bed flat. The couple had found themselves in and out of work and “were unable to maintain the housing benefit at rental levels”.

George stated: “They found themselves under a great deal of pressure from their letting agent at the time. I will quote from a letter that the letting agent, Antony Richards Property Services, sent to my constituents: ‘In the absence of any rent forthcoming and your apparent refusal to help yourselves by providing the information… we are left with no alternative but to seek to enforce the possession notice served last year… The Council will deem you as intentionally homeless and are highly unlikely to offer you accommodation. You will then be homeless. The choice is yours. I am told the streets are cold at night.’”

The MP said: “Such treatment of local families in a desperate situation is not acceptable.”

CLG minister Andrew Stunnell replied: “The House will have been appalled to hear of the case that my Hon. Friend drew to our attention and of the callous words of the letting agent as they affected his constituent.”

The minister went on: “Some tenants in that sector face problems of overcrowding, poor-quality accommodation and difficulties with the letting agents themselves. I certainly have a great deal of sympathy for anyone who suffers as a result of poor practice by a letting or managing agent.

“We advise anyone contemplating renting or letting a property through an agent to use one who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors scheme, the Association of Residential Letting Agents or the National Approved Letting Scheme.”

However, Antony Richards Property Services is a member of both RICS and NALS, and Estate Agent Today has seen the trail of correspondence that the firm wrote over a period of time to the tenants, who were also named in Parliament. The letters make it clear that the firm was acting fairly, professionally and sympathetically, in relation to a couple who had not handed over their rent money for three months.

A possession notice issued last June gave them until the end of September to leave, but was not enforced, with both the firm and landlord wanting to give the tenants every chance.

In December the firm did not receive rent, because the couple’s housing benefit had been suspended. The firm found this was because the couple needed to give the benefit department some information.

The agents wrote to the couple urging them to help themselves. Finally, Antony Richards himself wrote to them warning them of the real danger that they could be made homeless, adding the words: “I am told the streets are cold at night.”

At that stage, MP Andrew George became involved, forcing Antony Richards to give a detailed explanation. George was warned that his understanding of events was incorrect. The letter, which EAT has seen, makes it clear that the couple in question had been given much support and many chances to remain in their accommodation by both landlord and agent.

Antony Richards said of the reference to his firm in Parliament: “Taking one letter in isolation does not explain the whole issue.

“If anyone wanted to come and inspect the file, they are welcome to do so. My conscience is crystal clear.”


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    Andrew George should have to apologise to this agent.

    • 13 June 2010 08:21 AM
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    Vossy - apologies for the mini rant @ you. Look forward to seeing more of you on here again - need someone with your normally sensible head! On the benefits point, maybe all of us in associated housing industries should have been able to claim for the last 3 years - as I'm sure that we all worked for less than minimum wage taking all into account... ;0)

    • 11 June 2010 17:31 PM
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    Peebee...Sorry for getting your name wrong. I know I havent been commenting much recently...work sometimes gets in the way ...the cheek of it! XXX

    • 11 June 2010 15:45 PM
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    Well said Antony Richards! Whilst the last sentence may seem callous taken out of context - people do need to realise that homeless means homeless. We only take LHA reliant tenants with a guarantor now. As for the MP - what is he a closet Marxist or a Socialist Worker?

    • 11 June 2010 15:09 PM
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    Vossy (I have the good manners to get you name right...) - No, I haven't; and No, I'm not. I simply give all a fair crack of the whip, which very few seem to want to do. You have been quiet on here recently. Your comments were once spot on. You've slipped a bit.

    • 11 June 2010 15:04 PM
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    Anthony Richards for PM...you are a Hero.
    As for Peehee have you forgotten the Landlords who end up losing THOUSANDS of pounds and possibly their property due to Tenants "stealing" the rent due for the Landlord? Wheres your compassion for them? Maybe you are claiming Benefits yourself?

    • 11 June 2010 14:38 PM
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    And Mp s like this are running our country. Annoying as they shoudl have taken their bronze medal and shut. Dangerous liberal wet heads.
    Also anthony, good luck in future. Maybe the MP should give some of his salary to these poor benefit cheats. I expect you work a lot harder then he does for a crust.

    • 11 June 2010 14:37 PM
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    Thank you for your many words of support folks.
    As the perceptive ones will have realised this was an attempt to jerk people into action. It worked.
    I note that MP did not refer to my letter to him advising that since HB payment to me had been restored, the landlord was not intending to enforce the court order and that his constituents could remain. Funny that.
    I have a feeling there is a personal issue here with my MP.
    I make no apologies for what I wrote. I would do the same again - but do not forget - the whole of the letter was not reported.
    EAT has seen much of the correspondence and confirms we did all we could to help these people.
    01736 366544 if you want to speak to me.

    • 11 June 2010 13:03 PM
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    The point is that this agent in the story was not trying to encourage the tenants to go and live on the streets. He was trying to save them from the streets. The MP's behavious was disgraceful and he should apologise

    • 11 June 2010 12:25 PM
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    Sadly we no longer take DSS due to a 100% default rate when the crisis hit. The problem being when money is paid direct, the banks will settle their affairs sometimes leaving people who have tight budgets short. The whole point of paying benefit direct was to guaranatee that the money was used for the purpose given and also to guarantee a roof over their heads. Central government is to blame for some of these issues

    • 11 June 2010 12:23 PM
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    Moral of the story, dont take dolies.

    I started lettings a year ago all bushu eyed and wanting to give these poor unfortunates a chance in life....guess what? I have a no dolies policy now. Cant help some people.

    • 11 June 2010 12:13 PM
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    He was wrong to write that, but how do you make people listen when the money they are spending isn't theirs. If somebody continually gave you money and you couldn't stop youselve from buying the latest tracksuit with it. Then the only way to ram the point home is to let them know that they will end up homeless!
    Homeless people seem to actually earn money in London!1

    • 11 June 2010 12:05 PM
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    "I am told the streets are cold at night" is like a thinly disguised threat from one of the Godfather movies. Despite the rights and wrongs of this, it was not sensible, of Don Richards, to put that phrase in print. What next, equine threats?

    • 11 June 2010 11:44 AM
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    well said Ray. Look at the facts - the fact this is even an news story is because they have been ignored

    • 11 June 2010 11:28 AM
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    I'm never ashamed to look in the mirror. I would be embarrassed to hold my hand out for a free load though. Oink.

    • 11 June 2010 11:17 AM
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    Judging from the reported story the MP did not have all of the facts but tried to score some 'brownie points' with his constituents. The only thing that the agent did wrong was in the last sentence of the letter. Whatever the facts, that was very unprofessional.
    (The same could be said of some of the words used in some of the posts here).

    • 11 June 2010 11:09 AM
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    Pigs... - typical response from one who should have more common sense. Shame on me? Look in the mirror. Oink oink.

    • 11 June 2010 11:07 AM
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    People you are in danger of being as bad as this Mp in making supposition. We do not know the facts of the situation re the tenant but we Do know

    1. The Mp ignored the facts which is not acceptable

    2. The tenant was NOT providing information to the benefits office to help their own situation

    3.By NOT doing this they have caused their own situation as backed by the courts

    4. The MP ought to read all the fact and look to the fact that a Law Court has looked at all the facts and ordered a reposession

    • 11 June 2010 11:07 AM
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    "..no different to you or I". Personally, I take great offence to this remark. How dare you? I work hard for a living and to support my family. Shame on you.

    • 11 June 2010 10:58 AM
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    People - this is becoming a bun-fight.

    Can I remind you all that we are talking here about human beings - no different to you or I.

    I am just as aware as everyone else that there are those who abuse the system that we all pay towards (sometimes I wonder why I bother to work...) however for every one of those cases there are a number of genuine.

    The problem is, we all now lump them in the same category. Benefits claimants are not ALL spongers. How many Agents who lost their jobs were forced to make benefits claims - may still be doing so today?

    I would be surprised if the Agent sent this letter as anything other than a last-ditch attempt to get these tenants to act, but then I am surprised every day by what I see and hear. This serves as further proof that the written word is open to interpretation dependent on how you wish to read it. If in doubt - LEAVE IT OUT!

    • 11 June 2010 10:51 AM
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    Disgraceful abuse of parliamentary privilege. Andrew George should have to apologise to this agent. It is clear the agent was only trying to get the tenants to help themselves.

    • 11 June 2010 10:28 AM
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    The problem with the written word is the lack of clarity in respect to the emotion behind words.

    It could be read as the agent being callous, but equally could be read as the agents last desperate attempt to inject a sense of reality into the tenants slow unresponsive brain.


    To me that is what the agent was trying to get the tenant to understand.

    Probably the tenants were so used to just somehow getting free money for evenything they ever wanted they could not imagine that free money being stopped. No doubt they were lifelong lay-abouts unaware that sometimes even the system rejects an utter loser unwilling to even fill out a simple form let along actually work.

    We are one of teh few agents left that will help LHA and it is not always a pleasant experience.

    • 11 June 2010 10:26 AM
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    another case of lazy, bone-idle, good for nothings, who bleed the country dry because they don't think they should have to work. Absolutely ridiculous paying them the rent direct when all they do is spend it. I detest the benefit system, and good on the agent for saying what most people think

    • 11 June 2010 10:14 AM
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    Poverty and poor accommodation and unemployment does not give rise for anyone to make comments like that!

    The man should resign and stipped from professional bodies.

    • 11 June 2010 10:12 AM
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    Having worked in the republic of Ireland and dealt with Dss(social welfare) clients the one thing I do not agree with is paying the rent directly to the client. In ireland the rent is paid directly to the landlord/agent and if the rent is overpaid or paid in error then the chase the landlord/agent who will be in a better position to repay. Here in our office in London we dont accept DSS client s however some existing tenants are receiving housing assistance but what we are finding is that they are spending it before it reaches us.

    • 11 June 2010 10:04 AM
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    MP Andrew George should be forced to aplogise to the letting agent, in the house, whilst televised. Grovellingly. Then he should resign. Then he should donate all the money he has skimmed on his expenses to pay the families rent for the next fifty odd years. Then he should aplogise again before applying for a real job.

    • 11 June 2010 09:58 AM
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    The system is beyond a joke. The fact that the MP's running the country get a smaller allowance that people on benefits is obsurd. The peopple on benefits have no reason to get a job or push themselves to improve as they know they can always fall back to the hard working tax payers money. They are sucking the life out of our nation and it needs to be stopped. I don't want to have to work and pay taxes for them to then be handed out to someone who doesn't pay taxes or work. Like foxes, they just scrounge around off other people. Vermin

    • 11 June 2010 09:57 AM
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    Oh and before there are any socialist posts about fatcats, taxes benfitting rich and making poor poorer, note that the National Audit Office found that in cases it is possible to claim £93k housing benefit ALONE. It seems the fatcats are at the bottom of the pile as this equates to a pre tax salary of almost £150k without other benefits. Nice nonwork if you can get it

    • 11 June 2010 09:56 AM
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    From the quoted part of the Agents correspondence, I started off feeling that they were doing everything perfectly. Once we got to the final sentence though, I'm afraid the agent took that one step too far. It was a totally unecessary, and creul comment. Doesn't matter what you think, it's who you act that matters, and by putting that final sentence in, they acted in a way that makes you feel you can't argue when people tell you estate agents are slimey scum. It's seems a lot of agents are.

    • 11 June 2010 09:51 AM
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    PeeBee - thanks for that inmmature and unconstructive post - who do you mean tenant, agent or MP?

    I would say that the agent is correct in that we have a welfare state that WOULD pay if information is provided. Why with hold information so your family gets put on the street? One could only assume that it is because they would not get benefit. They are lucky the landlord has waited 9 months before using the court order - take note that the courts think that the tenant out to go. Therefore the MP is not only ignoring fact but also going against a court order.

    If the last comment had not been put in the letter would this be an issue? Probably not which means that the MP is being rather over sensitive about the issue when we have a country in an economic crisis

    • 11 June 2010 09:51 AM
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    Look, 'PeeBee', if you are going to continue to be such an obnoxious fool - PICK ANOTHER NAME TO HIJACK!!

    • 11 June 2010 09:48 AM
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    This just means even less landlords and agents dealing with DSS tenants. More hasstle than they are worth.

    • 11 June 2010 09:42 AM
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    He is only saying what everyone would be thinking!

    • 11 June 2010 09:35 AM
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    I am 100% behind the Agent. Most DHSS Tenants dont realise how lucky they are to have their rent paid while most of the population have to work to pay a mortgage or rent. They stroll in wanting to spend £1500 of tax payers money and then wont take a hous ebeacuse the garden isnt long enough or the 3rd bedroom is to small...bloody cheek. We have had a situations where a Tenant takes their benefit and doesnt pay the rent with it and the council state "its their money, they can do what they want with it" i.e dont have to pay rent with it! What a joke. This country is in a mess because the benefit system is open to such abuse. How many of us have "single mums with kids" claiming whilst knowing full well the husbands/fathers are actually living at the proeprty and probably moonlighting as mini cab drivers on £400pw cash....More fool us!!

    • 11 June 2010 09:34 AM
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    This post has been removed by site admin

    • 11 June 2010 09:31 AM