Matlock estate agent admits shame

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An estate agent has pleaded guilty to defrauding customers - by not protecting tenants’ deposits.

Helen Gregory, 55, of Valley Road, Spital, Chesterfield, has admitted three charges of engaging in unfair commercial practices.

Ms Gregory was charged last year with fraud in that while occupying a position, namely director, in which she was expected to safeguard or not act against the financial interests of clients.

She allegedly kept tenants’ money by opting not to pay it into the Deposit Protection Service (DPS) – which was made a legal requirement by the Housing Act 2004.

The prosecution is being brought on behalf of Trading Standards in relation to businesses in Matlock and Chesterfield.

In November 2012 concerned customers contacted the Derbyshire Times after desperately trying to track down Ms Gregory amid fears they had lost thousands of pounds.

Anxious landlords and tenants tried to get in touch with the former owner of Beechwood Property Portfolio, after attempts to reclaim money they believed the company owed them had been unsuccessful. The alarm was raised after numerous people attempted to withdraw funds from the Deposit Protection Service (DPS).

New legislation was passed in 2004 requiring all landlords to pay deposits on rental properties direct to the DPS.

She was charged with three counts of fraud relating to three separate companies: Beechwood Lettings LTD, between 1 April 2007 and 30 November 2009; Beechwood Property Portfolio LTD, between 31 May 2007 and 19 October 2012; and Letzlet LTD, between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2012.

On Monday Derby Crown Court said Ms Gregory had now entered a guilty plea to three charges of engaging in unfair commercial practices.

She is set to be sentenced on September 15.