A Lancaster lettings agent took centre stage on the BBC’s Watchdog this week following a Rogue Traders “sting” in the city.
John Sanderson, of Lancaster Property Network Management (LPNM), was set up by Matt Allwright and the Rogue Traders team two weeks ago.
The show, which aired on BBC1 on Thursday October 22 at 8pm, focussed on claims from Lancaster landlords and students that Mr Sanderson’s company, which has now gone into liquidation, left them thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Watchdog reported that LPNM owed around £2m in unpaid bills to utility companies, the local council, solicitors, painters and decorators, and in rent to landlords whose properties the company dealt with.
The team interviewed landlord Irena Mackow, 78, who had been renting houses out in Lancaster for 23 years, but last year signed a contract with LPNM.
She said: “I got the full amount the first month and then the second and third month there was just a bit of money coming in, and then the following months nothing arrived.”
Mrs Mackow then visited Mr Sanderson’s offices in Penny Street with an undercover camera to confront him about her missing money.
She was owed £10,000 and had received £3,000.
Mr Sanderson said he did not receive the money from students, but an interview with two students living in Mrs Mackow’s house confirmed that he had.
During the secretly fimed meeting with Mrs Mackow, an irate Mr Sanderson said he “wasn’t going to get involved” and that he didn’t “like the way you’re saying that”.
He was also told he was being very aggressive responding: “I am, because you’re not listening”.
When asked where the money had gone he said: “How dare you? How very dare you? I nearly died over this and I’ll show you when...died.”
He then sends the group away, but jumps back up and stands in the doorway saying: “Would you like to see my Ferrari outside, I was in the south of France...”
Matt Allwright points out Mr Sanderson has a personally registered Jaguar instead.
The show also heard from other landlords including Andy Allen and Jos Pashley who were also left out of pocket.
Later in the show, Rogue Traders sent an email to Mr Sanderson’s new company One Stop Student Rentals Lancaster saying it had a house to rent in Lancaster and would the company be interested in looking at it.
Mr Sanderson responded to say he was, and a viewing was set up.
He arrived at the property to find a “landlord” who then revealed a projection on the wall of Mr Sanderson’s “victims”.
Matt Allwright then introduced himself and Mr Sanderson looked into the camera and shoved it away before making a sharp exit from the property.
As he made his way to his car he said: “Read the liquidators report”.
He then got into his car and said: “The money hasn’t gone, the money never came in.”
A spokesman for Mr Sanderson said: “At the time it was established, Lancaster Property Network (Management) Limited (LPNM) was designed to act in the interests of landlords, to maximise their rental income and minimise administrative workload, providing a seamless service for landlords and students alike. The business has over 15 year’s experience in the student market, serving over 40 landlords and 5000 students in that time.
“Unfortunately, the student housing market experienced unprecedented changes, which impacted LPNM’s business model as well as all other student accommodation providers. An influx of new developments and a reduction in student numbers in the region led to an over capacity of housing stock and created significant voids in LPNM’s portfolio. The business also experienced high levels of student rent arrears.
“Despite significant financial investment into LPNM, the business was no longer able to honour the levels of guaranteed income agreed with the landlords. Every effort was made to remedy the situation however the business went into liquidation proceedings on 10th September 2015.”
Lancashire Police said it had received a number of reports via Action Fraud about a property company based in Lancaster which has gone into liquidation and is in the process of assessing these reports.
Watch again at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06kw04w/watchdog-series-36-episode-3