A rogue estate agent who forged Wirral Council letters and emails and lied to clients has been banned from acting as a company director after a string of offences.
Joe Martin-Bindley, former director of Peninsular Property Consultants North West, admitted two counts of fraud, three of providing false or misleading information under the Housing Act and breaching protection regulations consumers.
Peninsular went into liquidation in August owing around £47,000 to creditors including HSBC Bank, despite having only £7,000 in assets, according to records filed with Companies House.
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The council launched a joint prosecution by its housing and business standards teams after the incidents between May and June 2020, which resulted in charges being laid against Martin-Bindley, of Storeton Lane in Barnston, Wirral.
Wirral Magistrates Court heard how he used underhanded and illegal tactics to try to get one of his clients a license to rent a property in Liscard as a multiple occupancy (HMO) home, which means that individual rooms are rented to different tenants.
Officers from the council’s housing standards team had recommended that the application be rejected.
However, Martin-Bindley faked an email to the council which appeared to come from one of their own housing officers, stating that the property had in fact been inspected recently and was suitable for an HMO licence.
He also lied to the council by suggesting that their concerns about the property, mainly about the rooms being too small to let to tenants, had not previously been raised despite correspondence proving they had been.
Martin-Bindley also tried to dupe the owners of the property, sending a fake email that looked like it was from the council, suggesting that the HMO license had indeed been granted.
Wirral’s council investigated and found that Martin-Bindley was lying about other things as well.
Fraud charges related to the fact that he faked other emails claiming to be from the Property Ombudsman Service (TPOS), suggesting that his business was a member of the TPOS redress program – meaning any deposit made by a tenant would be protected.
The emails were then forwarded to a client, named in court as Alison Harvey, to give the impression that he was a member of the scheme and could act as a property management agent.
In another scam, Martin-Brindley falsely posted on his company’s website that he was a ‘fully accredited agent recognized by Wirral Borough Council and Liverpool City Council’ despite knowing it was not true.
Martin-Bindley pleaded guilty to all charges.
He was convicted last week by District Judge Wendy Lloyd, who sentenced him to 16 weeks in jail, suspended for 12 months and ordered him to pay £11,000 in prosecution costs and fines.
Martin Bindley was also given the five-year disqualification order, which means he cannot control or build any business, and ordered to perform 240 hours of unpaid work over the next 12 months.
A council spokesperson said: ‘It is essential that the council prosecutes those who use unscrupulous methods to circumvent systems designed to keep tenants safe.
“We are providing detailed advice and guidance to landlords and property management companies to try to ensure that housing standards are met. Finding illegal ways to avoid meeting these standards is completely unacceptable and will be challenged.”
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