Rogue city letting agent jailed for fraud and unfair trading
The director of a Wolverhampton letting agency has been sentenced to 28 months after being found guilty of several counts of fraud and unfair trading.
Following investigation by the city council’s Trading Standards team, Bhavander Singh Sanghera, of Jesson Road, Walsall, was found to have defrauded customer landlords and their tenants as well as ordered his staff to make false claims.
He was found guilty of three counts of fraud or fraudulent trading.
Sanghera also pleaded guilty on behalf of his company, EBS Property to four further charges under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Sanghera was sentenced to 28 months in jail for the fraud offences and is awaiting sentencing for the unfair trading offences. He was also disqualified from acting as a director for eight years.
Under the fraud offences, the court was told that Sanghera owned two properties at 374 and 374a Penn Road. The properties were let by EBS Propert, trading as Martin & Co Wolverhampton, where Sanghera was also the sole company director.
In December 2012, a tenant renting the property at 374 Penn Road discovered a physical connection between their electricity and gas meters and the supply to a neighbouring property 374a Penn Road, also owned by Sanghera.
Martin & Co falsely advised the tenant that they were liable to pay for the neighbouring property’s utilities under the guise that they had been given a discounted rate in rent.
A contract falsified with forged signatures and a letter were produced containing stipulations for the payment of the neighbouring property’s utilities, which could only have been sanctioned by Sanghera himself.
In November 2016 another tenant of 374 Penn Road had their £845 deposit wrongly withheld after a series of criticisms were added onto a check-out form after the tenant’s guarantor’s signature was received.
The court heard how employees at Martin & Co were also ordered by Sanghera to add excessive mark-ups on maintenance costs issued to landlords in order for the franchise to meet monthly targets.
Sanghera, who also owned a maintenance company, Genuine Interiors, fabricated invoices for work which was not carried out, such as the removal of personal belongings.
Staff were also advised to get friends and family to post fabricated positive reviews of the business on Google and were instructed to send out of date, misleading photographs of properties to the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) to provide false evidence for withholding tenants’ deposits.
Under the consumer protection from unfair trading offences, the court was told that during 2016, EBS Property did not advise the tenant that the utilities of 374a were linked to the utility meters at 374 and that they would be paying for both utility bills, nor were they informed that the landlord of the property, Sanghera, was also the director of the letting agency.
Further offences related to the aggressive behaviour demonstrated by EBS Property in issuing the tenants with an eviction notice in retaliation to complaints made by them to the council.
Cllr Steve Evans, cabinet member for city environment and climate change, said: “The council takes consumer protection very seriously and will always act to prosecute those who look to commit fraud against our residents. People put their trust in agencies like the one run by Sanghera to find them a home. They should not have that trust broken by the type of unscrupulous behaviour this case has highlighted.
“Crimes of this sort have such a huge financial and emotional impact on their victims. Sanghera has shown a repeated pattern of fraudulent behaviour at the financial and emotional expense of both his tenants and his staff. I’m very pleased that justice has now been served in this case.”