A former letting agent from Kettering who overcharged both tenants and landlords admitted 10 fraud-related offences at Leicester Crown Court on Tuesday (November 24).
Trained accountant Harpreet Garcha, who ran property lettings franchises Belvoir in Kettering, Desborough and Corby, was investigated by Northamptonshire County Council’s Trading Standards team after a landlord made a complaint about being overcharged for routine maintenance at her rented home.
As a result of the Trading Standards investigation, Garcha, 39, of Bath Road, Kettering, was charged with two counts of fraudulent trading, two counts of money laundering, five counts of insurance fraud and one offence of VAT fraud. He pleaded guilty to all of these offences, which were carried out between 2008 and 2012.
When routine maintenance or repairs were needed, Garcha would often increase the cost of the work by at least 30% when invoicing the landlord or tenant. This practice came to light when a complaint was made about the cost of works at a rented property, which revealed the landlord had been charged £312.50 for an electrical safety check which should have cost just £58.75.
The complainant then reported Garcha to Trading Standards, prompting a full investigation into the lettings company.
False insurance claims
Garcha also provided false invoices to HMRC to reclaim VAT on business expenditure and made false statements when making insurance claims on behalf of landlords which resulted in unjustified county court judgements against former tenants.
At a hearing at Leicester Crown Court in June, Garcha was also found to be in contempt of court for breaching a restraint order preventing him from dissipating his assets.
He is due to appear again at Leicester Crown Court on December 18 for sentencing.
Since July 2014, the Kettering, Desborough and Corby franchises have been under new ownership and the current businesses are not connected with this prosecution in any way. The franchisor, Belvoir Property Management UK Limited, is not the subject of any action by Northamptonshire Trading Standards.