Rogue Bristol letting agent refuses to return deposits

Jermaine McCalla
Image caption The Property Redress Scheme said Jermaine McCalla, of Suremove Bristol, had broken the code of practice

A rogue letting agent has refused to return a deposit following a series of complaints about his conduct.

Jermaine McCalla, of Suremove Bristol, took a £375 holding fee from an undercover actor posing as someone looking for a flat.

He was filmed saying it covered taking the property off the market, checking references and other services.

A day later the actor decided not to go ahead as part of the BBC investigation, but was refused his money back.

'Return deposit' request

Mr McCalla told him all agency fees and holding deposits were non-refundable, despite not carrying out most of the work he said it was for.

A spokesperson for The Property Redress Scheme said he had broken the code of practice in doing this and should give most of the deposit back.

Ombudsman Sean Hooker told BBC Inside Out West: "The agent should have produced a holding deposit agreement which sets out what the holding deposit would be used for and the circumstances when this would or wouldn't be refunded.

"This document should have been explained to the prospective tenant and they should then be asked to sign it if they are in agreement."

He added that the agent would be obliged to produce evidence showing what work was completed before a refund was requested.

'Unexplained services'

Inside Out West heard from a tenant who said Mr McCalla failed to mandatorily register a deposit with the government's deposit protection scheme.

The programme also found an example of money that Mr McCalla had charged for unexplained services.

Mike Sergison and Eadie McCarthy were left with no alternative but to pay an extra £940 to Mr McCalla on the day they were due to move into a property he had secured for them.

The couple said they had already paid him holding and security deposits and one month's rent in advance, when Mr McCalla asked for the further amount to cover "agency fees".

They said they reluctantly paid the money to avoid being made homeless.

Ms McCarthy said: "We still haven't received a receipt of what this money was for or where it has gone."

Proceedings to wind up Suremove Bristol were lodged in December.

Mr McCalla has not responded to correspondence sent to him by the BBC regarding the matter.

Inside Out is broadcast on BBC One West at 19:30 GMT on Monday 7 March.

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