In April EYE broke the story of Martin & Co disenfranchising JD Moss Ltd, the company that had been operating its Stevenage, Herts, branch.
Martin & Co confirmed that lack of CMP insurance had been behind the action:
“The fact that the former franchisee continued to operate when he was unable to renew his Client Money Protection insurance is one of the key reasons Martin & Co (UK) Ltd made the decision to terminate his franchise agreement.”
Its sole director, David Moss, had also claimed membership of ARLA, but the organisation confirmed he has never held membership.
Martin & Co said in a published statement to EYE that it would make good any financial losses suffered by clients:
“Any clients of the former franchisee who have suffered a financial loss which arose during the period when he was operating as a Martin & Co (UK) Ltd licensed franchise, but without Client Money Protection insurance, will be restored by Martin & Co (UK) Ltd to the position that they would have been in had the insurance been active.”
EYE has now been contacted by a former landlord of the Stevenage branch of Martin & Co who claims that the firm is making assistance and reimbursement conditional upon the landlord signing up with the Welwyn Garden City branch of Martin & Co.
The landlord is a company with two properties that were under management with Martin & Co Stevenage.
They were advised of the disenfranchisement action in an email on 14th April from Martin & Co Managing Director, Gareth Samples, and told they would need to contact David Moss directly for any monies due.
If that failed they could contact Crossley Property & Lettings, a firm of accountants in Rochester which apparently had ‘access to some historic records.’
The landlord company says it is owed £1350 for rent paid on one of its two properties.
It claims that the tenants paid the rent to a non-client account of the franchise following instructions to them made by David Moss and that the rent has not been subsequently received by the landlord.
The landlord followed the procedure contained in Samples’ email – but had no success. EYE has seen the correspondence.
The communications with Martin & Co eventually led to an email last Friday, 22nd May, from Penny Sanders, Head of Franchising at The Property Franchise Group to the landlord.
It said that if the landlord instructed the Welwyn Garden City branch of Martin & Co to manage the property and to receive the Martin & Co service “which will include pursuing non-payment of rent by the tenants” then ‘as a gesture of goodwill’ the company would make good rent payments, “misplaced by our former franchisee”...
The email ended:
“In the event that you do not continue to use the Martin & Co service you will need to pursue JD Moss Limited for the missing rent.”
At this point the landlord made contact with EYE and told us they considered the email from Sanders, and the condition to instruct the Welwyn branch, to be at odds with the previous, unconditional, public statement made by The Property Franchise Group/Martin & Co to make good any losses.
“As you can imagine, our trust in the Martin & Co brand has been irrevocably damaged as we have seen no restitution paid for what we believe to be the fraudulent actions of their franchisee.
“We have notified the Police through Action Fraud as we believe the actions of David Moss to be fraud and we will also be starting formal complaints proceedings through the Property Ombudsman, as we have been led to believe that The Property Franchise Group were aware of mis-management of client funds from Dec 2019 due to the Client Account Insurances being revoked post audit.”
“We believe this requires further investigation from the regulator.”
The landlord claims to know of up to 25 other landords similarly affected by the events surrounding the Stevenage franchise of Martin & Co.
If any would like to contact EYE we will be pleased to hear from them. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Property Franchise Group/Martin & Co was approached for comment and issued the following statement to EYE yesterday (Monday):
As previously communicated, our franchisee at Welwyn Garden city is providing continuity of service for all landlords and claims made. Following our statement made at the time, administrators were appointed meaning that all customers’ first port of call should now be to make a claim against the assets of the company through the appointed administrator.
Welwyn Garden City are currently working to process claims. It is imperative that all claims are thoroughly checked to verify their legitimacy and help us to process them as quickly as possible.
Whilst we have no legal responsibility in this matter, as a gesture of goodwill we agreed to put landlords back into the position they would have been before the business collapsed. This is something we are working hard to achieve and we would reiterate the first part of the process is to register a claim with the administrator handling the collapse.