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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
BBC documentary shakes property world
The BBC TV Whistleblower programme about estate agents has created shock waves across the industry and triggered calls in parliament for a property market watchdog with teeth.

Reporter Anna Adams

During the eight month investigation undercover reporters Anna Adams and Emma Clarke found agents putting forward false offers, faking landlords' signatures and falsifying documents to inflate property prices.

The reporters spent three months working in multi-million pound agency Foxtons.

The programme investigated four other agencies in London some with even more shocking results.

Following its broadcast, MPs have called for a debate in parliament on the issues the programme brought to their attention.

Liberal Democrat Richard Younger-Ross MP, has asked the home secretary why the police are not investigating the BBC's findings.

"If agents are over-inflating prices through fraudulent valuations and similar practices," he says, "then there may be need for police action and further regulation of the industry in general."

Elderly victim

Renewed calls for the industry to be better regulated have also been seized upon by other estate agents keen to distance themselves from the murky practices exposed in the programme.

Some rival firms have now reportedly said they would think twice about employing any agents who have worked in Foxtons.

I have been naive in trusting the agent and was staggered when I realised how much money I could have lost
Elderly homeowner

Anna also worked at a smaller firm, Time2Move, based in south London and found agents lying to vendors and boasting about flyboarding.

Whistleblower has been inundated with demands from hundreds of viewers, calling for tighter guidelines for buyers and sellers after they watched the shocking tactics used by unscrupulous agents.

In one of the programme's most shocking scenes the manager of the Fulham branch of London-based Chard asked for a 10,000 cash-backhander to cheat an elderly homeowner out of 50,000.

The homeowner involved has thanked Whistleblower.

He added: "I have been naive in trusting the agent and was staggered when I realised how much money I could have lost.

"I didn't know about the lack of regulation until I watched the show."

He said Chard had been in touch with him and expressed its "deepest regret" and promised to sell his flat for a fair price.

'Deep mistrust'

The Home Office are now investigating the fake passport that was sold to our reporter by an estate agent from Prime Time Mortgage and Property Services.

Prime Time in Tottenham, North London, has since closed.

Anna Adams said: "The response to the programme has been unbelievable. We have been inundated with emails and letters from hundreds of consumers desperate to tell their horror stories at the hands of various estate agents.

"And I have been stopped in the street by total strangers keen to thank me for exposing one of the Britain's most despised industries.

"There are more than 12,000 registered estate agencies in the UK and not all of them use practices as murky as the ones I came across.

"People love to hate estate agents and have a deep mistrust of the industry, but estate agency does not have to be viewed with such contempt.

"It is perfectly easy to do the job without lying and cheating. When I was at Foxtons I was a very successful negotiator and managed to sell properties without resorting to any dirty tricks.

"But during the eight month investigation I discovered - among the various different agencies I investigated - a litany of dishonesty, deception, deceit and outright criminality.

"And there seem to be few laws to prevent the manipulation and lies that I witnessed."

All the agencies featured said they would take the allegations made very seriously and investigate.

In some of the agencies the people featured had already left the companies or had subsequently been suspended in response to the programme.



SEE ALSO:
The secret agent
21 Mar 06 |  Magazine
In defence of estate agents
24 Mar 06 |  Magazine
Who can be an estate agent?
22 Mar 06 |  Magazine
Estate agency code gets thumbs up
21 Mar 06 |  Business


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