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Landlord Identify Theft Warning as Tenant Sells Property

Property experts have warned landlords to keep personal and financial documents away from rented properties and ensure identity theft is kept to a minimum.

The warning comes following the court case of a south London tenant, who now faces imprisonment after attempting to sell his landlord’s property.

Steven Rice, the managing director of a yacht company, obtained personal information about his 83-year-old landlord, Vernon Stratton, and sold Mr Stratton’s South Kensington property for £1.47million.

After the money was paid into Mr Stratton’s account, Mr Rice obtained a false driving licence in Mr Stratton’s name and attempted to transfer the funds to his Dubai bank account.

When Halifax staff questioned the validity of the driving licence, Mr Rice was reprimanded by police and could now face years behind bars for fraud.

“Tenant sub-letting is not going to stop. But this is a one-in-a-million case. I can’t see many tenants having the confidence to get fake ID and maintain the front with solicitors,” a leading letting agent commented.

The serial opportunist admitted possessing a false ID document with intent and acquiring criminal property. However, he denied charges of fraud and possessing an article for use in fraud.

Southwark Crown Court heard how Mr Rice had earlier rented another landlord’s Kensington house under a false name and secured a £489,235 loan on the property from Lloyds TSB. The money transfer was eventually cancelled at the last minute.

Mr Rice will be sentenced later this year. In the meantime, landlords must make sure all confidential post is re-directed to a suitable address to avoid suffering the pitfalls undergone by Mr Stratton and those landlords whose properties are being sub-let.