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Professional & Surveying Services

Commercial Property Services

Not long ago, if you wanted to let, rent, buy or sell a property you visited your local town centre and researched letting and estate agents until you found one you wanted to work with, or had the levels of expertise and properties available to suit your requirements.

The rise of estate agents advertising online has been meteoric, as has the rise of online-only agents. These virtual agents' sites target users and potential clients in a variety of ways. For those selling property, they still offer valuations, accompanied visits and attractive commission rates - especially when compared to high street agents

with an online presence, where the business has to factor in much greater overheads.

Buyers need little encouragement to view such sites as virtual agents provide an additional and free resource for property that may not be advertised elsewhere. When it comes to landlords and tenants, the virtual approach differs only from the traditional letting and management service in that there are no high street premises and no face-to-face, long-term relationships to develop.

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David Gurton

Following a report last year, criminals have continued to shift away from cultivating large cannabis farms in commercial buildings to small-scale factories across multiple sites in rented residential properties or residential portions of commercial properties.

 This allows the criminal to spread the risk of detection and minimise loss of profit, meaning if one farm is discovered there will be others left in operation.

With cannabis rising in value over recent years, a growing number of criminal gangs are moving into this area and view the crop as low risk and high return.

 This allows the criminal to spread the risk of detection and minimise loss of profit, meaning if one farm is discovered there will be others left in operation.

With cannabis rising in value over recent years, a growing number of criminal gangs are moving into this area and view the crop as low risk and high return.

More worryingly, new varieties of the crop are being introduced that only take around nine weeks to mature, rather than the usual 12 weeks. This means scheduled quarterly checks by landlords or agents may miss the cultivation process and be left with a property in a state of disrepair.

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'.... probably the best independent Estate Agency and Lettings and property management covering the Medway Towns, Rochester, Chatham in Kent.' This is the opening paragraph on the UK Letting Agents' directory website for Sweet Property Services.

However, it is alleged that this is not the case.

It is reported that Sweet Property Services recently went into liquidation (precise details are "unclear") and has closed, with a Notice of Forfeiture on the door of its leased office in Rochester.

Allegedly, landlords have lost thousands of pounds after rents were withheld, and tenants are concerned that their deposits are unprotected and irrecoverable. The Property

Ombudsman (TPO) has received a number of complaints.

Prompted by this story and the fall out, Alan Stewart, director & head of Residential Lettings & Management at Caxtons Chartered Surveyors is frustrated by the lack of statutory regulation. Alan explains:

"In October, TPO issued a press release highlighting a sharp increase in the number of consumer complaints in the residential lettings sector. This was at the same time as the requirement for every agent to register with an approved redress scheme came into effect. It is clear that the voluntary code of conduct amongst letting agencies is still not working and that landlords and tenants are left at risk.

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Alan Stewart