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Baxter Todd Letting Agency – Missing in Action?

Baxter Todd Letting Agency – Missing in Action?

For those of you that don’t know, I founded a company called Smarter Housing in August 2005 with the aim of Raising the Standard (TM) of student accommodation. In the summer of 2008 the company was flying along, with a huge portfolio of student properties and, as recognition of my efforts, I found myself acting as an ambassador for several government enterprise agencies as well as giving presentations to budding entrepreneurs at schools and colleges around the West Midlands. To top it all off, I was invited into the prestigious Courvoisier Future 500 network.

Adam Arnold at the New Venture Fest in 2005

Adam Arnold at the New Venture Fest in 2005

Shortly after the birth of my son in July 2008, I found myself involved in a complicated divorce and pretty much lost the plot. I made poor management decisions and in May 2010 the company ceased trading as a result of a huge financial black hole.

At the time, there were lots of angry landlords who thought I had simply pocketed the money. Further to a review by SJ Accountancy Services (Leamington Spa), the fraud squad and the Insolvency Service, the majority of Landlords acknowledged I hadn’t stolen any money, rather, I made a giant hash of things. In short, I (yes, my staff – but it was my fault) failed to collect more than £200,000 in rent.

What happened to Baxter-Todd? Don’t jump to conclusions!

One of my former employees went to work for another Leamington Spa letting agency, Baxter Todd, taking a few Landlords in the process. I feel sorry for all concerned as, less than 24 months later, Baxter Todd has closed in suspicious circumstances. For my former employee, that pretty much puts an end to her ability to work in property ever again. For my former Landlords, they now face the possibility of being stung for a second time.

But why am I sympathetic towards Carl Baxter, owner of the Baxter-Todd letting agency? Well, much like I was, he is now being persecuted in the local press as well as number of property blogs. Whilst it is possible that Mr. Baxter is enjoying an extended holiday in the south of Spain, I suspect that nothing illegal has taken place.

If it turns out that rent and deposits have been stolen, I have no doubt that the appropriate punishment will be handed out. In the meantime, stop speculating and focus on what matters: getting your money back!

I am a Landlord affected by the Baxter-Todd closure: what do I do?

If I were you, I would contact Stephen Hughes on 01926 336 220. His companies can help with recovering lost funds and the ongoing management of your property/properties.

When Smarter Housing fell over, several Landlords opted to use SJ Accountancy Services to compile my non-existent rent accounts which prompted company owner, Stephen Hughes, to form S&J Estates. Both companies now trade out of my old premises on Spencer Street, Leamington Spa.

In many cases, Landlords have now been paid money owed by their former tenants (money that I should have collected). The majority of tenants paid when presented with rent accounts but some have been taken to Court. I continue to make myself available for trial dates, however the applications and paperwork have been handled by S&J Estates.

I am a Tenant affected by the Baxter-Todd closure: what do I do?

Many sources are claiming that Carl Baxter is not returning calls. From experience of this sad situation I can say that he may be receiving hundreds of calls per day and simply cannot respond to them all. Be persistent & keep calling any numbers you have available!

In the event you are unable to get in touch and fear for your security deposit, it is – unfortunately for them – the Landlord’s responsibility to pay you back. However, bear in mind the Landlord may also have lost money here so be reasonable and give them time to pay it back.

Such is the compensation culture in which we live these days, I have no doubts some of you will be thinking “the deposit hasn’t been protected and I will get 3 times that amount as a penalty payment”. Unlikely. Firstly, I know my former employee was pretty hot on protecting deposits so I’m 99% sure they will be taken care of. If not, a recent legal case has set a precedent meaning Landlords won’t get hit with the 3 times deposit penalty so long as they protect the amount in question – and they have up until the day before the court hearing to get this done.

Good luck!

 

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  • Anonymous

    Taken from the Leamington Observer:

    “This is the first I have heard of this claim and am happy to investigate this further and get it resolved.”

    Explaining the reasons for the company’s demise Mr Baxter added the issue began in September 2010 when a partner of the company took a substantial amount of money out and left the country.

    Mr Baxter continued: “This left me in a predicament of having to consider closing down the company and putting someone out of a job.

    “I decided to work at it to trade out of the situation even though things were very tough as it has been for most in the current climate. I personally had to keep investing every penny I had to keep it going but it then got to a point where it became increasingly harder to continue and so with deep regret I had to close the company down in November.

    “By no means I wanted the situation to arise.”

    ~~~~

    So whilst it seems there may be something dodgy going on, Carl Baxter doesn’t seem to be the man to blame.

    • Anonymous

      Just a thought….

      Having re-read the above something doesn’t quite add up. From what I know, Baxter-Todd was only formed in August 2010 and thus it seems unlikely anyone would have been pulling money out as early as the following month.

      It is possible this is a mis-print and should have read September 2011. I shall maintain an open mind!

      • Clairem74

        If the press is defaming Carl Baxter then he should sue them. When Chris Todd left the company and went to Australia, the original company was dissolved and the new LLP started up. This situation is now in the hands of the Police, Companies House and the Courts, which is where it should be, so that they may properly investigate the allegations surrounding the way in which Carl Baxter conducted and closed his business.

        • Anonymous

          Some interesting points there!

          With regards to the legal action, that is easier said than done. I had the University of Warwick throw up a notice saying the company was suffering from serious financial problems and embezzlement – this prevented me from recovering ANY of the £200,000 rent I had failed to collect at that point. This sealed the fate of the company, preventing any possibility of trading out of the situation and meant Landlords had to chase the rent themselves. Understandably, they weren’t very happy.

          When you’re on your knees financially, trying to salvage a company you lived and breathed for 5 years, finding the money to sue anyone – let alone someone as big as a university or established newspaper – is almost impossible.

          With Carl Baxter, the points aren’t as clear cut but the articles clearly imply substantial wrong doing. That would make his own efforts to sue the papers even more complicated.

          I wasn’t previously aware that one company was closed and another one started. This is without doubt illegal, although I can see the logic – move away from any debts due to the sudden departure of Chris Todd and start fresh, protect the brand and try to retain a customer base.

          With regards to what you are owed, I would suggest (and this isn’t legal advice, just an idea!) you get a CCJ filed IMMEDIATELY if you haven’t done so already. Once you have an order go and speak to these people – http://www.thesheriffsoffice.com/ – they have much more power than a County Court bailiff. I have used them in the past and just the threat of their involvement led to a prompt payment of money I was owed.

          I wish you the best of luck in recovering your losses. If I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to ask, although your solicitors no doubt have it covered!

          • Clairem74

            Thank you. My husband is a qualified Barrister and, whilst of course we would prefer to resolve any issues we may have with Mr Baxter without recourse to legal action, we will, if forced to pursue legal remedies, litigate this ourselves. Many thanks.

          • Anonymous

            You’re welcome. In any event, you might be able to kill 2 birds with one stone. S&J may be able to help you offset the losses against your taxes & also offer a means of letting & managing your property for the future. The company is owned by Stephen Hughes – 01926 336 220.

            He helped me out massively when Smarter Housing folded, putting together accounts for Landlords so they could chase what was due. Without his assistance I’d probably be on a cold slab somewhere… so I’m always trying to repay the favour by bigging up his services :)

          • Clairem74

            My husband and I now have our money back from Baxtertodd.

      • Sarah

        It’s not a misprint I had a meeting with Carl Baxter in Oct 2010 and he told me about Chris leaving the company in Sept 2010. He chose to with hold the info about him taking the money though! I managed to get £333 of the £1654 he owed me back through a Small claims court third party debt order just before he applied to have his company declared insolvent. The timing of Carl’s dissolution of the original company, Chris’s abandonment and the alledged removal of monies is definitely suspicious as Claire notes below. This is because it points to Wrongful trading. Proving that my good people is the only way to get any money back if there is any (for example, it is possible that Carl could have removed monies from the business into personal accounts before shutting up shop. Of course this is all possibility and not fact. Unfortunately the route to prooving this is through the Civil courts and costs money (of which I am short of at the moment)

        I’ll be calling this SJ Estates people to check it out…

        Alternatively if anyone else who is owed money is interested in getting together and conducting a joint case, I’d be interested in doing that and splitting the costs. I know the legal route to do that pretty well (I’m a geek and I read and represent myself!) – GET IN TOUCH – sarahriley777@gmail.com

        I have also kept emails, letters and a diary. So I actually have everything I need for a strong case….

        I also agree with the sentiment of this blog. I don’t think Carl is a bad man. Not at all. I do believe he genuinely made some mistakes and tried his best to keep it going… And I think therein is the problem…. I agree with many others… Companies in the UK have a duty to avoid trading insolvent and I think there is space potentially for Carl to be held accountable in this respect. If Chris did leave with a substantial amount of money. Account should have been taken of assets verses liabilities to check for insolvency. This could have been why he started a new Company??? If that was the case, that’s one way to hide it from Companies house’s eyes….

        And at the end of the day he owes us all hard earned money whatever happened…..

        • Adam_Arnold

          Hi Sarah,

          This is a really balanced post – thank you for your entry.

          I wish you all the best in getting some money back.

          Adam

    • Clairem74

      I would have thought that the allocation of blame/culpability should be something that arises from the conclusion of any Police investigation, any investigation by Companies House and of course the outcomes of any litigation brought by those who say that they are owed money by Baxtertodd.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Claire,

        That’s how it should work. Sadly my own experience of the press was that they are happy to print allegations without a great deal of substance. It appears Carl Baxter is now getting the same kind of treatment.

        I was cleared of any wrong doing although it was far too late to make any different. Rumours + press publications are enough to ruin anyone’s reputation in a town as small as Leamington Spa.

        Kind regards,

        Adam

  • Sophielou_1

    Adam

    As a former landlady client of BaxterTodd, here are my thoughts:

    “2010 Chris Todd took a substantial amount of money out of the business” – this is the first I have heard of this – maybe if Carl had communicated this to us we may have been more sympathetic

    “I suspect that nothing illegal has taken place” – he has taken my tenants rent money which is rightfully mine – he is a thief

    “Carl Baxter being persecuted in the local press” – the press have done nothing but publish the truth
    - he deserves to be named and shamed in my opinion so let it continue

    “Carl Baxter is not returning calls” – this is because he doesn’t have a pair of balls and won’t face up to what he has done

  • Anonymous

    Update: for more details on penalties for failing to register deposits, see this article on the TDS Blog:

    http://blog.tds.gb.com/blog/the-localism-act-long-awaited-clarity-in-deposit-protection-law/

    In short, Landlords won’t be stung with a penalty so long as they protect the deposit up to the day before any Court cases. However, this will all change when the Localism Act kicks in later this year.

  • Anonymous

    Update: Carl Baxter contacted me over the weekend after reading this blog post. From the brief exchange I don’t think he has done anything illegal although should have folded the company when Chris Todd fled the country.

    I have advised he reaches out to SJ Accountancy Services / S&J Estates (http://www.sjestates.uk.com) and does a deal.

    This is all personal opinion: I have absolutely no way to verify what I am being told. I think I’m a pretty good judge of character these days and Carl Baxter strikes me as an honest man who made mistakes much like I did.

    I also note that some Landlords have posted follow up comments on other websites to say they have had their money back. This is obviously good news!

  • Sophie Morris

    Hi Adam

    Thanks for the update – good to hear some people are getting their money back.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had mine back.

    I have a county court judgement against BaxterTodd which has not been satisfied – I am owed rent from July, August and September 2011.

    Carl Baxter has had many opportunities to pay me but hasn’t, so I am failing to see how he is an honest man.

    Sophie

    • Anonymous

      Hi Sophie,

      I think a big problem for business owners is being able to acknowledge failure. When I first realised my own accounts were in complete disarray I thought about trying to trade out of the situation.

      Thankfully, I didn’t have this option. Three of my Landlords practically frog marched me into HSBC and confirmed their suspicion the accounts were empty. Had this not happened I would probably still be in business but constantly stressed out by the knowledge that my accounts weren’t balanced properly. It would also have been illegal using new deposits to balance old-debts.

      Eventually I’d have got them squared up but not without throwing thousands of pounds at CCJs, which is what many of my former Landlords have had to do. As you will know, obtaining a CCJ (unless it is by default) isn’t cheap when you add up the filing fee, allocation fee and hearing fees. As it happens, folding the company and then helping Landlords with the accounts/debt chasing was the least painful solution. I did the right thing both by letting the company go and trying to make amends with former clients.

      I know Carl Baxter has said sorry & that he will re-pay money via an article in the Observer but that won’t mean much to people unless they actually get paid.

      Stick at it and – if you have to – you can always file a winding up order. Whilst there may not be any cash in the bank (I don’t know), a company with several office locations should have enough assets to cover a few deposit returns.

      Good luck!

      Adam

  • Anonymous

    Christ Todd has paid all money he took back he has also not fled the country

    • Stephen Hughes

      Dear Anonymous,

      I think you are mistaken. Two former Baxter Todd landlords contacted us on Thursday & Friday last week asking for assistance on writing off losses due to the company’s closure.

      Thanks,

      Stephen Hughes
      Director

      SJ Accountancy Services + S&J Estates
      13 Spencer Street
      Leamington Spa
      CV31 3NE

  • http://www.arla.co.uk/letting-agent-search/area/Leamington%2520Spa/size/3/licensed/ Rob

    If there is a lesson to be learnt it is that Tenants and Landlords should use agents with Client Money Protection in place; members of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) for example have this cover for this.

    • Anonymous

      That… or Landlords should handle deposits themselves!