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The above individual and his Wife Natalie Gartman own and run a property management agency in the Torbay area and their offices are based in Teignmouth, Devon. They are accused by myself and business partner of fraudulent activity.We would like to share our experience of working with them as what we believe they have done is serious and could affect many people at all levels, especially in the social networking, property investment and property education arena.
My business partner and I invest quite heavily in the HMO sector in the South West, in late 2015 my business partner and I were approached by a newly set up company called Creative Property Partners Ltd set up by Cristeun and Natalie Gartman. This Company were interested in our portfolio on a rent to rent basis, at the time probably around 18 properties, so about 85 rooms.
We negotiated the management of our portfolio by them at a 10% commission, with a view that if all went well, we would in turn give them all future projects to manage. We were extremely busy with new projects so handing the portfolio over to a managing agent to run our existing rooms seemed logical, and for the first 12 months things progressed quite well as we were growing very quickly.
However certain things on social media flagged my attention, the fact that Cristeun Gartman was utilising and marketing our portfolio as his own projects and developments, with a view to increasing their online presence to clearly attract potential investors. This didn’t sit quite right with us.However we decided to let it slide, as I thought, as we grow you grow and a bit of self-promotion for them, won’t hurt, even if the properties do not belong to them and are not on the rent to rent they often claim. They were managing our properties, not renting them.
It has also materialised that information and images used by Cristeun from our portfolio were submitted as case studies as part of a scheme to win a very well known Property Education Programme. The basis of which was that they had acquired 23 properties on a rent to rent agreement and numerous flats, which was completely false, as this was our portfolio they drew reference to and we categorically refute any claim that this was the arrangement or agreement.Since the Property Education Programme, Cristeun Gartman of Creative Property Partners has also been featured in Your Property Network Magazine under false pretences with the facade of dozens of rent to rents, again many of which, are falsely based on our portfolio. They have even published financial case studies based on our properties which are entirely false.
More serious than the above however is the fact that 6 weeks ago my business partner and I were called in to a meeting with Lloyds Bank, as we are raising substantial finance against part of our portfolio.In this meeting it was flagged that a Charging Order and subsequent CCJ had been made against my business partner from our local water company, South West Water. This was due to the fact that no water has been paid at this property for over 2 years, the entire duration the property was managed by Cristeun and Natalie Gartman, despite the fact that monies had been withheld every month to service these Accounts (we have evidence to back all of this).
Creative Property Partners Ltd collected all our rental income and then retained a proportion back, over and above their 10% commission to pay utility companies, Councils, maintenance people, tradesmen, basically anything they needed to run our portfolio, effectively they deducted the monies from the rents to do so. We gave them a completely free reign.
Upon further investigation it would appear that no water has been paid on 23 of our properties by them, ever. However they have deducted monthly amounts, every month, from every property and not passed this money on, in one particular case there is over £10,000 owing to the water company for a large 22 bed HMO, which has not been paid, yet monthly deductions of £500 have been made.
This is just the tip of the iceburg, as we have delved deeper into their activity, we have uncovered something even more sinister.
On our monthly statement it would appear that there are several tenants in arrears, many of these go back months, some even years. These tenants have never caught up with their rental arrears and any payment plans have never been adhered to. Quite the opposite in fact, as many tenants have run up fairly hefty rental arrears and then absconded.This has also drawn our attention and more recently, we have personally spoken with many of our tenants and they have categorically denied ever being in arrears. More so they have taken the liberty of printing off their Bank statements which clearly indicate all payments to GoCardless, which are correct and up to date, this is in complete contrast to the information we have been provided and we suspect that the monies from the alleged arrears have been skimmed from the tenants and then not forwarded to us. Many of these tenants it has been claimed are thousands of pounds in arrears and we can evidence that they are not.
Creative Property Partners Ltd advised tenants and us that all deposits are held with the scheme My Deposits. We have checked and cannot find a single deposit registered with this scheme. They have refunded deposits but we are still investigating where the deposits are held as we can’t find any trace of them.
We are still collating information and suspect the deeper we delve the worse things are going to get, as it would appear their whole new career in property has been based on false information, lies and they have been financially propping their business up, using funds from our properties over a very long time.
We have lost investors, as investors have also picked apart their figures and found thousands of pounds astray in their spreadsheets; which have been designed to be confusing; in many cases monies have been reluctantly and eventually paid back, however there are still some very large amounts of monies owed, which are being unjustifiably withheld.
Information relating to tenants, rent payments, arrears, addresses etc and sensitive financial information about our business has also been shared with our competitors and investors without our consent, constituting serious breaches of Data Protection.
We have spoken with the Property Ombudsman and they have said they will deal with cases up to £25k, however we believe this will far exceed £25k. The only option we have to recoup our losses is to take them to court with a civil claim, which is only worth doing if they still have the money to pay back.
We have also approached Action Fraud and the Police now have an active investigation against them Crime Reference Number: CR/041172/18
My business partner and I are aware that they are also working the property networking circuit, actively looking for other investors to invest in their lies, deceit and ultimately theft.
We have evidence to back all of the above and to substantiate the claims we make against them.
It is imperative for us to be able to out these people on social media as it’s not only us they are lieing and deceiving, it’s everyone.
The case studies they refer to are lies. The success gained through the Property Education Programme were based on lies. The money they propose they make is stolen from our property portfolio, which should have been distributed to Utility Companies and Councils, instead they have taken it to line their pockets.
Hundreds of people are attending PIN/PPN meetings around the country and paying to listen to the lies perpetrated by Cristeun Gartman and no doubt being sucked in.
As it stands we have pulled our entire portfolio away from Cristeun and Natalie Gartman. It was a painful decision in the short term as we were worried they would not co-operate in changing rent direct debit details, give us authority to speak to the utility companies to take over the bills, and we were concerned they would withhold our rental income from our entire portfolio. Which sadly for us they have. However, long term we have regained control of our portfolio and are on the long road to untangling the horrific mess they have made.
Devon and Cornwall CID are now investigating Cristeun and Natalie Gartman. I would urge anyone reading this who has, or is considering investing in these people to think again.
Sorry to hear about your experience. However this type of scam has been headlined many times before and when things were flagged on social media did it not sound alarm bells. That is when you should have taken action .Its very good you put your experiences on line and I hope many read this as it comes up all the time and hopefully will make others think twice about such dealings.
Hi Jon, thanks for sharing your story and for supplying the moderator with all the documentary evidence to support your many claims.One thing - I am struggling to understand how a landlord of your experience could have handed over so many properties to newbies fresh off a course with no experience? What due diligence did you do at the time?Have you contacted the training company to advise them of the mis-use of your properties to get the award and to also warn them that their network may be at risk?
Vanessa Warwick Landlord and Co-Founder of PropertyTribes.com **If you have got value from Property Tribes, find out how you can support it in remaining a free to use community resource**
Hi Vanessa, yes in hindsight we were extremely trusting, however I assisted them for the handover and gave them a huge amount of assistance/guidance to ensure they ran our portfolio as we wanted. In the initial stages they took to the Management like a duck to water and things progressed well, albeit with myself overseeing them.However we decided to pick things up a notch, as our investors were very happy with the projects we were sourcing and the profits being delivered. Instead of running 2/3 projects simultaneously, we started doing 4 or 5, which meant I took my eye of the Management; this was after a year, so we felt comfortable that they had control and things were running smoothly.We focussed on building the business from a development point as opposed to a Management, as we understood that the wake behind us was being looked after, which it clearly wasn't.
I'll be messaging the Course Mentor later today, as I'd be interested to hear his thoughts on the fact, zero due diligence was carried out on Cristeun Gartman and his activity was allowed to continue under his banner.
Thanks Jon. Do let us know what the course mentor comes back with ...
Of course Vanessa.
Another "rent to rent" scam. I am not sure who is running these courses at the moment - Glenn Armstrong? But every Monday I get four or five letters from Bloggs & Bloggs Property Solutions offering to take over my HMOs and do exactly as the Creative Property Partners have done for Jon. I was involved in helping to bankrupt Ben Rogers. I know from that experience that you will have to be very very tenacious over the next few months, if not years, to get the Police to stick to the task of bringing these crooks to justice. A good way to stop them operating would be to issue a statutory demand for you money. That gives them 28 days to pay you and then you can go for the bankruptcy option to stop them operating. I'm not a solicitor so that's only my lay man's opinion. Good luck.
It wasn't Rent to Rent though - it was property management.
I suspect the subtleties of the definitions of each have passed me by.
The distinction is important. The individual concerned was acting as a property manager and taking a 10% fee for doing it. A Rent to Renter takes complete control of the property and pays a "guaranteed rent" to the landlord and then sub-lets the rooms to create a margin.The first activity is regulated - the agent has, by law, to be a member of an ombudsman scheme - the Rent to Rent activity is not regulated, and there are even less routes of redress.It is suspicious that someone could offer an HMO management service for 10% commission. The amount of work involved is far greater than managing a single occupancy BTL imho.
Hi Bob yes it does seem to be a huge problem out in the market at the moment, I'm staggered that no one asks the question of who these people are and what their back ground is. Cristeun Gartman and his Wife Natalie submitted information to win, probably the most prestigious property education award with clearly a view to gain popularity and credibility. All the information submitted was a complete fabrication of the truth and yet not one person, including the CEO thought to question this detail submitted.
I'll take a closer look at the Stat Demand, thanks.