Emily, an English teacher, has lived in London for seven years. When she took her letting agent to court to recover a £700 deposit, the judge ruled in her favour but the letting agents failed to pay up.
I’ve never had trouble with letting agents. This was until August 2013 when my partner and I had to find a new place to live when our landlady moved back from living abroad.
We searched online and found a flat in north London through a letting agents trading as Global Realty. The rent was £350 a week.
We had a look round and decided that we wanted to go for it so we filled in an ‘offer and reservation’ form.
We were asked to pay a £700 holding deposit to secure the property and Global Realty would carry out credit checks and verify our references.
I asked the letting agent, Gary Block, whether I would get the £700 back if we failed the credit check. He said the money would be refunded if we failed.
Our then-leaseholder wrote a good reference confirming that we were reliable tenants who always paid rent on time.
I had to chase Gary several times a day for news as our deadline to move out approached.
Eventually he said the landlord considered our income too low to rent to us on a normal month-by-month basis and that they were discussing what to do.
It was just seven working days before we had to move out and after having to chase more and more Gary said that there was still a chance of securing the property if we paid six months’ rent in advance: a staggering £11,000.
We did not have that amount of money just lying around.
It was only at that point that I thought to research the company. A number of articles from 2009 came up about Global Realty being expelled from the Ombudsman scheme for lettings.
I phoned the National Association of Estate Agents for help and the adviser said that while she didn’t want to deny an estate agent work, we should be very careful as the company was unregulated by the Ombudsman for lettings.*
I called Gary again to say we couldn’t pay £11,000. We couldn’t wait any longer and we asked for our £700 back. After all, they had changed what they were asking for, and he had said that we would get the money back if they deemed us unsuitable.
We complied with everything Global Realty had asked. We only didn’t go ahead because we didn’t agree with, and couldn’t afford to pay the £11,000 so we wanted our £700 back.
Gary apologised on the phone. He said he had made a mistake and that we wouldn’t get our money back.
I then decided to contact the director Rivka ‘Ricky’ Galer. She talked without giving me any window to interject, sarcastically asking me whether I understood English.
When I asked her not to be sarcastic Rivka ended the call by saying “you don’t call me again” and she hung up on me.
Gary Block followed up his call by sending me a smug email saying that as we had unfortunately pulled out of the deal we would be losing our £700 as agreed.
I decided that I would go to a small claims court in order to get my money back. Rivka Galer responded by trying to counter sue me for £2,616 for loss of earnings and writing negative reviews online about Global Realty!
I took them to the small claims court and won the case in April 2014.
Rivka’s defence was that the £700 fee was non-refundable, and that I had got the name of the company wrong. They said I should have sued “GH Global Realty Limited”, not “Global Realty”. The judge viewed this as a technicality and ruled against both names.
They wouldn’t pay despite the court ruling so I applied for a third party debt order (freezing their bank account) from the court but there was no money in the account.
In December I sent in private bailiffs who informed me everything was rented and under the name of Global Realty St John’s Wood Limited and, as it didn’t exactly match my county court judgement, that nothing could be done. In total, I have lost over £1,000 including legal fees.
GH Global Realty Limited last filed accounts (for the year ended 31 December 2012) in September 2013. It was dissolved on 14 April 2015.
According to its most recent accounts, for the year ended 30 April 2013, Global Realty St John’s Wood Limited has no assets and appears not to trade.
Rivka Galer continues to trade from two premises in London (St John’s Wood and Finchley Road) with the same sign “Global Realty”, the same website. Effectively she has changed nothing but is still able to evade court action.
There are no repercussions for estate agents like Global Realty that use multiple corporate identities to ignore county court judgments whilst continuing to trade.
We must change the law!
*NOTE: membership of the Ombudsman scheme was not compulsory at the time of Emily’s enquiry to the NAEA. It became compulsory in October 2014 and Global Realty is currently a member of the scheme for lettings and sales.