Fraudster managing agent Simon van Houten, 31, (left) told residents he had dismissed their caretaker … only for them to discover that the man was still on the payroll two years later. The £32,000 in wages had been secretly paid out of their service charges. This shambles was only one incident at Sunlight Square, which for five years was managed by Van Houten when he was an executive with Rendall and Rittner. In July he was jailed for 30 months at the Old Bailey for stealing £122,000 out of leaseholders service charges.
He used a bogus decorating company to issue numerous invoices that he then authorised for payment. He used the money to fund a luxury lifestyle in Chelsea, on the proceeds of funds he stole from leaseholders in east London.
Van Houten pleaded guilty before the trial began and as a result there was no evidence presented or cross-examination.
But LKP website reader Kym Turner, 54, an engineering surveyor, has provided an account of Van Houten’s five-year management of the Sunlight Square development in Bethnal Green, in east London.
“On the face of it he was the nicest man imaginable, and he hated anything like a conflict situation,” said Turner. “But he was also a total crook who fiddled from us for years. I was so happy when I heard that he had been sent to prison, as he had given me months of stress and sleepless nights.”
The most spectacular example of Van Houten’s dishonesty was when the residents decided to sack the existing caretaker and appoint another.
“We had tried to make this relationship work for two years or so, and it just wasn’t possible. Simon at last said that he would deal with it and after a few months, during which this issue was supposed to have gone to an employment tribunal, Simon told us that the case had been won and the caretaker was dismissed. Then another was appointed.”
It September 2010, before Van Houten’s arrest, Sunlight Square residents replaced Rendall and Rittner as property managers with Hurford Salvi Carr.
“All of a sudden, we had our old caretaker knocking on the door demanding to know why his salary had been stopped. The auditors we called in could not believe that we had been employing two people to do the same job.”
In another incident, Van Houten bungled handling urgent roof repairs, supposedly employing a surveyor.
“We were desperate to get in touch with the surveyor after numerous delays, but Simon kept fobbing us off with excuses. When he did mention a name, we contacted the offices and they said they had never heard of Simon Van Houten or Sunlight Square. He had just made the whole thing up. All the time he lied and lied, making up the most elaborate fantasies. By this point the NHBC (National House-Building Council) warranty was out of date.
“I reckon having our property managed by Simon Van Houten cost us £100,000.”
The residents expressed their suspicions, not least because Van Houten would visit their site in a very expensive smart suit and a flash car. “We all thought there was plenty of money – our money, in fact – to be made from property management.”
Although Kym Turner claims that Rendall and Rittner “were blind” to Van Houten’s faults, he concedes that they did offer twice to replace him as the manager.