Simon van Houten, 31, the Rendall and Rittner executive who stole £122,000 from leaseholders’ accounts, passed himself off as a Member of the Institute for Residential Property Management and helped other employees at the firm prepare for the examinations.
As a result of the case, IRPM is considering a rule change to make public the information that a member has had membership terminated.
Susan Stuckey, a leaseholder at the Mill Quay Estate, in east London, and a former director of one of its residents’ management companies, expressed reservations about the conduct of Van Houten before his arrest. Van Houten pleaded guilty to fraud on the day that his trial was to start at the Old Bailey last month, and will be given a custodial sentence next week.
Stuckey received the following in a letter on August 10 2010 from director Matt Rittner:
“Simon is a competent Property Manager and is MIRPM qualified. Internally, Simon trains my staff in the months leading up to the IRPM examinations. I am unsure why you seem to have a negative view of Simon.”
Stuckey replied by email a day later: “I apologise for saying that Simon is not MIRPM qualified if he is. According to the Institute of Residential Property Managers’ website, he isn’t a member. I attach a list of R&R staff who are either members or associate members and it doesn’t include Simon’s name, even when I search under his name rather than the firm employing him. Perhaps this is an error that needs to be corrected?”
The following day, August 12, she emailed Matt Rittner again saying: “I spoke to the Institute of Residential Property Management this morning. They confirm that our appointed property manager, Simon van Houten, is NOT a member or even an associate member. His membership was terminated …”
Rittner himself is MIRPM qualified.
According to the Institute, Van Houten had only ‘affliate’ membership of IRPM and this was terminated on March 5 2008 due to non-payment of the annual subscription.
“It is my understanding that he made himself out to be MIRPM qualified to Rendall and Rittner when he applied for the job,” says Jeff Platt, chief executive of IRPM. “I think they immediately terminated his employment on receipt of that information from ourselves.”
The City of London police confirmed that Van Houten not being qualified with IRPM was one of the reasons why Rendall and Rittner suspended him.
At present, disciplinary action against an individual and termination of membership is only reported to members of IRPM, says Platt. But at its annual general meeting in October it will decide whether to make this information available to all. Many leaseholders are reassured that qualification with IRPM should ensure professional service, so it is reasonable that they are informed if membership is withdrawn.
“This is one area that the re-draft [of our articles and rules] will take on board and make clear that reporting should be without limitation and not just to our members,” says Platt.
A spokesman for Rendall and Rittner said: “Mr Van Houten abused the trust of both clients and colleagues. Rendall and Rittner Limited immediately reimbursed the small number of clients involved and we are delighted that the police have successfully prosecuted the case we presented to them in 2010 and that justice has now been done.”
IRPM’s full statement to the police following Van Houten’s arrest is below:
An application was received from Mr Simon Van Houten of … to be admitted to the IRPM as an Affiliate on 7th April 2004. This application was accepted and his Affiliate membership commenced in April 2004.
Affiliate membership is open to anybody working within the residential property management sector, irrespective of experience, does not require any prior qualifications and does not entitle the member to use any post nominal designation. Affiliates do not have the same rights as qualified members of the IRPM: not being entitled to vote at annual general meetings, to nominate Directors nor to stand as Directors.
Further membership grades are: Associate (AIRPM), Member (MIRPM) and Fellow (FIRPM). Affiliates must pass the Part I internal membership examination and satisfy minimum experience criteria before being admitted to Associate Membership. Associate Members must thereafter pass the Part II internal membership examination and satisfy further minimum experience criteria before being admitted as a qualified Member.
The IRPM database shows that Mr Van Houten did not sit any membership examinations and was not admitted to any class of membership above Affiliate. His Affiliate membership of IRPM was terminated on 5th March 2008 due to non-payment of annual subscription due on 1st April 2007. The database is unclear but it appears that Mr Van Houten may not have been a fully subscribed Affiliate member from 1st April 2006 onwards.
Mr Van Houten is not currently a member of the IRPM. He has never taken any membership examinations and has never been admitted as an Associate or a Member.