Alison Bush, 45, was hired by a lettings agent as the sole employee to run a property portfolio in Trowbridge, where more than £30,000 of rent was believed to have been taken by Bush by the time she quit.
According to a report in the Wiltshire Times, Bush stole a £2,000 tax rebate due to a tenant and took it to a cheque cashing shop with a fake power of attorney letter in order to keep the money.
Bush was jailed for 15 months at Swindon Crown Court earlier this week after pleading guilty to two counts of theft and fraud.
Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told the court: “Her responsibilities were really quite simple: to let the flats in a proper manner, collect deposits, pay them in, check references, making sure properties were let in a fit state and recovered in a fit state.”
Bush disputed that more than £30,000 worth of rent had not made it into the company bank account, claiming it was only half that.
Meeke pointed out that, as much of the rent was paid in cash with many of the clients never having received correct receipts, it was impossible for them to prove the amount Bush had taken.
Rent campaign group Generation Rent raised concerns that Bush would be able to re-enter the rental market upon her release from prison, due to a lack of regulation in the sector.
Generation Rent has called for the mandatory licencing of letting agents, including a fit and proper person test.
Last month, a Mortgage Solutions poll revealed that 84% of brokers believed letting agents should be fully regulated.
Dan Wilson Craw, communications manager at Generation Rent, said: “There is nothing stopping Mrs Bush from setting up a new letting agency as soon as she steps out of prison. For this reason, tenants have very little idea whether their letting agent has a shady past or if their money is at risk. Individual licensing of agents and better client money protection would go a long way to prevent other tenants from falling victim to fraud like this.”