4 MAY 2011
Mr Peter Sayer MRICS [ 0066618 ], Bedford, MK43
Wednesday 04 May 2011
RICS, Parliament Square, London, UK
Sarah Baalham (Lay)
Hugh Kemsley FRICS
The formal charge is:
You failed to ensure that your personal finances were managed appropriately, in that on the 28 November 2008 you were declared bankrupt at Bedford County Court with liabilities of £350,427 and that you also entered into a Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking (BRU) on the 2 November 2009, Contrary to Rule 7 of the Rules of Conduct for Members 2007.
Findings of Fact
Mr Sayer was not present or represented but he had made it clear in an e-mail to RICS dated 30 April 2011 that he was not going to attend and that he was keen for the case to be resolved. The Panel decided therefore that he had voluntarily absented himself and that it should proceed with the hearing today.
Mr Sayer had completed a listing questionnaire dated 15 April 2011 in which he had admitted the charges. Further he had in his e-mail of 30 April stated that he had admitted he was made bankrupt and that he had realised that ‘this was a contravention of rule 7’. The Panel considered that this was an informed admission and therefore found the facts proved.
RICS was represented by Mr Gutteridge who outlined the basis on which RICS submitted Mr Sayer should be liable to disciplinary action.
Mr Sayer was made bankrupt on 26 November 2008 owing a sum of £350,427, £132,095 of which was owed to HMRC, the remainder to liability on credit cards, bank overdraft and car hire agreement. He informed RICS of his bankruptcy in March 2009. Prior to his discharge the Official Receiver agreed a Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking with Mr Sayer which was signed in November 2009 for a term of 5 years. The circumstances outlined by the Official Receiver that amount to misconduct warranting a Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking included continuing to trade whilst being aware of insolvency, seeking further credit during that period and disposing of £70,000 immediately prior to his application for bankruptcy to persons other than his creditors.
Mr Sayer had submitted a detailed letter dated 19 April 2011 and the e-mail of 30 April 201l which the Panel took into account. The Panel noted his statement that he had attempted to make a payment to HMRC but despite their refusal had continued to make the other distributions.
The Panel find Mr Sayer liable to disciplinary action. As a professional Mr Sayer is expected to exhibit high standards of propriety with regards to all financial dealings whether business or personal. Mr Sayer conducted his business in a manner that caused him to incur a large amount of debt and overextend himself. Once he recognised that his business was in trouble for whatever reason he failed to deal with the issue in a proper manner. The Panel accepts that there were at the time outside factors that severely affected the property market but members of RICS must at all times conduct themselves in a manner that does not put members of the public at risk and not bring the profession into disrepute.
Mr Sayer made an offer of monies to HMRC who rejected it. He then used the money in various ways to the disadvantage of his creditors, which the Panel regards as highly inappropriate behaviour. Indeed this was regarded as sufficiently inappropriate behaviour to bring the sanction of the Official Receiver in the form of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking. The Panel noted that Mr Sayer at one stage did object to some of the restrictions. However the Panel noted that Mr Sayer did sign the undertaking and is subject to the restrictions.
Mr Sayer said that his bankruptcy was personal and therefore it did not reflect badly on RICS. However the Panel noted that the Individual Insolvency Register clearly states that he was a land agent and quantity surveyor. Whilst the register entry does not mention RICS, Mr Sayer is a member of RICS which is a matter of public record. His conduct of his personal affairs has been inappropriate and therefore contrary to Rule 7, he has by his actions brought the profession into disrepute.
The Panel considered the submission of RICS in respect of the aggravating factors. The Panel agrees that there was a loss to creditors in this case which it should take into account. The Panel also agrees that it should take into account the Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking but it is fair to point out that Mr Sayer voluntarily entered into those restrictions and he is given credit for that. The Panel also takes the view that Mr Sayer appears to have disregarded his financial circumstances and put his creditors’ interests behind those of his own family.
The Panel gives credit to Mr Sayer in that he informed RICS of his bankruptcy and always responded to RICS even if frustrated. In addition he maintained his Professional Indemnity Insurance despite his financial difficulty. The Panel also has noted that Mr Sayer has limited income and has now retired from work.
The Panel took note of the sanctions guidance. It considered whether a caution or a reprimand would be appropriate in this case. However neither sanction is commensurate with the seriousness of this case.
The Panel considered whether undertakings or conditions would be appropriate. In the light of the breach the Panel has found and given that Mr Sayer has made it clear from the outset of the investigation that he wishes to retire such sanctions would not be appropriate.
The Panel considered whether a fine would be sufficient to meet the gravity of the case. The aggravating circumstances the Panel has found suggest that a fine would not be a suitable disposition of the case.
The Panel expels Mr Sayer from membership of RICS. Mr Sayer has grossly mismanaged his finances bringing RICS into disrepute as well as causing substantial loss to his creditors and to the public. The Panel considers that this sanction properly reflects the seriousness of the breach; is proportionate and protects the interest of the public by preventing Mr Sayer from holding himself out to be a member of the profession in the future.
Determination on Publication and Costs
The Panel directs publication in accordance with Supplement 3 to the Sanctions policy.
The Panel orders that Mr Sayer pays the costs of the RICS in this case of £2,500. RICS made an application for costs in this case of £4,372. The Panel has reduced the amount payable to take account of the delay by RICS who did not consult the Insolvency Register at an early stage and bring the case to conclusion after the Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking was agreed. The result of this delay was that the investigation continued in a manner and for a length of time that the Panel regards as excessive.
The Panel has had regard to the fact that Mr Sayer has for an additional period had to maintain his Professional Indemnity Insurance. Also the Panel has had regard to his means.
Mr Sayer has 28 days to appeal this decision in accordance with Rule 59 of the Disciplinary, Registration and Appeal Panel Rules.