London: In the biggest ever penalty on an individual trader, the UK financial sector regulator FCA on Wednesday imposed a fine of nearly one million pounds on an Indian- origin realty broker for fraudulent sale and renting of homes.
Birmingham-based Gurpreet Singh Chadda, who was doing business of sale and rent-back of homes through Red2Black Homes and B&L Homes, has also been banned from working in the British financial services industry, besides a fine of 945,277 pounds (nearly Rs nine crore), the FCA said.
"This is the largest ever fine for a sole trader in a retail business," the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said, adding that Chadda was deliberately misleading his customers for personal gains.
The order follows an FCA investigation into Chadda's involvement in seven sale and rent back transactions between June 2009 and January 2010. The regulator found serious failings in all the seven cases, it said.
A sale and rent back transaction is an agreement where a home owner sells their home and then rents it back from the arranger so as to be able to carry on living in the home.
FCA said that people who sell their homes in this way are often vulnerable as they are in financial difficulties and need to raise money to pay mortgage arrears and avoid imminent repossession.
As per the FCA order, Chadda was misleading the sellers of the properties, who were his customers, by telling them he would be buying their homes when in fact the purchasers were other people.
Other charges against him included failure in notifying the sellers that the purchasers of their homes were not covered by the regulatory protections, while he also helped the purchasers to obtain mortgages while knowing that they were giving misleading information to mortgage lenders.
He also falsely claimed that the price the sellers would get for their properties would be based on an independent valuation. He was misleading the sellers about what their properties were worth, and also charged the sellers grossly unfair and excessive hidden fees, FCA said.
"In the seven sale and rent back transactions the FCA investigated, there was no independent valuation and Chadda assigned values to the properties based on the purchasers' mortgage valuations or his own opinion.
"He assigned to two properties a market value which was significantly less than actual market value. In one case, he or his representatives fabricated a mortgage valuation to make it look as though the seller's property was worth substantially less than its real value," the regulator said.