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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Property Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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How do you delineate between civil and criminal in the situation

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How do you delineate between civil and criminal in the situation of "falsification of documents" to gain financially?

Some more context; I have a civil claim against a real estate agent which presented documents to me containing false information to make me sign the deal with them.

I'm now in the process or recovering my losses civilly.

However I was informed that I need to be careful as it could easily become a criminal case as the falsification of business records for gain is a criminal complaint and not civil.

What happens here if this goes to court in a civil context? Does a huge throw out my claim and recommends a criminal investigation?

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

What type of falsification ? What has happened please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The estate agency presented reference reports from the tenants with false information. It has been since concluded that the tenants entered the correct information but the agency did not and thus the tenants looked like excellent candidates when in fact they were borderline fail.


The advice I received was that this is more criminal than civil.


Thus not sure which way to go. Should I continue to pursue civilly?


I should add; that I was told to be careful. As I should never use the threat of criminal action in a civil suit.

Yes, I do see your concern.

To be wholly honest, I'm not sure it is more criminal than civil. I am a criminal practitioner primarily and I would expect the police to say that this is a civil matter.

Thats not to say that there are not criminal offences here. I can think of several that would apply. However, the practical reality is that this is the type of thing that the police are unlikely to prosecute as a fraud. There are lots of reasons for it. The primary one being that they are too busy having their resources wasted on domestic squabbles and neighbour disputes between people who are too childish to sort it out themselves to investigate any proper crime. The other issue though is that your remedy is probably better in the civil courts.

Sometimes they will prosecute things that are borderline civil but not necessarily.

In any event though, if you are seeking compensation then your chances at the civil courts are much better. Compensation orders from the criminal courts do not really achieve the same goal.

Also, you cannot pursue it criminally. All you can do is report it to the police. If they refuse to act you cannot force them. You have control over a civil claim.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

That makes perfect sense and agree.


I was just worried that my civil claim would taken out of my hands and become a criminal matter. I tend to agree with you. If it was large scale banking fraud then it would be a different matter. But this is really a dispute between two parties over a small sum of money. The police have better things to do with their time. And right you are they could choose not to investigate.


One last question; Should I still be careful of making any mention of the "falsification of business records" in the civil compliant?


I am dealing with a large agent who is UK wide and has global offices around world. This is not some small agency in provincial england who messed up. Point being large companies should have compliance and procedures to ensure these types of issues don't occur - ie one employee changing the document for their own gain.

Oh no, it wont. Even if there is a criminal prosecution you are still entitled to sue in the civil courts.

I wouldn't put it as high as 'falsification'. The understatement is golden in a court of law. I would just describe it as inaccurate. Courts will know what you mean.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Sorry one last question;


What does this statement mean from a legal standpoint on the reference report: "good for your figure and purpose" ?

In what context please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Seeing that the rental value was incorrectly to a lower amount; is this phrase now false?
I'm not sure what you mean?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Apologies. Just realised the issue had not been explained in full.

The estate agent had lowered the actual rent on the reference reports from the tenants. This the information supplied was false and misleading as salary to rent equation was no longer valid.

In regards XXXXX XXXXX statement "good for your figure and purpose" is this now a false statement? As the tenants were not good for my actual figure of rent.

Can the agent be held liable?

Hope this makes sense.
I'm sorry but I still wouldn't describe it as a falsification.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Coming back to this < you have to read from the top again for memory Cool > ; but if it was discovered that the agent modified the reference forms from the refining company prior to presenting to myself the landlord - does this now enter the world of falsification?



Sorry, what have they done exactly?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


The agent conducted reference checking via a 3rd party for myself the landlord.


As the rent was lowered on the reference forms to allow the tenants to pass the financial checks it has always been explained as a minor “administrative error” - ie someone accidently typed the incorrect figure.


It’s since been discovered that the documents have been altered by the agent. As they have left their digital “signature” inside the file of the chanages they made.



Deliberate doctoring is a lot more incriminating than a simple error.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I would agree. Thanks. Not something they would want to come out in court.

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