28 Nov 2013

The tycoon landlord – and his tenants’ missing money

At 25 years old, Daniel Burton was the poster boy for rent-to-rent, the latest property market craze. But earlier this year both he and his company simply vanished. Channel 4 News tracks him down.

Boasting profits of £35,000 a month, landlord Daniel Burton ran seminars for wannabe property tycoons who also wanted to get rich quick.

But earlier this year, Daniel Burton and his company Unida Place disappeared. And so too did tens of thousands of pounds which was owed to dozens of tenants.

Like many Unida Place tenants, Clint Kelly and Aisling Brennan were young and new to London. They moved here from Ireland when she was offered a job as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

But they soon realised all was not as it seemed with their new home, a room in a shared flat in central London for which they paid £1,200 a month.

‘That’s not to do with us’

Clint described the problem: “The more stuff that was wrong with it, the more they were saying, that’s not to do with us, that’s to do with the landlord and we were like – okay, what?”

Daniel Burton’s company could say this because they were renting a room on a “rent-to-rent” basis.

Companies like Unida Place rent from landlords – and then sublet the properties as individual rooms, maximising profits by squeezing in as many tenants as possible. More tenants mean more profit.

Clint and Aisling were dismayed by the service they received from Daniel Burton’s Unida Place, but worse was to follow. They are among those who are owed money, around £3,200.

Saving for a deposit

“We had plans for that money, we’re saving up – we’re trying to get enough money for a deposit, for a mortgage,” Clint said.

He has tried to pursue Daniel Burton and their money but as far as he’s concerned Unida Place is: “Nowhere, vanished, gone. They’re nowhere.”

That is until now. Channel Four News has tracked down Daniel Burton to an estate agent in Scunthorpe.

Undaunted by the failure of his London property empire, he has set up another property business.

North of England Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins confronted him in a sandwich shop across the road from his new office.

Mr Burton said: “If you read my blog which is on Unidaplace.com I have, I have held my hands up, you know, I’ve gone away from the company and I’ve said, I will guarantee that everyone’s deposit and any monies owed to them whether that’s rent in advance as well, will be paid back.”

He added that he tried to contact former tenants who were owed money, and still owed around £60,000.

He said: “I’m liquidating assets. I’ve sold my car, I’ve sold personal effects. You know, I’ve not paying myself a salary. Everything I get, every bit of income is going into paying people back.”