A company of letting agents, after a major investigation from Islington Council, has been found guilty of fraud. The three men behind the deceptive letting agency failed to pass rent payments onto landlord clients and return deposits to tenants. Earlier this month they were convicted of fraud by the jury following a crown court trial over five weeks. The men ran companies within Islington and its neighbouring boroughs, using Crestons as their trading name. They were convicted of running a business for fraudulent purposes, and left a minimum of 19 tenant and small landlord victims approximately £105,000 out of pocket,
The problems were discovered after the council received complaints from tenants and landlords, which then triggered an investigation. The ensuing convictions followed a complex and long investigation from Islington Trading Standards, who were also supported by the in-house legal team at Islington Council. Testimony was heard at Blackfriars Crown Court from over 30 different witnesses who claimed that between 2014 and 2016 the company failed to reimburse private tenants the deposits they were owed at the end of their tenancies. In addition to this, the firm also failed to transfer rent onto landlords and declined to put deposits from tenants in an approved protection scheme.
Councillor Diarmaid Ward, executive member for housing and development at Islington Council, explained that the ruling is an important victory for the council, and is a big step forward for landlords and private tenants within Islington and London, as well as the entire country, and sends the message that rogue letting agents cannot defraud their clients and escape punishment. Although the business was trading as Crestons, it also used a variety of other company names, and would have managed a large number of tenants in both Islington and its neighbouring boroughs. Councillor Ward went on to state how hard the Trading Standards team worked to gather evidence, in addition to witness testimony, to construct a strong case and, therefore, secure these convictions.
Prosecutions such as these are rare, but crucial in the battle for improved standards in the private rented sector. The investigation from the council was funded in part by the NTS (National Trading Standards). The Trading Standards team at the council have begun pursuing confiscation orders against the company in order to claw back as much of the fraudulently obtained money as possible for the victims. According to the NTS, Islington Trading Standards received a huge number of complaints concerning the propertylettings company, who were forcefully targeting people attempting to secure accommodation.
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