CROOKED LETTING AGENT JAILED FOR KEEPING CLIENTS DEPOSITS / LANDLORD STOPPED FROM RENTING CARETAKER’S STOREROOM AS FLAT / CROYDON NAMED COUNTRY’S MOST IN DEMAND LOCATION FOR OFFICE SPACE / CROYDON WELCOMES NEW CRISIS CENTRE TO TOWN
CROOKED LETTING AGENT JAILED FOR KEEPING CLIENTS DEPOSITS
A letting agent – described by a judge as being “thoroughly dishonest” – has been jailed for 19 months after making off with thousands of pounds of clients’ holding deposits.
The trial of the letting agent, from Wallington, came about after months of detective work by officers from Croydon council’s trading standards department. Proceedings began with the agent denying two charges of fraudulent trading, and were expected to last five weeks.
But he changed his plea to guilty after Croydon crown court had heard evidence from some 20 of his victims detailing how he had taken holding deposits and failed to return them when the proposed property rentals had fallen through.
The man ran two letting agencies which traded from several Croydon addresses.
Over six years he fraudulently took holding deposits from prospective tenants. Sometimes this involved more than one for the same property, sometimes for properties which he had not been appointed to let, and he both failed to create tenancies and didn’t return the deposits.
The amount fraudulently received from the 33 transactions was £15,085 and related to properties across and beyond Croydon.
The court heard the agent took the deposits – ranging from £300 to £1,449 – from would-be tenants saying the money would hold the property for them while credit reference checks were made.
As the projected move-in dates came and went, the agent would stall his clients with tales of delays on the checks being carried out, or telling them that the landlord had elected to not proceed with the rental.
Repeated refund requests were eventually completely ignored by him.
His Honour Judge Gower told Damayantharan: “Before you changed your pleas, the court heard evidence from more than a dozen prospective tenants. “All painted a similar picture.
“You were quick and efficient at relieving them of their money, if necessary by driving them, there and then, to cashpoint machines. “Some have spoken of being made to feel rushed.
“Thereafter, they found it increasingly difficult to make contact with you, as the time for commencing the tenancy in their home grew ever nearer. “A variety of different excuses were put forward by you as to why they were not able to move in.
“Only one prospective tenant managed to get back the whole deposit, but it took a considerable time and a great deal of persistence.
“The majority got nothing. “The way you operated was thoroughly dishonest.”
Cllr Hamida Ali, Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “This is a dreadful case of fraud, leaving dozens of his clients out of pocket and, in some cases, facing the possibility of homelessness.
“This is the sort of thing that the council’s landlord-licensing scheme was designed to help combat; offering private tenants protection against poor-quality properties and the fraudulent behaviour of a small number of individuals who are out to line their own pockets at the expense of people who are, in some cases, desperate to put a roof over their own, and their families heads.”
The man is disqualified from being a director of any company for a period of five years. (Source: Croydon council press release)
LANDLORD STOPPED FROM RENTING CARETAKER’S STOREROOM AS FLAT
A planning case to stop a landlord renting out a flat which was 27 percent smaller than the minimum standard – and had only one proper window – has been won by Southwark council.
Southwark council used planning enforcement laws against the landlord after they discovered he was renting out the one-bedroomed flat in Rope Street, SE16.
The flat – a former caretaker’s storeroom – measured just 27m2 (minimum size for planning approval is 37m2) and had just one proper window, giving it limited natural light and poor ventilation, said a Southwark council spokesman.
Cllr Mark Williams, Southwark’s cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: “We are very aware that there is a housing crisis in London and we want to make sure there are homes being built across our borough, of all types.
“This does not mean we will allow unscrupulous landlords to make money by renting out unsuitable, cramped and uninhabitable premises wherever they see fit.
“This case shows we will take action against anyone who fails to meet our standards for decent, quality homes for our residents.”
The landlord now has four months to stop using the property as a residence, including removal of the kitchen and bathroom. He will also have to pay full costs to the council, possibly several thousand pounds. If he fails to comply, the council can prosecute, the spokesman added. (Source: Southwark council press release)
CROYDON NAMED COUNTRY’S MOST IN DEMAND LOCATION FOR OFFICE SPACE
Croydon has been named the most ‘in demand’ location for office space in the country.
The borough topped CoStar 50’s 2016 Occupier Index, scoring eight points more than second place Uxbridge and 12 points more than Central London, which was in tenth place.
The index, which captures occupier and investment activity across the 50 largest office markets in the UK, scores towns and cities based on a number of measures.
The ranking system measures demand and liquidity by comparing net absorption – the amount occupied at the end of a period minus the amount occupied at the beginning of the period – and investment volume in each area over the last 12 months, relative to its stock size.
“Over the last year there has been significant demand for office space in Croydon, which has seen some of the UK’s biggest companies move their businesses in to the borough” said a Croydon council spokeswoman.
Health and beauty retailer Superdrug recently cut the ribbon on its new head office on Sydenham Road. Their relocation to a new 55,000 sq foot building put the business and its 500 employees in the heart of the town centre.
Around 2,500 staff are set to move into the Ruskin Square development when HM Revenue & Customs move to Croydon this summer. The government department, which has agreed a 25-year-lease on the development’s ‘Building 1’ already has 600 staff based in the borough who will also move into the new building.
The businesses’ move to Croydon follows in the steps of energy giant EDF who moved its global headquarters to Interchange on Wellesley Road last year, and ethical cosmetic firm The Body Shop, who moved their London head office and 200 members of staff to Croydon and built a £1 million beauty laboratory where there development team will work on new products.
Croydon council leader Cllr Tony Newman said: “It is fantastic to hear Croydon was the most in demand office location last year.
“More and more big companies are recognising the excellent transport connections and other outstanding facilities we have to offer and are moving their businesses to Croydon, bringing new jobs for local people and strengthening our local economy.
“Croydon is rapidly transforming and the index’s findings reaffirm the borough’s reputation as the place to be, whether it’s to live, work or play.“ (Source: Croydon council press release)
CROYDON WELCOMES NEW CRISIS CENTRE TO TOWN
Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, has been welcomed to Croydon by the council at the formal opening of a modern new centre in the heart of town.
Crisis Skylight Croydon, the eleventh of its kind in Great Britain, has been established to provide vital services to help people find permanent homes.
Its staff will help people through every stage of their journey out of homelessness, from early engagement on the street, to progression into education, employment and independent living.
The council has been working with Crisis for the last three years to find a suitable location for the centre and ensure the charity has solid links in place with other homelessness support agencies in the area.
The charity began working in Croydon in the autumn of 2015, delivering classes and advice sessions in drop-in centres for people living on the streets, as well as in hostels and supported housing projects. The move to a permanent home makes it easier for homeless people to get the help they need from Crisis.
The centre is equipped with facilities ranging from an IT suite, training kitchen and art room, to showers and a laundry.
The launch of the centre included speeches from Minister for Housing and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell; deputy leader of Croydon council, Cllr Alison Butler, and Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes.
A former client of the centre, Debbie Medhurst, spoke about her experiences and how she has grown in confidence since being helped by the team from Crisis.
Cllr Butler said: “We’re delighted that with some persuasion from the council Crisis have come to Croydon to set up a base.
“It’s fantastic to see the quality of the centre they’ve created, and it’s also been brilliant to see how they’ve worked with the council and other providers to complement existing support in the borough.
“Too many of our people do not have a place they can call home and the work of the Skylight centre will go a long way to help tackle this.”
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: “We’d like to thank Croydon council for its help and support throughout the project to create such fantastic facilities here in the borough.
“They’ve shared our vision for support for homeless people at a time when homelessness was, and continues to be, a growing issue in Croydon, and have encouraged us to become a key player in tackling homelessness in the area alongside other agencies working in the borough.”
Last year over 1,000 households were formally accepted by Croydon council as homeless, and rough sleeping levels have become an increasing concern. This has been one of the main reasons the authority has been so keen to get Crisis into the borough, added the spokeswoman.
(Source: Croydon council press release)