London lettings agency Sterling De Vere must pay a £167,000 fine and compensation of £740 to a renter for a misleading room advertising scam.
Tower Hamlets council’s trading standards team took the letting agency to court after complaints that a resident was subject to a ‘bait and switch’ scam.
This is where the prospective renter is lured to premises by being shown a room that is in excellent condition at a good price. That room is then not available and the renter is offered a room of a lower standard.
In this case it appears that a prospective tenant was moving to London from the Midlands and saw a bedsit advertised on the Sterling De Vere website.
The tenant paid £740 deposit but then discovered that the property for which he was given keys was a much smaller room on the third floor of a separate property.
The tenant has told the local press that the property he was given keys for had mould, bad fittings and a broken sash window.
The council took the action under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Following a guilty plea by SDV HQ Ltd the company was ordered to pay a £167,000 fine, costs of £8,089.06 and £740 compensation to Mr Justin Wright, the complainant.
The company has three months to pay.
A council spokesman says: “This is major victory for residents and for our trading standards team. It sends out a message that we can and will take the strongest action against letting agents who undertake this practice.”