Heavy fines or a long jail term for the boss of fraudulent Oxford letting agent Charles Lawson have been welcomed by the head of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme as sending the right message to rogue agents.
“At last the courts are taking letting agent fraud seriously and handing down deterrent sentences,” said Steve Harriott, chief executive of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
“For too long, courts have been imposing lenient sentences on agents who steal tenants’ deposits and landlords’ rents and management floats.”
Zulfigar Hussain, formerly of Charles Lawson Lettings and James C Penny in Oxford, was ordered to pay more than £300,000 in fines, compensation and penalties under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Failure to repay his victims within six months could result in three years in jail. Hussain was also given a nine-month sentence suspended for two years.
This is in contrast to the suspended jail sentences handed down last autumn to the boss and his book-keeper of Worcester-based Premier Places. At the time these were described by Harriott as ‘a kick in the teeth’ for the defrauded tenants and landlords.
Harriott said: “Every step taken to hound the very small minority of fraudulent agents who rob tenants and landlords and destroy confidence in the great majority of letting agents who are professional, honest and ethical, helps the whole industry.
“The reputation of the regulated professionals in the private rented sector must be protected.”