The men, who ran companies in Islington and neighbouring boroughs using the trading name Crestons, were convicted of carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose, leaving at least 19 victims around £105,000 out of pocket.
During the trial Blackfriars Crown Court heard testimony from more than 30 witnesses. Between 2014 and 2016, the men failed to refund deposits to private tenants at the end of their tenancies, failed to pass on rent to landlords, and failed to put tenants’ deposits in an approved protection scheme.
The investigation was triggered by complaints from tenants and landlords who had fallen victim to Crestons. The convictions follow a long and complex investigation by Islington Trading Standards, supported by Islington Council’s in- house legal team.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “This is a major victory for the council, on behalf of private tenants and landlords not just in Islington and London but across the country – sending the message loud and clear that rogue letting agencies cannot rip off their clients and get away with it.
“This business trading as “Crestons”, using various company names, alone would have dealt with a huge number of tenants in Islington and neighbouring boroughs and I am extremely proud of our Trading Standards team, who worked so hard gathering evidence and witness testimony to build a strong case and secure these convictions.
“Prosecutions like this are rare but vital in the fight for better standards in the private housing market. We won’t stop here.”
The council’s Trading Standards team are now pursuing confiscation orders against the three men, to claw back as much money as possible for the victims.
The council team’s investigation was partly funded by the National Trading Standards (NTS)
Andrew Clooney, chair of the NTS Tri-Region Investigation Team, said he was pleased that the partnership work had been a success, adding: “Islington Trading Standards had received a large number of complaints relating to this property letting company, who were actively targeting people trying to secure accommodation.
“The Tri-Region Investigators were able to provide direct operational support where it was needed in order to bring evidence of the nature and scale of offending before the court.”
The Government announced earlier this year, following a consultation, that it would make it compulsory for letting agents to belong to a client money protection scheme, which would allow landlords and tenants to recover money embezzled or lost by the letting agent.