Letting agent ordered to pay £300,000 for consumer protection offences
A letting agent in Oxford has been ordered to pay a total of £309,303 after pleading guilty to seven consumer protection related offences and one of money laundering at Oxford Crown Court on Thursday 9 February.
Zulfiqar Hussain, from Charles Lawson Lettings on Cowley Road, was also given a nine month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work.
The 44-year-old from the city was investigated by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service after receiving over 60 complaints from people across the county.
Customers complained of not having their deposits returned to them at the end of the lease and others said their deposits were taken and not refunded when the letting agency could not provide a property. Landlords did not receive the rent they were owed.
Zulfiqar Hussain pleaded guilty to seven Consumer Protection Regulation offences and one offence for money laundering.
A breakdown of the money the court ordered him to pay is as follows:
• Compensation to victims - £8,167
• Costs - £51,136.40
• Confiscation Order - £250,000
If the confiscation order is not paid within six months, Mr Hussain could face a three year prison sentence.
Richard Webb, Acting Head of Oxfordshire County Council's Trading Standards Service, said: "Mr Hussain's business practices caused a lot of distress and loss for tenants and landlords in Oxfordshire. He was in a position of trust, receiving and managing money on behalf of others and he abused this trust.
"We are pleased with the result and in particular the confiscation order which will ensure he has not profited from the practices which caused so much harm for others.”
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities, added: “The lettings market in Oxfordshire is very significant and is important to many people. It is vital that people can trust those providing services which they need and Trading Standards will continue to take strong action against those who cause harm to consumers.
"This outcome also reflects the new approach being taken to recovering the proceeds of crime where possible. The circumstances of this case show how important it is that people should not profit from their crimes."