A letting agency that has recently gone out of business has been accused by unhappy student tenants of leaving them out of pocket.
Let-Me, an agency based in Surbiton run by Kingston graduate Adeel Bhatti, claimed it was student friendly.
But tenants have claimed that contract agreements were broken, accounts mixed up and that students have lost deposit money.
Oscar Comas, 20, a second year business opera-tions management student, wanted to rent a house with Let-Me in his first year, and was asked to pay a £900 deposit before moving in.
He said his parents then transferred the money from his home in Spain, but Let-Me denied ever receiving it and did not allow Oscar to move in to his new house.
“I realised something wasn’t right,” said Oscar. “I was so angry. I said I want my money back and I want it now.”
After threatening legal action Oscar received £780 back from his deposit.
Other students have claimed that lets have been poorly looked after.
When Ellie Pullen, a third year journalism student, wanted to move into
her house managed by LetMe in July 2010, the cleaners were still at the property and the previous tenants had left the house a mess.
She said: “We found used underwear. We found knives all over the house. There were big kitchen knives in the bathroom, outside. And we found blood soaked tissue everywhere.
“I’ll never use Let-Me again,” she said. “They were very adamant that they were always right and that they had done nothing wrong. It was always either the fault of the previous tenants, or it was our fault, it was never their fault.”
Before the agency went out of business last summer, their total debt allegedly amounted to £200,000 according to a member of staff, Daniel Dow, who said the agency’s money was disappearing and they were not paying the landlords.
Mr Dow said: “It was not as if the money that was missing was from last couple of months, some of this money I believe, had been missing for years ago.”
Mr Bhatti disputed the amount the company owed and said that he had made arrangements with everyone who is liable to him. “I am not denying my responsibility in what has happened.
“I am ultimately responsible and I`m paying the price. It would be easy to paint a picture of a bad man who took people’s money. I don’t know how anybody apart from myself or my accountant who does the books could let you know the exact figures.”
“I have made mistakes and I am sorry for the people that have suffered,” Mr Bhatti said.
How to deal with letting agencies:
Make sure that the agency is a part of a trading association or a letting ombudsman, an organisation that protects the customer’s interests.
For private landlords, the person should be registered with the Association of Residential Lettings Agencies (ARLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
You must read every page of the contract and address any problems you have to the landlord or estate agent before you sign it. After it has been signed, keep a copy.
When paying your deposit in cash, arrange for a letter to be signed to ensure the agreement from landlord to tenant.
If the payment is made via direct debit, have the bank statement as proof of the transfer to avoid future issues.