The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;
“A Maida Vale homeowner is warning people to be careful after discovering how unscrupulous letting agents were cheating her – and the taxpayer – out of thousands of pounds each month.
Omotunde Lawal believed she had let out her Abinger Mews home to a Swiss businessman and his family, who paid £560 a week.
Miss Lawal had been told by the agents that her tenant was renting the property through his employer, a company called Kingsman & Kingsman Ltd.
But she became suspicious of what was really going on at the house and arranged a meeting with the tenant in January 2012 – two years after he had moved in.
He revealed not only had he never been employed by Kingsman & Kingsman, but that he had been claiming housing benefit since he arrived in the UK in 2004.
What’s more, Westminster Council was paying a monthly rent of £4,550 for the property – more than £2,000 a month more than Miss Lawal believed the house was being let for.
When Miss Lawal looked into the matter further, she discovered Kingsman & Kingsman’s office address was actually the home of one of the letting agents.
The deception was all the more shocking because the company – run by Karen Bain, her husband Adrian Nyack and his sister Nicola Nyack – had been recommended to her by her family’s personal banker.
Miss Lawal pursued the company through the courts, and in March this year Judge Seymour – sitting in the Queen’s Bench at the High Court – ordered the letting agents to repay her £67,559.56 in lost rent, as well as £25,000 in legal costs.
Miss Lawal has not yet received a penny of the money, and the lettings agent has since been sold to a new owner. “I saw the state of the house, I saw all the kids, and I knew this was not a corporate letting,” she said.
“If you have a letting agent managing a property on your behalf, you need to know who is living there. There is a safety aspect to this – you need to know who your neighbours are. My neighbours had quite a rough time of it as well. I felt really horrible.”
Miss Lawal added that “no one at Westminster seemed bothered” when she raised her concerns about the deception.
A council spokesman said: “This property is one which we understand was occupied by a private tenant who then came to claim housing benefit in Westminster. Residents who find themselves in need of consumer or housing advice, having fallen into a dispute with an estate agent, can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.”