All posts by National Renters Alliance

Parliament report: Young Brits will be ‘priced out of housing for years’

generation-rent

The housing crisis for young people is likely to continue for years and the government lacks the ambition to address the need for affordable housing according to a Parliament report produced by the Public Accounts Committee

The report states that England’s housebuilding numbers have fallen well below targets for decades. Consequently, there has been  a long-running shortfall in the number of houses for sale which inflates house prices putting them beyond the reach of first-time buyers.

In order to address this, the Department for Communities and Local Government has put in place a target that could see one million homes constructed over the next five years.

However, it has admitted that England’s housing market is “broken” but has not made steps to improve the market, which is dominated by a select few private developers and could cause issues with meeting this target.

The Department also admitted that even if the one million homes were completed, a large shortfall would still exist to meet current demand. This means that issues relating to availability and affordability are likely to remain for several years beyond this five-year period.

A spokesperson from the Department said: “The Housing White Paper published in February includes measures to deliver more homes. On top of this, 112,338 households have used the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme since its launch.

“The Autumn Statement also included an extra £1.4 billion for affordable housebuilding, taking the total to over £7 billion to deliver more than 200,000 homes. And £550 million has already been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, with a focus on prevention.”

The positive statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman stands in stark contrast to the testimony given to Parliament by one of the country’s top civil servants charged with housing.

In February, the Permanent Secretary to the Department for Local Government Melanie Dawes admitted that Theresa May’s new policies will not stop the country’s housing crisis from continuing “as it has done for decades.”

Miss Dawes added that she was “simply being honest” when she revealed that houses prices are set to stay out of reach of those who cannot offered a property and that homelessness will continue to rise.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Buy-to-let tycoon Fergus Wilson facing legal action after admitting he banned ‘coloured’ tenants making his homes ‘stink of curry’

fergus-wilson

Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord Fergus Wilson is facing legal action after defending his policy to direct his letting agents not to let his properties to “coloured” people whom he claimed make his homes “stink of curry”.

Mr Wilson refused to deny making a list of requirements for tenants in an email to a letting agent seen by the Sun newspaper. He did however say that it was “some time ago”.

Wilson, who has previous convictions for assault and who last year failed in a bid to run for the role of Kent’s police and crime commissioner, said the controversy started when he bought a house in Ashford at a discounted price because of a strong smell of curry.

“I said when I bought it that within six months it’d be sorted but we just could not get rid of the bloody smell – it absolutely stank of curry,” he told Kent News.

“The carpets had to come up and the whole job meant throwing £12,000 down the drain.”

Mr Wilson then bought another house nearby but said a mixed-race family left the house smelling of curry at the end of their tenancy.

“It was a case of once bitten, twice shy,” he said.

“Having spent six months on the first one I said ‘no I’ve have enough, I do not want to take on another house where I have to get rid of a curry smell’.

“Yes, I accept not every individual coloured person likes and eats curry but I think a high proportion do and I had to go on probabilities.

“It was done because I did not care to repeat the experiences of before.”

When challenged on the use of language many would find offensive, he responded: “I use the term ‘coloured’ because it’s quicker and easier than saying ‘people from India, people from Africa and people who are Arabic’.

“To anybody who says I’m racist, I’ve just employed a coloured person.”

“Battered-wife” letting ban

This is not the first time Mr Wilson has been in the public eye for discriminating potential tenants. In January he issued letting criteria which banned single mums, battered wives, plumbers and low income earners.

His ban on battered wives came following his attempt to run stand for election for Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner on an anti-domestic violence platform. In the end his candidacy was ruled ineligible by the election officer for his previous assault conviction. Wilson also claimed that if elected he would return illegal immigrants to France the day after they arrive in Kent.

Speaking to the Sun Wilson denied he was a racist saying “To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people. It is a problem with certain types of coloured people – those who consume curry – it sticks to the carpet. You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”

He further claimed that while he doesn’t today employ a specific policy banning “coloureds” he estimates he’s only rented to 14 mixed-race tenants over his two decades in the property business.

“As long as their money is green, we’re happy to have them,” he said.

“But if the same situation happened again tomorrow, I would say the say thing, because I was being practical.”

Discrimination investigation

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said the watchdog would be investigating the comments and warning Wilson that he could face legal action.

“These are truly disgusting remarks as well as being unlawful instructions from a landlord to a letting agent,” she said. “There are still deep inequalities in our society as our race report demonstrated and these comments show why.

“As a country we all assume we have left the dark ages behind, but clearly there is more to be done. We will investigate and will be asking Mr Wilson to explain his actions. Unless we are satisfied that he will not commit unlawful acts in the future we will take legal action”.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord bans ‘coloureds’ from renting his properties because they ‘make them smell of curry’

Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES
Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES

Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord has banned ‘coloureds’ from renting his properties because they make them smell of curry.

In an email to his letting agent Evolution Properties, Fergus Wilson, 70 from Kent said: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy.”

Wilson who is reportedly worth around £100 million is no stranger to controversy.  In January it emerged that he banned “battered wives” from his properties claiming he does not want to risk ex-husbands or boyfriends returning to destroy his houses.

Also included on the list of proscribed tenants were children under 18, single adults, battered wives, tenants without a rent guarantee, people on housing benefit, low income workers, zero hours workers, plumbers, smokers and pet owners.

Wilson, who at one point owned 1,000 homes in Maidstone and Ashford, was unrepentant when challenged about the latest ban.

“To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people.”

“It is a problem with certain types of coloured people — those who consume curry — it sticks to the carpet.

“You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”

While Mr Wilson’s latest policy would not breach criminal law he could be sued in a civil court and has already been chastised by anti-racism group Hope Not Hate.

In December 2014 he banned tenants who shared his surname after several cases of ‘mistaken identity’ led to council tax disputes.

In the same year he sent eviction notices to over 200 of his tenants, many from low income backgrounds, claiming that he was “sending battered wives back to their partners to be beaten up again”.  He was also convicted in the same year for assaulting an estate agent over a broken boiler which he denied, claiming that he was “too fat to punch anybody or even tie his own shoelaces”.

Evolution, which manages hundreds of Wilson’s properties, has also condemned the policy and said it would never implement it. Evolution’s manager, Roy Fever, said: “We don’t condone this at all.

“We would never implement a policy like that. We put through anyone to the landlord and it is up to the landlord who they take on.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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The billions of corrupt wealth fuelling London’s housing crisis

money laundering london housing

Around £4.2bn of suspicious money is believed to be laundered through the London property market. 

The report produced by the London-based anti-corruption organization Transparency International claims that the purchase of luxury properties by corrupt individuals is also exacerbating the housing crisis by driving up prices in the rest of the city.

High property prices in the capital are also believed to facilitate large-scale money laundering operations by allowing greater sums to be transferred from overseas jurisdictions.

While there are multiple causes of London’s housing crisis, Transparency International claims to have found evidence that overseas corruption and the purchase of luxury London properties is playing a ‘significant contributory role’.

The findings are based on an analysis of Land Registry data for 14 landmark luxury developments, consisting of 2,066 future homes.

The report published this month follows a highly publicized announcement in December by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, of an investigation into the role played by foreign property buyers in London’s housing crisis.

Transparency International claims up to 80 per cent of properties in luxury developments are bought by overseas investors. Around 40 per cent are sold to individuals from high corruption risk jurisdictions. Much of the remainder are bought by ‘anonymous’ companies registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

London is an obvious destination for much of this money. Luxurious properties in the capital are in very high demand internationally. London prime real estate is renowned around the world as a symbol of wealth and respectability. The UK is also known as a safe-haven for corrupt individuals worldwide due to its political stability and robust legal system.

Money launderers can easily create offshore companies to hold wealth and assets and provide secrecy for the beneficial owners.

Transparency International claims that over 75% of the UK properties under criminal investigation for grand corruption use offshore corporate secrecy. For all criminal investigations analysed, every property that made use of a foreign company to hold property used a company from an offshore secrecy jurisdiction, rather than a major economy.

The organisation is now calling on the government to implement a public beneficial ownership register of overseas companies that own UK land titles. The creation of such a register was originally announced after the May 2016 Global Anti-Corruption Summit.

Poor International Enforcement

Transparancy International’s report comes following  the Public Accounts Committee’s admission that the UK performs poorly in tackling money laundering.

In 2013 only 26p out of every £100 of identified criminal gains was confiscated.  While the estimated loss to the economy through fraud last year stood at £52bn, enforcement agencies collected just £133m. According to the National Audit Office recovery of the money cost taxpayers an estimated £102m in administration costs.

The picture is similar internationally. In 2012 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that typical law enforcement detection levels for money laundering stand at around one per cent.

Reporting of suspicious activity in the property sector is particularly poor. Between October 2013 and September 2014, estate agents contributed to only 0.05% of all Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).

As of July 2014, across the England and Wales, at least £122bn worth of property was held by companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions. Out of 91,248 foreign company-owned properties in England and Wales, nearly two thirds are held via the British Virgin Islands and Channel Island structures.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Manchester’s looming housing crisis set to worsen sharply as population growth outstrips new build

Manchester housing cris
Manchester’s brewing housing crisis set to worsen over next five years.

Manchester’s growing housing crisis is expected to worsen sharply over the next five years. New analysis reveals that the city’s population is growing almost 15 times faster than new homes are being built.

Property adviser JLL predicts that house prices in Manchester are expected to increase by 28.2% due to growing demand from a surging population and insufficient supply.

In  2016 alone, Manchester residential property capital values grew by 16%. Overall prices in the North West are predicted to rise 18.1% until 2021.

Low levels of new-build

The North West’s and Manchester’s imbalance between supply and demand is the main reason property value growth rates are currently outpacing the rest of the UK.

According to the latest official figures, just 290 homes were built in Manchester in 2015-16. This brings the total number of dwellings (houses and flats) to around 218,500. At the same time, the city’s population increase by 10,000 according to population projections based on  2014/15 figures.

The imbalance between population growth and new-build is now one of the worst across the whole of the UK. Only Westminster and Kingston upon Thames in London saw a bigger gap between the rate of population growth and new houses being built.

Greater Manchester

The housing crisis is not confined to the city center alone. In Oldham the population is growing at five times the housebuilding rate. Meanwhile, the populations of Stockport and Salford are both growing three times faster than new homes are being built in the area.

Across the conurbation only two boroughs, Bury and Wigan, saw the number of new homes grow faster than the population increase.

Manchester’s housing shortfall is now publicized widely on property investment forums. In January, the letting agent Martin & Co identifed Manchester, Cardiff and London as the most lucrative places to invest in buy-to-let properties. Rental demand was cited as one of the strongest indicators for profitable buy-to-let locations.

Once again renters will be the biggest losers. According to John Goodall, CEO of Landbay: “Tenants will have little choice but to compete for what properties are on offer. As a result we expect rents to rise faster than the pace of inflation next year, with growth tripling to 3% by the end of 2017.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Child sex abuser who applied for landlord license from jail among four Glasgow men banned from letting properties

govanhill

Four landlords including a convicted child sex offender from Govanhill have been banned from renting homes by Glasgow City Council.

Muhammed Anwar applied for renewal of his landlord registration while serving a six-year jail sentence for three child sex abuse offences. The application was refused by a council committee along with three other rogue landlords.

The other men: Akhtar Ali, Ashiq Mohammed and Shabnam Sattar were found to be no longer fit to be landlords by Glasgow city council’s licensing and regulatory committee due to issues with their properties.

Mr Ali’s ban arose from concerns about his property management following a fire at one of his properties in Glenapp Street which resulted in two people being taken to hospital.

Additional  inspections of properties on Prince Edward Street, Garturk Street and Hickman Street revealed that gas and electricity meters had been by-passed and the flats had no smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Ashiq Mohammed and Shabnam Sattar failed fit and proper persons tests. Both did not provide enhanced criminal record certificates, current building insurance policies, confirmation form tenants that they had received their information packs, gas safety and energy performance certificates.

A spokesman for Glasgow council said: “We are very pleased that the work of the Landlord Registration Unit has been endorsed by the Licensing Committee.

“Our team is determined to ensure that those people on the Landlord Register are fit to be landlords.

“Whenever there is evidence that a landlord is no longer a suitable person to rent out property or they fail to manage their property appropriately, we will always seek to take action against them.

“Govanhill has been an area of the city where particular problems with landlords have been identified. The additional powers available to us through Govanhill’s Enhanced Enforcement Area are helping us to improve housing standards in the area.”

Wider Problem

The most recent bans from the landlord register comes following the banning of nine rogue Glasgow landlords in November. One of men banned had been convicted of assault with intent to rape.

The latest crackdown on rogue landlords in Glasgow comes following a highly publicized BBC Scotland investigation in August last year into housing abuse in Govanhill. It is reported that housing conditions are so bad that in some cases newborn babies are living in flats without running water.

Banned landlords may face prosecution and a fine of up to £50,000 if they attempt to let a property in future.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Crooked letting agent with previous fraud convictions jailed for 19 months for scamming tenants

Thirugnanaselvam Damayantharan outside Croydon Crown Court
Thirugnanaselvam Damayantharan outside Croydon Crown Court

A crooked letting agent in Croydon with previous convictions for swindling tenants has been jailed for 19 months and banned from being a company director for five years.

Thirugnanaselvam Damayantharan, 53, scammed victims out of sums ranging from £300 to £1,449, in frauds relating to 33 tenancies. It is believed that the total amount stolen is around £15,000.

In a prosecution brought by Croydon Council’s Trading Standards team, Damayantharan, also known as Mr Damo, originally denied two counts of fraudulently trading as two companies – See Own Properties and My Lawn Estates – over the past six years.

He later changed his plea to guilty after hearing evidence from around twenty of his victims who testified how he had taken holding deposits from tenants which he refused to return when he deliberately failed their reference checks.

Damayantharan then invented reasons for withholding the money before eventually breaking off contact. Common excuses included claims that the landlord had decided not to let to the tenant or that the money had been held up with a referencing agency.

In some cases Damayantharan even cheated multiple tenants out of their holding deposits for properties he advertised to let without permission.

Andrew Johnson, prosecuting, told the court that  in some cases Damayantharan took deposits from several different prospective tenants for the same property – with none securing the property.

During sentencing at Croydon Crown Court, Judge Gower told Damayantharan: “Before you changed your pleas, the court heard evidence from more than a dozen prospective tenants. All painted a similar picture.

“You were quick and efficient at relieving them of their money, if necessary by driving them, there and then, to cash-point machines. Some have spoken of being made to feel rushed.

“Thereafter, they found it increasingly difficult to make contact with you, as the time for commencing the tenancy in their home grew ever nearer. A variety of different excuses were put forward by you as to why they were not able to move in.

“Only one prospective tenant managed to get back the whole deposit, but it took a considerable time and a great deal of persistence. The majority got nothing.

“The way you operated was thoroughly dishonest.”

Previous Convictions

Damayantharan’s case raises important questions about public protection from rogue landlords and letting agents. At trial, the jury was told that Damayantharan was convicted in February 2013 of three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act. He had also pleaded guilty to two Companies Act offences at an earlier hearing in relation to the same case.

The jury was further informed that Damayantharan continued to operate the deposit scam even after fresh criminal proceedings began against him in August 2015.

Furthermore,  despite the mandatory requirement since October 2014 that letting agencies belong to a redress scheme, one of Damayantharan’s companies, My Lawn Estates, continued to operate for two years following its expulsion from the Property Ombudsman in August 2015.

Damayantharan could also now be be placed on a blacklist of agents which is planned later this year. However, the list will not be publicly accessible which raises serious questions about the effectiveness of scheme to protect the public.

Speaking following Damayantharan’s conviction, Councillor Hamida Ali, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice said: “This is a dreadful case of fraud, leaving dozens of his clients out of pocket and, in some cases, facing the possibility of homelessness.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Sheffield Landlord with two previous criminal convictions for harassing tenants again found guilty of harassment

judge

A buy-to-let landlord in Sheffield with two previous convictions for harassment has been ordered to undertake 180 hours of unpaid community service for harassing a tenant and failing to adequately manage his property. Nilendu Das, of Carterknowle Avenue, who was convicted at Sheffield’s Magistrates Court, was also been ordered to pay £2,412 in court costs, fines and compensation.

The court heard how on one occasion Das sent ten text messages in a three minute period to one of his tenants. On another occasion, 15 messages were sent to the tenant in one the day, which included a text informing the tenant that he must vacate the property.

In addition to the harassment charge,  Das also pleaded guilty to four health and safety breaches relating to the property on Sackville Road, Sheffield. The court heard that there were damaged fire doors, an unprotected means of fire escape and faulty fire alarm systems.

Well known in Sheffield housing circles, Mr Das has previous convictions for harassment in February 2012 and August 2013 with the latter resulting in a 49 day prison sentence. Das was also convicted of failing to comply with a council improvement notice and failure to adequately manage properties.

During his 2013 trial, it was revealed that Mr Das sent his son to private school while falsely claiming £17,000 in council tax benefit and Job seeker’s allowance over two years. At the same time his tenants were forced to live in properties with mouldy walls, broken doors and lack of insulation.

Das was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison for fraud for four failures to comply with improvement notices and harassing a former tenant. While awaiting sentencing, Das was also serving a suspended prison sentence for changing the locks at the flat of another tenant who had complained his home was unsafe. Das had written into his tenancy agreements any tenant who complained would be charged £350.

In his defense Das’s lawyer claimed that his client had ‘got lost in a fog of figures’. “This is a man who operates with an IQ of one, only just above the base line.”

Speaking about Das’ latest conviction, Councillor Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for housing at Sheffield City Council, said: “This case is serious. The landlord has been convicted twice before for similar offences and he knows how strictly the court treats these matters.

“We don’t just investigate issues where we hear about tenants being threatened or evicted illegally. As this case shows, we also prosecute when there is lower-level harassment and when the landlord acts in a way which is outside the law.

“Everyone deserves to live in safe, good quality housing regardless of whether they rent or own their home. I am determined to carry on clamping down on the very small minority of bad landlords in Sheffield that treat their tenants badly and tarnish the private rented sector.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Electronic tagging order for rogue landlord who waged ‘unforgivable’ harassment campaign against single mother

Rogue trader Derrick Stuart filmed by the BBC
Rogue trader Derrick Stuart filmed by the BBC

A landlord has been fitted with an electronic tag after a “campaign of harassment” against a tenant that including switching off her heating and electricity in the middle of winter.

Joel Zwiebel who waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against single mother Angela Agyemang received the electronic tagging order after losing an appeal last month against a conviction for illegal eviction.

Miss Agyemang incurred Zwiebel’s ire after she complained that damp conditions, leaks and serious disrepair in her south London flat were damaging her son’s health.

After Mr Zwiebel and his company refused to carry out repairs, Miss Agyemang began withholding her rent prompting Zwiebel to begin eviction proceedings. Zwiebel finally locked her out of the flat with all her possessions inside leaving the pair homeless and forced to find temporary accommodation.

At this point the council intervened and negotiated a compromise agreement in which she would pay the rent she owed and he would carry out the necessary repairs.

However within days Mr Zweibel reneged on the deal. Instead of fixing the defects he sent Mr Stuart – who had previously been the subject of a BBC Rogue Traders investigation – to the property who switched off the gas and electricity supply even though it was the middle of winter.

A few days later Miss Agyemang returned to the flat to find the locks had been changed and she could no longer enter her home. It took her 18 months to eventually regain her possessions, most of which had by that stage either disappeared or been broken.

Conviction

Zwiebel, of Hackney, and his property company Interpage, were found guilty last November of harassment and carrying out an illegal eviction in a case brought by Wandsworth Council at Wimbledon magistrates court.

In February, Mr Zwiebel and Interpage lost their bid to overturn the magistrates court conviction and sentencing when their appeals were thrown out by a judge at Kingston Crown Court.

On Monday this week, the judge imposed a stiffer sentence against Mr Zwiebel. Zwiebel was ordered to wear an ankle tag and comply with an overnight curfew for three months between the hours of 9pm and 7am. He was also ordered to pay £4,000 in costs and £1,000 compensation to his victim. Interpage Limited was fined £4,000 plus costs of £3,500 and £1,000 in compensation.

For his role in the eviction, Mr Stuart, from Newham, was fined £1,500, with £2,500 costs and also ordered to pay a further £1,000 in compensation.

Wandsworth’s housing spokesman Cllr Paul Ellis said: “This was an utterly appalling display by these men. They waged a disgraceful and unforgivable campaign of harassment against this mother and her son.

“To switch off their gas and electricity in the middle of winter showed a shocking lack of compassion so I am pleased the court has upheld these convictions and imposed a stiffer sentence against Mr Zwiebel and his company.

“Let this case and its outcome serve as a salutary warning to other landlords thinking of following the same illegal path.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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London landlord who part-owned racehourses fined £200,000 for tax evasion

Rogue landlord convicted of tax evasion

A rogue landlord has received a two year suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay a £200,000 fine for tax evasion and failing to declare he was a company director.

Michael Charles Waddingham had been a director of property development firm Chantry Estates, owned 17 properties and had income of more than £100,000 per year from various directorships.

Waddingham pleaded guilty tax fraud at Kingston Crown Court on 17 January this year admitting he had failed to submit Self Assessment tax returns between 2008 and 2012.

During that time he had failed to declare his rental income and that he was the director of seven land and property development companies.  In addition to his property portfolio he was also the part owner of several racehorses and the director of a betting syndicate which is also a registered UK company.

Following his arrest in 2015, Waddingham’s accountants cooperated with a HMRC forensic accounting team to calculate that £281,000 was owed in Income and Capital Gains Tax.

Waddington paid the unpaid tax to HMRC prior to sentencing at Kingston Crown Court this month. He now has six months to pay the additional £200,000 fine in order to avoid the suspended prison sentence being realized.

Waddington was also given 200 hours of community service and a six-month curfew between 8pm and 5am, enforced with an electronic tag.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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