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Letting agent handed £175,000 bill for ‘bait and switch’ scam

A letting agency has been ordered to pay a £167,000 fine, plus costs and compensation of £740 to a tenant after a prosecution by Trading Standards.

London agent Sterling De Vere was taken to court after Tower Hamlets Council intervened after complaints about a ‘bait and switch’ scam – in which prospective tenants are typically shown a good quality property at a reasonable price, but are then told it is not available after they have agreed to rent it, and end up with something far inferior.

In this case, the prospective renter was shown pictures of a room in excellent condition and agreed to rent it. When he took possession of the property, it was of a completely different room.

The council said this “kind of misleading illegal practice is against the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations”.

Following a guilty plea by SDV HQ, which trades as Sterling De Vere, the company was ordered to pay a £167,000 fine, costs of almost £8,100 and £740 to the complainant, Justin Wright.

The company has three months to pay.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “This is a major victory for residents and for our Trading Standards team. It sends out a message that we can and will take the strongest action against letting agents who undertake this practice.”

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