Landmark verdict over lettings agency posed as a ‘club’

The £42,273 fine is said to mark a “major victory” for all private tenants.

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A lettings agency that posed as a membership club to dodge tenancy laws has been fined more than £40,000.

It’s reported that the club, named Lifestyle Club Ltd, pressured tenants to sign a contract without inspecting the terms or the accommodation, charged them a non-refundable “joining” fee and “membership” fee worth a month’s rent instead of a deposit, and directed those who complained to a non-existent redress service.

Aimed at young overseas renters, the terms and conditions of the tenant’s contacts reserved the right to evict tenants with seven days’ notice instead of the 28-84 days required by the Tenancy Act.

Its conditions also allowed its agents the right to enter private rooms unannounced at any time while banning visits from non-members.

The contracts required tenants to maintain and replace appliances at their own expense, leave any furniture they had paid for when they moved out and levied large fees for “breaches” of membership.

The director of Lifestyle Club Ltd, Gian Paolo Aliatis, has since been ordered to pay £42,273 in fines, compensation and costs after pleading guilty to three charges of unfair commercial practice.

In a prosecution brought by Islington Trading Standards in London, Aliatis admitted passing the lettings agency off as a membership club to avoid the legal regulations for lettings agents.

Aliatis admitted that his firm demanded a non-refundable “joining” fee as well as pressuring customers into signing a “membership agreement” without giving them time to read and understand the document.

In a hearing, he also admitted to directing anyone who raised a compliant to a fake independent mediation company.

Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development said: “This is a major victory for private tenants, not just in Islington but right across the country.

“Our determined training standards team has led to a landmark prosecution sending a clear message – simply changing a few words in the paperwork does not put you above the law.”

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