Major Leeds Student Letting Agents Providence Properties Put To Shame On BBC’s Watchdog
Monday 3rd November 2008 sees Providence Properties and Providence Lets, letting agents for student properties in Leeds, shamed on BBC’s Watchdog for not returning students’ deposit money.
Over the past 18 months the Student Advice Centre at Leeds University Union has been working closely with several difficult student letting agents/landlords to secure the return of thousands of pounds in students’ deposits. So far they have managed to reclaim over £70,000 in disrepairs and deposits that landlords tried to retain.
Andrea Kerslake, housing manager at Leeds University Union’s Student Advice Centre, has been working on these cases. She says “There aren’t many difficult student landlords in Leeds, but we are very pro-active in pursuing those that are! It’s great we have managed to reclaim thousands of pounds from difficult student landlords and it’s really important that students are coming to the Student Advice Centre to inform us of situations where landlords are not returning deposits.”
One of the letting agents Leeds University Union’s Student Advice Centre is working with is Tariq Zaman, director of Providence Properties and Providence Lets. Andrea explains about the case: “We are still working very closely with Tariq Zaman to resolve cases on Providence Properties and Providence Lets. Unfortunately, all letters to Tariq have gone unanswered and, despite early promises to clear cases, Providence Properties and Providence Lets are failing to respond adequately to issues raised. In some cases they have failed to provide return of deposit money that they have already offered. We are aware of court action that has been taken, where students have been successful against Tariq Zaman and Providence Lets, and are awaiting payments.”
Leeds is one of the UK's largest university towns. Every year about 14,000 fresh-faced freshers arrive there all looking for somewhere to live - making them easy prey for the more unscrupulous landlords in town.
Watchdog has looked into some of those landlords before - but the one we've been hearing about this time is something else. Not only has he kept hold of thousands of pounds of students' money, he thinks he's above the law.
His name is Tariq Zaman and he makes a nice living renting out houses to students. But he does his best to keep as much of their money as he can.
In autumn 2006, Paula Radcliffe and three of her friends moved into a house they'd rented from Tariq.
Paula and her flatmates paid him a £1,000 deposit on their flat. They expected to get the money back when they moved out.
Paula says that when it came to handing their keys back they cleaned the property and left it absolutely spotless. Paula and the girl she was living with even got their parents to come and help them clean the house from top to bottom.
Despite their efforts Tariq Zaman refused to pay back their deposit.
Eventually Paula and her friends had no other option but to take Tariq to court. They won. The court ordered him to pay back the deposit and the court fees. That was in October 2007 but over a year later, Tariq still hasn't paid them.
When Watchdog went with Paula to ask him why, he made clear that despite the court's judgement, he has no intention of ever paying up. Tariq told Paula and our undercover Watchdog researcher: "Listen mate, County Court Judgement right - it doesn't mean nothing... It doesn't guarantee you that you get your money back."
The story is familiar to Leeds Student Union housing adviser Andrea Kerslake. In the past 18 months the union has dealt with 80 cases of tenants not getting their deposit back. In all these cases the union has written to Tariq Zaman asking him why he's not returning money, and to date they've not had a single response.
Tariq Zaman clearly has no respect for his tenants. But he's got no respect for the law either. Some 17 people have taken him to the county court to get back money he owes them. All of them won. Even so, as far as we know Tariq still hasn't paid any of them their money.
Most students who rented their flats with Tariq were put in touch with him by a letting agency called Providence Properties Ltd. And that company recently made him a company director.
Providence Properties Ltd has its own peculiar ways of doing business. Even if you don't get Tariq Zaman as your landlord, you could still lose your cash.
Will Edmond rented a flat with Providence Properties Ltd. But oddly, when they asked him for a deposit, they wanted it made payable to a different company - Providence Lets Ltd.
However, when Will tried to get back his deposits suddenly Providence Lets Ltd didn't seem to exist. He didn't get a single response from them despite sending eight emails and countless letters.
Watchdog found that Providence Lets Ltd's registered address is just a garage. But it's also the address Tariq Zaman, now the director of Providence Properties Ltd, gave to the county court as the address to be used when writing to him. And there's another link between the two companies. The director of Providence Lets Ltd, Azeem Zaman, seems to be one of Tariq's family.
Companies House records show that until very recently, both Tariq and Azeem gave the same Leeds address as the place where they lived. For two companies that claim to be completely different they certainly have a lot in common.
Under new laws that came into place 18 months ago, Will's money should have gone straight into a government approved bond scheme. He went back to Providence Properties to remind them of their legal responsibility. They still denied it has anything to do with them.
Tariq Zaman is easy to find when he wants your money but not so easy to pin down when it comes to finding out why he won't give it back. He's more than just a notorious landlord, he's a low-rent one - not in a good way. He's broken his word, his contracts and even the law so that he can keep hold of students' cash.
Has anyone had any dealings with them while looking for residence in Leeds? Any Landlords given bad service, or conned?