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Students encouraged to withdraw £10,000 in cash for off-campus accommodation

Students at the University of Warwick have asked to withdraw in the region of £10,000 in cash per person in order to secure off-campus accommodation in the Coventry area with ASP Properties Management, a lettings agency which was dissolved early this year.

The Barclays campus branch team spoke to The Boar, confirming that students had been asked to pay substantial amounts in cash, in return for a £100 discount. They reported that some students had asked to withdraw between £5,000 and £10,000 per person for a deposit, in order to secure a property.

One student reportedly asked to withdraw £62,000, most likely to cover an entire year’s rent for multiple people. Students without a UK guarantor are typically obliged to pay between 6 and 12 months rent in advance to secure a property, although several companies offer rent guarantor services in exchange for payment.

A senior tutor at the Computer Science Department flagged the issue by getting in touch with Student Lease Ltd., a student start-up which aims to help other students through the process of finding new accommodation.

The tutor told Student Lease Ltd.: “This is not an isolated request, so the concern has to be that the people running the company are trying to amass money before disappearing. They are asking for the whole year’s rent for accommodation starting in September 2018.

“From what I understand the students are not being given a proper contract just being told they will secure a property in Cannon Park. I am concerned that the students will pay the money and not have a property in September, and lose the money.

“I have reported the concerns to Action Fraud and Barclays are going to feed further information into that report.”

ASP Properties Management, the company concerned, was registered at 4 Bull Yard in Coventry, until it was struck off by Companies House on January 2 this year. At present, two real estate agencies are listed at this address, Sunnyhouse Letting and Finest Letting, from 12 and 16 December 2016 respectively.

The latter is listed on the ground floor of the building, which is branded as JY Coventry Letting, a real estate agency catering to the local area. Both ASP Properties and Finest Letting are registered under the same ownership.

The company appears to be geared towards international students, with content on the lettings website being listed in Chinese.

The Barclays team told The Boar that so far students who asked to withdraw money have not come back to the bank to report further issues. While the bank has alerted students to the risks associated with carrying large amounts of cash, they cannot stop students from withdrawing it.

It will most likely not be known until September 2018, when the supposed letting contract is starting, whether or not students have successfully managed to secure the properties.

However, Barclays advised students to always be cautious when being asked to pay substantial amounts of money in cash; unless the cash transaction is recorded by the company, students cannot provide evidence of payment. The safest way of making a transaction in this case is via a bank transfer, as there is an official record of the payment.

Warwick SU posted on their Facebook page about this issue on February 15, stating: “The SU Advice Centre has received some worrying reports of students being asked to pay substantial amounts of money in cash by some agents to secure a property for next year – in some cases this has been in excess of £20,000.

“If you are asked to pay fees, deposits or rent in cash, you should always try to arrange to make the payment by bank transfer to ensure you can show you have paid the money and have details of who you have paid it to.”

JY Coventry Lettings has been contacted for comment.

UPDATE: JY Coventry Lettings has responded to The Boar: “Firstly, we would like to state that all our tenants get proper tenancy agreements signed by all landlords and tenants’ agreed.

“Secondly, most oversea students cannot pass credit check. The landlords can choose the best deal for the most popular properties. This is a fair competition in which people who are willing to pay the whole amount of the rent and pay fastest get the properties they desire.

“Thirdly, we never tell anybody that cash payment is the only way and most of the tenants use bank transfer. Only very few payments from students are made by cash due to daily transaction limits. Every payment made is recorded and receipts are provided.

“Finally, JY Coventry Letting is our trading name. Finest Letting Ltd. and Sunnyhouse Letting Ltd. are companies only registered at the same address. Finest letting ltd. lets all properties while Sunnyhouse Letting ltd. invests.”


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