Preston Student Homes, run by Michael Gibbons, allegedly allowed their prospective clients to sign contracts and pay deposits on a house that the company didn’t even own at the time.
UCLan students Claire Wilkinson and Keara Lynch spoke of their ordeal, exclaiming distress of the situation they were placed in.
“The seven of us were asked to pay a £99 deposit. But then we found that it was just a so-called ‘booking fee’ on the contract, and that he needed another £149. And then he was asking for next year’s rent in advance!” said Keara.
The group were allegedly told when they put forward their deposit that the house would be refurbished in the next month, but five months on from this the house was still not ready. More worryingly, the group discovered through enquiries that the landlord didn’t even own the house to begin with, as they found it for sale online.
After several attempts of trying to retrieve their money the two students are still in dispute with the housing company.
“We were shocked when we saw on a website that the house was for sale. We thought it was his,” Claire proclaimed. “So we called up the estate agent and they said he [Michael Gibbons] had viewed the house but never bought it. And when we tried to talk to him again he cut all contact with us.”
Preston Student Homes have also been found misusing the UCLan logo on their website, although they aren’t registered with the university. UCLan confirmed this as the third time they’ve found the company abusing their trademark in the last four years, and will take legal action should this happen again.
“Preston Student Homes has not been approved to use the UCLan logo. Doing so misrepresents the company as an authorised provider of student accommodation.” Said Joel Arber, UCLan’s Director of Marketing and Communications:
“This is something we take very seriously given the importance of our brand and reputation. We will be monitoring the situation closely and will seek to pursue the matter through the University’s legal team should they flagrantly resume their unauthorised use of our logo.”
When Preston Student Homes created a Facebook page in February, Keara Lynch attempted to voice her opinion, but was blocked from the page, which has now been deleted.
“They set new standards by ripping off innocent students with their fake contracts for houses they do not own.” She said.
“At first we were just trying to get our money back from them. Now we’re spreading the word to stop other people from having to face something like this again.”
Two other students, currently in the same situation as Keara and Claire were last year, said they were asked for “needless” deposits that they were “unsure about”.
“We didn’t know whether to trust him after we heard what had happened to them [Keara and Claire].” Said one of them.
According to both sets of students the company requested deposits from each that amount up to £450, including an alleged £200 ‘summer retainer’ and £149 ‘key retainer’.
“We understand he might not have the money to do up the property, but now we don’t know if we’re willing to take the risk. What if it gets to June or July and they still haven’t done anything? It’s worrying to think we might not have a house to come back to in September.”
Pluto contacted Preston Student homes, and they have replied denying these allegations.