TWO letting agents’s offices and two homes were raided yesterday in a probe into complaints about missing rent and deposit payments.

Police and Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards officers carried out raids at Charles Lawson (Lettings) Ltd, in Cowley Road, Oxford, and a house in nearby Bartlemas Road at 7.45am.

The offices of James C Penny estate and letting agents, in Walton Street, Jericho, and a flat were targeted shortly after 9am.

We understand the operation followed a six-month investigation into about 50 complaints by tenants and landlords concerning missing money.

It is believed the complaints could total hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent and deposits.

A 40-year-old man was in custody last night, arrested under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulation 2008, formerly the Trades Description Act.

Ian Marriott, group manager of trading standards, said: “We had reasonable grounds to suspect offences had been committed under these regulations. Trading standards have received a significant number of complaints which varied in nature.

“But mostly we’ve had complaints about the failure to return deposits and failure to pass on rents that have been taken.

“There have also been complaints about a general failure to communicate.

“For us this has been quite a big operation.

“It’s really unusual for us to be dealing with high street premises such as these.”

Mr Marriott said the exact amount of money in the complaints reported to police and trading standards by tenants and landlords was not yet known.

He added: “We have not had time to add it all up.

“But it is a significant amount.”

Bags and boxes filled with papers and files were yesterday removed from the house in Bartlemas Road and loaded into a trading standards van.

Paperwork was also seized from the Charles Lawson (Lettings) Ltd office a short distance away in Cowley Road, which has been closed for a month, and the James C Penny estate agents, in Walton Street.

It was trading when officials carried out their operation.

According to Companies House, both Charles Lawson (Lettings) Ltd and James C Penny estate agents have the same director – Zulfiqar Hussain.

James C Penny has no connection with Penny & Sinclair estate agents, in Banbury Road, which is managed by James Penny.

Mr Marriott said Charles Lawson (Lettings) Ltd branches across Oxfordshire had closed in recent months.

But, according to Companies House, the firm and James C Penny are still trading.

Anyone who has properties or tenancy contracts with either Charles Lawson or James C Penny can call trading standards on 0845 051 0845.