TENANTS in privately rented accommodation across Darlington are being urged to avoid using loan sharks as part of a new campaign.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which works in partnership with Darlington Borough Council trading standards, has launched a month-long campaign highlighting the alternatives to using a loan shark.

The scheme aims to help tenants who may be in debt after struggling to pay deposits or keep up with rent payments.

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During the campaign, the team will also be working with landlords to help them provide support and advice to any tenants who have got into financial difficulty with loan sharks before taking on a tenancy.

Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “The process of moving home can be expensive and loan sharks take advantage of this, striking just when people feel under real financial pressure.

“It is crucial that people know that, even if they’re renting privately, there is help available to them if they get into financial difficulty.

“Loan sharks are illegal, predatory and should never be considered as an option.”

Officials warn that loan sharks can initially appear friendly but their behaviour can quickly change, with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts.

As a result, tenants in financial difficulty are being urged to use a credit union or council for help with bonds or deposits.

Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration said: “Illegal money lenders can cause no end of misery and suffering to unsuspecting people who believe these people are there to help them.

“They loan money to make more money and do not seem to care who gets hurt in the process.

“I welcome this campaign and look forward to working with The England Illegal Money Lending Team to tackle this problem in Darlington.”

During the campaign, which begins later this month, a number of events will be held to raise awareness of loan sharks and flyers will be sent out to people living in privately rented accommodation.

Training sessions will also be held for staff who support tenants living in privately rented accommodation.

Anyone who has been a victim of a loan shark or knows of someone who had can contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence on 0300-555-2222.

Alternatively, email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or send a private message on facebook.com/stoploansharksproject