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Agony Agent

1st July 2017

I thought this week I would tell you about a past issue that I personally have assisted a landlord with, as a break from the norm.

A letting agent arranged a tenancy for two years, for four tenants, who had offered to pay £50 per week more than the previous tenancy.  The landlords were understandably happy that the agent had found tenants willing to pay a higher level of rent.  However, nine months into the tenancy the landlords were contacted by the police to advise that they intended to raid the property as the heat signatures they had detected indicated that it may be being used for drugs.  The police advised the landlords that the people living in the property were not those as recorded in the tenancy agreement and that references may have been forged.

Following the raid, which found that the property was being used as a cannabis farm, the landlords complained to the agent stating that they should have been more diligent in their referencing.  The agent responded by arguing that, as per the previous tenancy, they had not used a referencing service provider, adding that the documents provided by the tenants contained no information which raised any alarms that something may have been wrong.  As the landlords and the agent could not reach a resolution, the dispute was referred to my office where I found that the agent’s referencing of the tenants should have indeed raised some alarms:

  • Three of the four tenants came from Vietnam, yet no documents had been obtained confirming that they had rights to live and work in the UK.
  • Only two of the tenants had provided proof of a current and previous address.
  • None of the tenants had provided a previous landlord reference.
  • None of the tenants had been credit checked!!!!!!

Furthermore, from the information provided, I was not convinced that the agent had actually met all of the tenants.

It was clear that the agent had failed to act in accordance with Paragraphs 7a and 7c of The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice by “providing an appropriate referencing service”.  In my professional opinion no amount of referencing can ensure that a tenant will pay rent, and there are no guarantees that referencing a tenant will protect you from troublesome tenants, but it helps.  In this instance, however, the agent had every reason to doubt that the tenants would be unsuitable for the tenancy.  It was also apparent that the landlords were aware of the agent’s referencing methods through previous tenancies as referencing service providers were not used.  As such, I advised the landlords that they should have asked more questions about the tenants before agreeing to the tenancy.

Luckily there was minimum damage to the property, and that was covered by the tenant’s deposit, so there was no loss of income for the landlords.

If you or somebody you know needs assistance with issues similar to this then please contact me at the office as I would be more than happy to help or offer some advice.

Richard Bond

Lettings Manager

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