Can the system really be so stacked against the landlord?

by Readers Question

10:38 AM, 16th December 2016
About 2 years ago

Can the system really be so stacked against the landlord?

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Can the system really be so stacked against the landlord?

I’d like confirmation please that we are doing everything we can here. We let our buy-to-let property through an estate agent who also does the ongoing maintenance. sumo

We’ve had a tenant for 18 months who stopped paying rent in July of this year.

When I looked him up on Google I discovered that he has a previous conviction for 69 counts of theft against a previous employer (a part-qualified accountant who stole £750k from them) and spent 4 years in prison as a result. It turns out our estate agent never followed up his references although perhaps these wouldn’t have been worth much anyway.

We went to court in November, paying for a solicitor and were granted possession. The tenant didn’t move out by the deadline. We’ve now got a warrant for eviction. I believe the bailiff waiting list is about 6 weeks but in the meantime we have learnt that he is appealing the eviction order. We haven’t received a copy of this appeal so we don’t know on what grounds he is appealing. I suspect he will say his wife is very ill as the estate agent was told this when trying to gain entry to do a house check.

Shouldn’t we be allowed to know on what grounds he is appealing the eviction order?

Will his criminal history be taken into account?

Our solicitor referred to it in our original statement, but the first judge said it was irrelevant. As a lay person I think it is very relevant. The judge who sentenced him in 2002 for the 69 thefts described him as a “thoroughly crooked man guilty of an extremely serious breach of trust”.

I am at my wits’ end as I’m paying a buy-to-let mortgage without a rental income, not to mention solicitor expenses.

This is a man who knows very much how to play the system and from where I’m sitting the system seems to be stacked in the tenant’s favour.

Sarah



Comments

Edwin Cowper

11:42 AM, 16th December 2016
About 2 years ago

First job: get a full copy of your estate agents' file including all emails

Second job: did you know references were not followed up? If not there is a possible liability here - there has been a recent case about solicitors who did not tell client about all information being liable - telling you there was no info may be that - anyway, negligent/breach of contract liability is possibility

Third job - find out who referees were. do they exist? If so are they connec ted with T?

Fourth job - did the agents do an experian or other credit check? Ifnot -liable? If did, were you supplied with all info in it? If not may be liable

Fifthly - is the solicitor your contact or the agent's ? If the agent's there may be a temptation for him/her not to get into adverse issues with agent

Sarah Fowler

15:27 PM, 16th December 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Edwin Cowper" at "16/12/2016 - 11:42":

Thanks Edwin, the estate agent has definitely been very evasive about this. And yes, we've chosen the solicitor recommended by the estate agent. They say they did do a credit rating and he scored extremely highly. This is a person who seems to know all the tricks. I can see he's trying to remove as much info from the Internet concerning his conviction. Lots of the information is greyed out.
Our aim now is just to get the tenant out and talk later to the estate agent.

David Price

20:19 PM, 16th December 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Edwin Cowper" at "16/12/2016 - 11:42":

"First job: get a full copy of your estate agents’ file including all emails"

remember it's your file and you have an absolute right to it. Don't take any bullshit from the estate agent for surely you have had enough of that already.

Thom Hill

10:59 AM, 17th December 2016
About 2 years ago

The possession action you are taking against him will surely be either on the basis of section 21 (i.e. no fault) or ground 8 (i.e. 2 months rent arrears). In either case, the conviction will be irrelevant - as will his possibly sick family member. The court doesn't have any discretion in either case so long as you have followed the correct processes. If there is an appeal against the order (or possibly an application to set aside or vary it) then it would need to be made on technical grounds - that correct procedures were not followed.

You could be Jack the Ripper renting to Mother Theresa here (or vice versa) and you would still be entitled to possession if you've followed the right process.

I think Edwin's suggestions all relate to complaining against or suing the estate agent in respect of their role in all of this which probably worth considering once this has blown over.

Mandy Thomson

13:44 PM, 17th December 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sarah Fowler" at "16/12/2016 - 15:27":

It's pretty easy to maintain an acceptable credit score; it's not about having a high income or the source of your income, it's based on running your accounts within the agreement rules and keeping to credit commitments, and in recent years, paying off more than the minimum on credit cards.

I'm not satisfied that agents always carry out thorough enough reference checks; they have high demands on their time and at the end of the day it's not the agent who is going to lose out over a bad tenant. It's not enough to just run a basic check, but basic checks are all that's done in many cases and rogue tenants rely on this.

H B

8:38 AM, 18th December 2016
About 2 years ago

Mandy is right. Ultimately the agent just wants someone in the property and have limited incentive to do more than the minimum.

You mention that a simple Google search revealed this individual's history - a reminder to us all to do this kind of thing before entering into contracts with strangers.

Finally, I never use a solicitor suggested by the agent. They obviously get referral fees and the solicitor''s primary loyalty will always be to the estate agents and not the client.

Charles King - Barrister-At-Law

12:38 PM, 4th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Oh dear Sarah, you have certainly found yourself on the wrong end of the system. Much of the comment here is absolutely spot on, especially Mandy's point about agents not doing proper checks. Suing the agents (or complaining through their in-house or ombudsman system) is an option, but involves further delay, inconvenience and hassle for you. Only you can evaluate whether that is worth it to you, or whether to take the loss on the chin and move on, having learnt the expensive lesson which almost all landlords at some point or other will learn as part of the business.The court process is slow (and getting slower thanks to cuts), but it may be that by now that you have heard from the court that his appeal has been dismissed. I suspect the judge who said that the previous convictions were irrelevant was speaking strictly in terms of the issues which need to be decided in a possession claim, which, as Thom says, is all about process. Your tenant may be Jack the Ripper, but that is less important than the date on the notice. Even Jack the Ripper would have had rights under the Housing Act, whatever you think of them. I believe that efficient management is the key - if the rent is due in advance on the first of the month and the tenant does not pay on 1st January or 1st February then they are in 2 months arrears as at the 2nd February and you can (and should) serve a section 8 notice there and then, citing the 2 months mandatory ground for possession. You should do this just to protect yourself from the situation you are in right now. You do not have to take court proceedings just because you have served notice, but you cannot take court proceedings without the notice. So serve the notice as soon as you can. Similarly you do not have to enforce a possession order just because you have obtained one, but it may be impossible to obtainn possession without an order, so get one if you can and if possible negotiate with the tenant from a position of strength. I wish you the very best of luck with your case, and I hope this hasn't put you off altogether.

Sarah Fowler

17:15 PM, 6th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Thanks for your advice Charles.
Luckily for our tenant Christmas has brought everything to a halt. His appeal is up for consideration next Friday. And then we join the long queue for a bailiff. It just beggars belief.

David Price

17:44 PM, 6th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Sarah Fowler" at "06/01/2017 - 17:15":

Friday 13th, keep your fingers crossed.


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