Fake agents scamming landlords and tenants

by Readers Question

10:30 AM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Fake agents scamming landlords and tenants

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Fake agents scamming landlords and tenants

I am a private landlord and have always managed my property and tenants’ needs. I have always been a good and fair landlord.

In September I advertised my 3 bedroom flat on flatshare website. I was advertising the property to be let as a whole with a single 1 year AST ( joint tenancy for 3 sharers). I received an enquiry from an agent saying that they were looking for a property similar to mine for one of their corporate clients for a 2 year contract. They said that they were only looking to arrange a viewing for this client. They also said that they would add their own introduction commission onto my required rent.

Despite my reservations about dealing with agents I agreed on a viewing. The agent arranged for a member of staff of the IT company interested in renting to come and view the property. The person who came said that he was a PA to the owner of the IT company and was viewing properties on behalf of his boss and reporting back. He really liked the property and reported it back to his company. The next day the agent phoned me relay that the IT company was interested to rent the flat and wanted to put an offer in for immediate start. The agent said that they had already undertaken a reference on the company, because of another property they had missed out on.

I agreed on a 2 year contract with the IT company arranged by the agent. The agents sent me an e-contract to check and sign if I was happy. I signed and emailed it to the agent. The agent got this signed by the IT company boss and the agent also signs it and sent the completed (fully signed) Company Let tenancy agreement – let and managed by the agent for the 2 year duration of the agreement.

They said that agency would charge its fees from the 24 months tenancy in 4 equal 6 monthly fees. The first installment would be deduced from the first month rent paid by her client. So she transferred the balance of the first month rent to my bank account. She said for the following month I would be sent the full rent. She said that the deposit would be held by the agent and secured by a deposit protection scheme. Once the cleared funds were received I met the IT company staff member (the same person who had viewed the flat to handover the keys and do and inventory check. He signed the inventory list and I handed over the keys and left.

After 1 month I did not receive the second month rent as expected. I made phone calls to the agent (mobile number) – no reply. I had never met the agent.

Soon after that I receive an email from sparerooms that they believe that the agency was fake and that they had reports that scamming landlords and tenants. I went to my flat and discovered that the 3 rooms were rented out separately on the sparerooms website. These people were not the IT COMPANY STAFF!

I could not contact the lady from the agency I had negotiated the contract with- no answer! I had the phone number of the chap I handed the keys to. He answered and eventually owned up the he never worked for the IT company – which was a factitious company with a fake website. He said that Penny had asked him to work for her to show other potential tenants to my flat and she spoke to the individual tenants and signed them up individually on an AST. She took their deposit and up to 3 months rent (because they were from abroad). A month into their contract they have not received and deposit protection certificate and are panicking. They have all reported it to sparerooms.

In Summary My situation is as follows:

I have 3 tenants living in my property who have individual tenancy agreements with the fake agency. They have each paid 6 weeks deposit (not protected!); paid 3 months rent in advance through a fake tenancy. I have a (fake) 2 year tenancy agreemnt (described above) with a bogus IT company created by the same agent. I have not received the 2nd and now the 3rd month rent due under my tenancy.

I have no tenancy between myself and the current occupants. The only link between us is the agent

What are my options? Can I get my property back? I have spoken to the tenants with mixed responses – one saying that s far as he is concerned he has a valid tenancy agreement and although he will not make any further payment, he believes he has the right to stay for the duration of 3 months rent he has paid + 6 weeks extra in lieu of the security deposit paid!

Given that mine and the tenants agreements were created via a scam what are my rights. Can I evict them immediately? What authorities do I report this to- police? council?

I am severely out of pocket through the loss of rent. At least the tenants are getting the use of my property – but how long can they legally stay there? I do not have an agreement with them. Can I evict them?

What options do I have to get my property back and potentially my lost income?

Many Thanks

Sandy



Comments

Neil Patterson

10:34 AM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

I am very sorry to hear of your situation Sandy.

This is obviously fraud and you should contact the police. I would also liaise with the experts in this field Paul Shamplina's Landlord Action. Please see his members profile >> https://www.property118.com/member/?id=190

Unfortunately as no one has yet been convicted for legal reasons we cannot use names.

Luke P

11:17 AM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

You have yourself an HMO too now that you have three or more unrelated sharing (not to be confused with a mandatory licensable HMO that requires 5 or more), but will require you to refer to and comply with LACORS.

S Roy

12:05 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

If the tenancy agreement is with a company then it is not an AST and S21 or S8 would not apply. The terms are usually in the agreement. You may need to check information on company lets and get advice from a solicitor.
https://www.property118.com/eviction-process-company-let/87098/

Luke P

12:23 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by S Roy at 23/11/2018 - 12:05
Very good point, S Roy.

Winsome P

12:26 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 23/11/2018 - 11:17Advice that I have been getting is to reissue a tenancy with a later start date with a clause rescinding any previous contract and protect the tenancy yourself ASAP.
But they clearly set me up with a trap as in the letting agency contract it stated that they were to do the tenancy deposit protection but on the contract that had my name on it stating that I was supposed to be protecting the deposits. A right bloody mess. They lied to me as well about deposit protection for room by room letting IMO only being needed until the final place was filled. Furious about the deception. Charged each person £150 for referencing which was awful with urgent calls to let them have a key (which creates a tenancy) Fortunately I was a live in landlord and travel internationally and left items in a room. But nasty taste and bad nights sleep

Luke P

12:29 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Winsome P at 23/11/2018 - 12:26
You desperately need to pay for some help. You are in the middle of a minefield. It is unlikely you have an AST. You have an HMO requiring additional fire regs. Your tenants will have their personal rights protected. You can write off the deposits (but may still be liable to the tenants for it) and any lost rent thus far.

silversurfer2017

15:13 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

IMHO it sound very much like 'if it sounds too good to be true it probably is', especially from an unsolicited phone call. Did you check that the letting agent was a member of ARLA? Did you see the references for the IT company and was it their first company let? How could you be certain that the company had sufficient funds to pay your rent? Did you check with previous landlords?

sandy

15:46 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by at 23/11/2018 - 15:13In hindsight I agree that I Am the one at fault for not doing the checks as you have mentioned. I would do a lot of things differently!!!
However my first priority is to get my property back as quickly as possible (legally!).
I appreciate that this is a bit of a mess with the scamming agent using my property to scam others. How do I undo the situation?

silversurfer2017

16:45 PM, 23rd November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by sandy at 23/11/2018 - 15:46Hi Sandy. if it were me in this situation I would come to a private agreement with all 3 tenants. I would want to get my property back as soon as possible. The pragmatic approach is to ask them all to leave say in one month's time and give them back all the rent they have paid and their deposits and get your property back as quickly as possible. Also refund their £150 referencing fees. You 3 new tenants would not have lost out financially and would have all had rent free accommodation for the time they had stayed with you as some compensation. It is important that all 3 of your tenants agree to this at the same time. We can all make mistakes, which we do usually learn from. The only consolation for you in this case is that the refunded rents and refunded deposits might be allowed as a business expense?

lips24x

11:47 AM, 24th November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Hi Sandy,
I am sorry to hear of this awful situation. I am a landlord and have some knowledge but am not an expert. I am posting to offer guidance and recommend any advice is checked with a professional before acted upon. Landlord Action is your first port of call. It will be money well spent. Your contract is with a company so the tenancy is a company let agreement and to my understanding there is no requirement to secure the deposit. Was a deposit paid? The three tenants are problematic as they are resident in the property. I would speak to each of them explaining all of you have been victim of the bogus agency and recommend no further payments are made to the bogus agency. If you are able to, negotiate with the tenants an amicable resolution ie move out after four and a half months (rent plus 6 weeks deposit). I would speak to Landlord Action in regard to cancelling the 2 year contract with the bogus IT company. You do not want to re-let the property and the bogus agent reappearing claiming rights to the property / damages. Please let us know how this situation is resolved so we all may learn from it. All the best

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