Fake agents scamming landlords and tenants

Fake agents scamming landlords and tenants

10:30 AM, 23rd November 2018, About 3 years ago 33

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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

by H B

20:21 PM, 26th November 2018, About 3 years ago

Sounds like a very easy fraud to fall for and leaves a complete mess for all involved.
I assume that the rents were all paid to an actual bank account and even if a company account, wouldn't the bank have details of whoever set the account up? The bank won't give you the names, but as this sounds more like fraud than breach of contract, they will have to make a suspicious activity report to the police.

by Dancinglandlord

9:02 AM, 29th November 2018, About 3 years ago

Sounds similar to the 'agent' who approached me (see my forum post on this). He called himself Nathan Powell and his 'company' was called B-Line. If you google his facebook page you get the gist of how professional his 'agency' is.

by Simon Hall

22:14 PM, 29th November 2018, About 3 years ago

Hi Sandy, I am sorry to hear of your plight. You have received advice from number guys however my understating of your situation is very simple. The contract between current occupiers and bogus company is not valid. Therefore contract is invalid.
The fact current tenants have been scammed by third party is not your issue nor the fact you have been scammed it is of current occupiers issue. The good news is that for Room Let full eviction process does not need to be undertaken. Therefore these occupiers are not known to you and you can politely ask them to leave otherwise you can classify this as a trespass.
If tenants refuse to pay you within 14 days you are at liberty to change locks and remove their belongings. You should seek some advice this is not as onerous as it seem.
PS: Refer them as occupiers in all correspondence as opposed to tenants.

by DALE ROBERTS

11:16 AM, 30th November 2018, About 3 years ago

I do not believe you are correct Simon. My case, which was a replica ie unknown tenants placed in my unit with an AST not signed by myself, was, to my horror, legally binding. In the UK if you have mandated an agent to act on your behalf ie he/she is merely the intermediary and the actual contract is still between you and the tenant. The fact that the agent has acted fraudulently is a matter between you and the agent. The tenant has been given possession and all the regulations pertaining to that are enforceable. I was forced to honour a 3 year AST with a benefits cheat who was a serial criminal tenant, who trashed my unit and took eight months to evict. Oliver-Knights placed numerous unhousable tenants in properties, by submitting alternative AST's to landlords signed by a hospitality group supported by glowing credit checks. Oliver-Knights embezzled the deposits and costs and rentals and it was only when I contacted the hospitality group noted on my AST, to directly investigate the desultory rental payments, was I made aware that they were not the tenants.
In the UK a forged signature was considered binding on me. In my country absolutely not. And if you are not aware of the fact - Oliver-Knights never faced charges, was ignored by Action Fraud and to evade further accountability closed down and re-opened under another name and continued operating from the same office.
I've said it before and I'll continue repeating it. The industry needs regulation. It is a beacon of opportunity to the corrupt and these sad narratives will continue to occur until such time as the industry is regulated. No commercial enterprise involved in receiving vast amounts of public money should be able to operate without strict criteria to abolish fraud and non compliance to best business practice.

by Winsome P

13:20 PM, 30th November 2018, About 3 years ago

Further update. The latest agreement with the letting agents state that they are an introducer only of tenants but take hundreds of pounds of any excess over a fixed amount in perpetuity as long as those tenants are in residence AND
The real kicker somehow their liability to issue the TDS Tenancy Deposit Scheme has disappeared so thats the bear trap.
They sign up, break the tenancy deposit scheme by delaying then avoid all responsibility with a new contract omitting that fact. I also suspect the first one handed the keys was evicted for hash smoking from his previous tenancy. Time to retake control and boot out as the letting agency is also not registered. . . . . .

by Winsome P

13:21 PM, 30th November 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by DALE ROBERTS at 30/11/2018 - 11:16
Thank you for the information very useful Dale.

by sandy

9:53 AM, 2nd December 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Simon Hall at 29/11/2018 - 22:14
Hi Dale,

You say "if they don't pay you within 14 days you can change the lock"?

I don't have a contract with the occupants. They have an AST with a fake agent. The tenants have paid 3 months rent + 6 weeks deposit to them - NOT SECURED!

My contract is with a fake company created by the fake agent.

I do not want to start a tenancy with the occupants. They don't want to leave because they have paid up for 4.5 months of rent (incl deposit).
So can I just change the locks? all the contracts, agent and company are fake and not responding to me nor the "tenants"

Should I be reporting to the police. I have already reported it to Action Fraud and PRS - both appear to be a waste of time!

by DALE ROBERTS

14:11 PM, 2nd December 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by sandy at 02/12/2018 - 09:53
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news Sandy but the tenants are in possession of your property with what they assume is a legal AST, notwithstanding your claim that it is a fake AST. They have paid rental and deposits to an agent of your choice, which is thus binding on you, and this places you in the very precarious position of having to abide by the rules and regulations governing an AST tenancy. You most definitely CANNOT change the locks until you have been granted a court order and have evicted the tenants. There are serious penalties involved should you attempt any action that impedes the tenants rights.
You need to seek legal advice and you need to seek it as soon as possible.

by sandy

16:05 PM, 2nd December 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by DALE ROBERTS at 02/12/2018 - 14:11
I did not hire the agent!

The (fake) agent contacted me regarding my property was advertised on sparerooms.com

They said that they had a specific client who was looking for a property like mine. This company client then rented my property (tenancy created and managed by them).

It later turned out that this client was ficticious and one of thrir staff acted as the client and got my keys. I have not received any rent for 2 months from the fake company.

The fake agent used these keys to rent rooms in my property to individuals as described in my initial dedcription.

I did not authorise the fake agent to rent my to anyone (except the company I have a company tenancy with).

So the "tenants" living in my property have also been scammed!

The agent was not of my choosing!

Is the AST valid as it is with a fake agent?
Also I guess my company-let tenancy is also not valid.

So as Simon Hall said earlier - does this not invalidate both tenancies?
If so the people living there are not my tenants snd could be seen as tresspassers?

by Luke P

17:06 PM, 2nd December 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by sandy at 02/12/2018 - 16:05
Regardless, an individual’s home is a basic human right protected in law. It’s not simply a case of ‘Sorry tenant, we’ve both been duped so I’m afraid you’ll have to move.’


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