Shelter’s Income and expenditure figures highlighted13:57 PM, 4th February 2019
About 3 weeks ago 35
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?
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