Help regarding being a victim of subletting

by Readers Question

10:56 AM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Help regarding being a victim of subletting

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Help regarding being a victim of subletting

A well known national letting agency franchise office based in Ealing advertised flatshare, I viewed the property and agreed to pursue a tenancy. My agreement is for the duration of 3 months, all bills included.

The tenant I share the flat with (Mr G) was claiming to be a tenant at first with the agent supporting this but is now claiming to be the landlord and he has been subletting this property out for four years. We have written and audio proof of this. Help regarding being a victim of subletting

The agent (who has close relations to the tenant acting as landlord) has confessed that his ‘client’ is subletting.

The owner of the property currently resides in South Australia.

I have reason to believe Mr G is committing benefit fraud as a result of all he has divulged to me regarding his five bedroom villa in Iran and and in Inverness of which he put the ownership in his daughter’s name. He is in receipt of many state benefits including disability claiming he cannot work and earn.

Neither Mr G, acting as my landlord, nor the agent can provide me with a current valid gas safety certificate. I have seen a photocopy of one issued in 2010. Mr G is refusing to provide me with gas central heating, he cannot provide a valid reason of refusal. Two different employees from two different energy companies checked our gas facility two weeks ago and concluded that the cooker is unfit for use and needs replacing for safety reasons and there is an issue with the box that links to the boiler. Mr G is refusing to consider the law and the health and safety of others by not addressing these repairs.

I have documents that state that Mr G is the landlord, which prove he is subletting to me but I have not been provided with documentation to prove whether he may or may not have the actual landlord’s permission to sublet the property.

These are also the points I have raised with the property owners own letting agents, another very large national firm. They have been very sympathetic with my predicament, however, they do stress that the actual landlord “may seek legal action to remedy this situation” and that the actual landlord has no legal obligation to me. I completely understand this and assume this to mean I must leave the property ASAP, although, according to Shelter, my tenancy agreement with the illegal landlord, Mr G, still stands and I have until 3rd December to vacate the property. We are getting conflicting advice so don’t know which way to go next.

Could you please suggest anything?

Thank you so much for your assistance.

Best Wishes

Mrs Saadeh

 



Comments

Mark Alexander

11:04 AM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Hello Mrs Saadeh

I really do feel sorry for you but I'm afraid I can only tell you the reality of your predicament.

I have edited out the names of the letting agencies and I have removed the details of your property address and shortened the name of your landlord to Mr G as it is not our policy to name and shame.

It's up to you whether you want to report Mr G for benefit fraud but it doesn't change the position regarding your occupation of the property.

It may be possible that the owner of the property has provided permission to his tenant to sublet a room but whether or not this is the case again doesn't affect your basis of occupation.

At best, you are a lodger, NOT a tenant so the advice from Shelter is wrong.

Lodgers can be evicted without a Court order providing "reasonable notice" is given. One week is considered reasonable.

You may have been given a tenancy agreement but it is not valid. It would be much the same as the tenant giving you a contract of sale on the property, it would not be worth the paper it is written on.

The only comfort I can offer to you is that you may be able to make a claim for misrepresentation against the letting agency who provided you with a 3 month tenancy agreement. I suggest you visit Citizens Advice with a printout of this discussion and ask them for advice. The letting agency you have used is also a member of The Property Ombusdsman service and also ARLA so you should also ask Citizens Advice to help you to write a complaint letter to them as well as to the head office of the company your letting agent is a franchisee of.

I'm sorry this isn't what you will have wanted to hear but I can categorically assure you the above is correct and I wish you well in your search for a better landlord and also with any claims or complaints you make to the bodies i have suggested above.
.

David Sweeney

12:37 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

I agree entirely with Mark with just one tiny exception. The landlord tenant (he is your landlord) may possibly have granted you a tenancy, BUT, as you have a resident landlord it doesn't affect your occupation rights - you are still excluded from the protection of the "Protection from Eviction Act". Your right to occupy is at the discretion of the landlord - and although Mark is right that you are entitled to 'reasonable notice', the moment you are told to leave, if you don't you are trespassing - and the Police could be called. The issue of how long is 'reasonable' could be taken to court and maybe you would win, but it wouldn't stop you being thrown out.

It isn't a legal answer, but you need to look at your options for more reliable accommodation and seek clarity from the landlord over his long-term intentions.

12:42 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Hi Mrs Saadeh

i'm afraid this is a more common situation than you would think, I agree with Marks comments, if he has confirmed that the letting agent is ARLA registered you realy do need to complain.

I am a housing specialist for CAB, but legally i am unable to offer any advice in this forum, however, I would strongly advise you go to your local CAB and speak to a general adviser there, they will be able to look through the agreement and advise you fully as to what your next steps are.

I would also contact the local council and inform them that you have not been given a copy of a valid gas certificate as this is a big breach of the law.

Also Did the Letting agent take a deposit from you and was it protected?

David Sweeney

12:44 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Mark Alexander

12:45 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Julie Ford" at "31/10/2013 - 12:42":

Hi Julie

Long time no speak, welcome back 🙂

What leads you to think tenancy deposit protection legislation might be applicable in this instance?
.

Yasmine Saadeh

14:23 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Julie Ford" at "31/10/2013 - 12:42":

Dear All,

Thank you all so much for your helpful input.

Dear Julie,

Unfortunately my mother and I have been victims of illegal subletting before in a property we discovered belonged to a housing association, acquired through Gumtree. The owner was a Housing Officer for the council so we had 24 hours to vacate that flat, the council were very unreasonable and treated us like the perps. This time we thought we would be 'safe' and seek a property through an agent.

Mum's deposit is in with DPS luckily, so we have requested the return of it on the basis that mum is leaving the property ASAP. I am awaiting the agent's confirmation to DPS that he agrees to her deposit being returned. He knows we know what he and his father's friend, this tenant pretending to be the landlord, have been up to so I expect if he had any common sense he will agree to the deposit being returned in order to let mum go 'quietly'. Naturally, I haven't made any threats to say return her money or else I'll whistleblow but I'm just trying to stress my point- he should be on the defensive now to protect his newly opened business and return her money with no quibbles. My partner and I even painted the property (white) with our own money too as my mum had planned to live there long term, so there should be no questioning of mistreatment of the property.

My grandfather is a landlord up North and has also been advising her regarding the gas safety certificate. She reported this to the council on Sunday via their online form. As for contacting the CAB. We have been unable to get through to speak to someone on many, many occasions and our emails keep being returned.

Dear Mark,

I shall most certainly be making an official complaint about this agent. And as I am a writer, I shall be writing to the government regarding this matter as this is a common issue in our current economy with no practical or dignifying resolution for the 'victims'. I understand the real landlord is also at a financial loss in these situations so it is in the best interest of London's economy, as far as property is concerned, to make strict laws against subletting. Apparently there is no law stating that agents have to check to ensure their client has official, legitimate permission from the actual landlord to sublet. The 'victims', as in the tenant or lodger like my mother lose their home which they acquired through the right channels and committed themselves to in good faith and we all know how expensive moving is. Not to mention the council now have to help her find emergency temporary accommodation, a chore that is costly in time, staffing and money.

I am in a room in a houseshare whereby the room above me was free a few months ago and I requested that my landlord consider my mother for it as we would both maintain this shabby property but he said he 'doesn't was us ganging up on him'. And he wants me out also for the sole reason he 'does not like long term tenants' (been here 7 years). I have allowed him to increase my rent by over the rate of inflation and to include all bills so that he may get what the market value is for this area but he is still providing me with a mere 3 month contract and wants to see how the bills go as he may have to charge me more at the end of this period. This is my issue which, compared to mum's, is a minor issue but is still relevant only because mum can't reside in this house or even sleep the night and this all came about upon asking if mother could take up tenancy here.

We are trying to coordinate renting together but my mother is seeking employment as a PA/EA and is waiting to see where she needs to rent in relation to job location. She is applying for jobs abroad too, therefore it is impractical for me to leave here and move with her to perhaps end up footing the bill of a flat on my lonesome or more likely, moving again. Things have a funny way of coming together at once!

So sorry for such a long comment. I wanted to just add where we are at this moment in time with the issue. Thank you all so much, once again.

Yasmine

Mark Alexander

14:46 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yasmine Saadeh" at "31/10/2013 - 14:23":

Hi Yasmine

Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story.

One statement you made is ringing alarm bells for me though in terms of getting your deposit back. Who gave permission to decorate? I'm hoping you will say it was the letting agent and that you have it in writing.
.

Yasmine Saadeh

15:12 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "31/10/2013 - 14:46":

The room she moved into had very dirty walls which we took photographs of and asked the agent if he could arrange to paint it. He said we had to asked Mr G. I replied 'I didn't realise Mr G was the landlord' as I knew we had to get landlord's permission to paint. He didn't reply to this. I asked Mr G if he could arrange it and he laughed in my face on the door step claiming that we have to ask the agent, they have responsibility. I told him they keep passing the responsibility between each other. I offered the agent to arrange freshening up the paint work out of my own pocket as it was in an unacceptable state. And so we did, only white though. We also have after photographs that show a distinction between the grotty walls and the new, clean, neutral coloured walls. This was the first issue that sounded alarm bells in our minds as to who the actual landlord is. We have informed the actual landlord via his proper agent and we have had no issues over this.

I have just received news that the agent is claiming Mr G (the 'fake' landlord) is the one with the power to authorise a return on her deposit as his responsibility is only to find tenants and collect the rent for Mr G. Apparently she will get it after she vacates the property. According to the DPS it is the agent who has to authorise it. The agent has 'confessed' that there was no inventory done, which may work in her favour. Again, his comments were passing the responsibility of this whole situation to Mr G but he is at fault too. For one, he agreed to find a tenant for this property without the ability to show them the gas safety certificate, as the actual landlord's agent/property manager has it. He has not responded to either requests for this certificate or written confirmation of who the landlord is (which we know he should provide within 21 days of the request). He has just stated again that Mr G has permission to sublet but we know for a fact, straight from the horse's mouth (the actual landlord's agent) that he doesn't and we have written confirmation of this.

This agent knew full well what the deal was when asked to find tenants for this property and he has tried to distance himself from all responsibility, naturally in the best interest of his business. Unfortunately, he didn't realise my mother and I are blessed with the expertise from my Grandad, my partner and you guys! I will be making a formal complaint.

Thank you

Yasmine

Mark Alexander

17:10 PM, 31st October 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yasmine Saadeh" at "31/10/2013 - 15:12":

Hi Yasmine

When I read the member agreement for both Rightmove and Zoopla Property Group for my brother I am 99% certain that at least one of them contained a condition that ownership of the property needed to be established by the agent. It has been several months since I read the agreements but given that my brothers website, which is an online letting agency, asks the question at the point a landlord lists a property this is why I am 99% certain that must be the case, otherwise there would be no needfor the question to be on his website and he does try to keep things as simple as possible for landlords by limiting the number of questions asked to the most important aspects of finding new tenants.

On that basis you may also wish to consider writing to the membership departments of Rightmove and Zoopla to let them know about their offending member agent. You would also consider reporting the agent to your local trading standards office.
.

12:29 PM, 4th November 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "31/10/2013 - 12:45":

Hi Mark,
yes has been awhile 🙂

Even though Mr G may not be the property owner and rightful LL, he has still entered into an tenancy with Mrs Saadeh, if an assured shorthold tenancy has been signed then Mr G is still bound by the legal terms of that AST and must protect the deposit.

Having logged on today and read the further posts it seems this is most definatley a case of the plot thickens.

I do hope Mrs Saadeh gets her deposit back and the issue resolved as soon as possible.

Julie

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