10:44 AM, 11th September 2012, About 10 years ago 56
Linda has written in to share her problem letting agent story and to ask the Property118 community for their opinions, guidance and advice. The remaining content of this post is Linda’s:-
“I purchased properties about four years ago as a cushion for retirement. It has proved a disasterous undertaking and now that retirment is upon me I have used almost all my savings to redecorate flats left in a disgusting state by tenants.
It took over 8 months to evict the tenant in Dover who caused considerable damage. The legal fees were heavy as the tenant appealed everything including the bailiff. I have recently twice in succession had very bad experiences with two properties. The Estate Agent in London had clearly not vetted the tenants or managed the property which was handed back to me in a deplorable state. They claimed that they were required to hand properties back in a tenantable state and not in the same condition as given to them. Since they made the judgement about what was tenantable, they agreed only to provide a topcoat of paint for the flat. Weeks of communication achieved nothing and I either took legal action or used the money to redecorate the flat. I decided on the latter and I am now waiting on a suitable tenant.
My current concern is a property in Dover which is being handled by a local Estate Agent. I gave clear instructions for no DSS tenants and no pets. There were some teething issues, but then the tenants seemed to settle. Ten months into the tenancy, I was requested to pay for reputtying of a window in the loft which I knew had been in good condition as all the windows had been fixed and repainted. Sbortly after there was a request for replacement of underflooring in the bathroom as the carpet had become saturated and this had seeped through and rotted the underflooring. I couldn’t understand how this could happen in such a short space of time. With both these requests, I questioned “normal wear and tear”. In the various exchanges of e-mails, I became aware to my horror that a family with 7 children had been placed in my 4 bedroom house and this had never been disclosed to me. As the house had been redecorated and recarpeted, I would never have agreed to this letting. The inspection that I requested showed that the house was dirty, smelly and the carpets were grubby. The Letting agents agreed to 3 monthly inspections. As various warning bells were going off, I asked whether the family were on benefits and received no response to my question.
I suspect that the letting agent, knowing that I am not local, had ignored my instruction for no DSS and had placed a large family on Housing Benefits in the property and is claiming a substantial rental for 7 children in a five bedroom house (they incl the basement). In the interim I am being pressured to pay for the excess wear and tear.
I have contact Dover Reveneues, but am not hopeful that they will provide information because of data protection even though I am asking about council tax and housing benefits being paid against my property.
Are letting agents able to negotiate directly with Housing Benefit to accommodate claimants without permission and contrary to the instructions of the landlord? Is it fraudulent for the Letting Agent to do this? The Letting agent is registered with the Property Ombudsman and from what I read, they seem very protective of Agents. What can be done about the situation as I am sure that this cannot be an isolated incident?
Any advice/help that you can give will be greatly appreciated.