Tag Archives: Fire

My tenant is trashing my house!! Advice, Buy to Let News, Guest Articles, Guest Columns, Landlord Action, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

At Landlord Action we just don’t evict tenants for rent arrears or ending the tenancy because the landlord wants the property back.  We also get instructed by landlords that are worried about the condition of their property and how the tenants are treating (or mistreating) it.  If instances such as this are left to continue, they can end up costing landlords a fortune to put right, negating any gains they have made through rental income for a substantial length of time.

In a recent case we were instructed to gain possession of, the landlord was desperate to get his property back.  There were no arrears, but the tenant had severely neglected the property. She had rented the property on the proviso that she would be living there however, soon after getting the keys, she left to go to Africa leaving her teenage sons in the property on their own. When the landlord found this out during a routine inspection of the property, he quite rightly called social services. My tenant is trashing my house

However, this wasn’t the landlord’s only problem. Teenage boys under one roof would be bad enough, but teenage boys without supervision…a nightmare! Upon visiting the property the landlord found it to be knee deep in rubbish which had resulted in a mouse infestation. British gas had also issued a warrant and changed the locks to the front door to remove the meter and change it to a pre-paid meter as the bills had not been paid for several months. They had broken the landlord’s cooker and washing machine, along with other items, and the landlord was genuinely worried that the property was no longer safe to live in, as it posed a fire risk. At this point he took some shocking photos – see below.

When checking out the references again because he was suspicious, the landlord realised he had been conned. The tenant said she was employed by a charity but had falsified the letter of employment.  With all this evidence being put in a witness statement, we now have the task of having to convince the judge, on discretionary grounds, to grant a possession order at the hearing.

Unfortunately, the landlord gave the tenant a 2 year tenancy agreement with no break clause and it still has another 11 months to run.  The landlord is understandably worried that there will now also be rent arrears going forward as, of course, it could be another 4 months before he gets his property back.

1: Always make sure you have a break clause in your tenancy agreement so that you can end the agreement early and rely on a section 21 Notice, rather than discretionary grounds going to court.

2: Always have your tenancy checks carried out by a professional who is more likely to spot falsified information.

3: Always carry out regular property checks so that if something untoward is going in your property, you know about it sooner rather than later!

Contact Landlord Action

Specialists in tenant eviction and debt collection. Regulated by The Law Society.


Council of Letting Agents call for Scotland’s dangerous electrics to be outlawed Landlord News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management

The Council of Letting Agents has today called for better electrical safety standards in Scotland’s privately rented properties.

Speaking at their inaugural conference, Council of Letting Agents (CLA) Convenor Kathleen Gell said: “Scotland depends upon the properties that our letting agents manage. People rely on these properties for their homes and they need to be safe. We have national standards and regulation for gas safety, but the same is not in place for electrics and that needs to change.”

“The only way we can guarantee to keep properties and tenants safe is to regulate electrical safety to a national standard and publicise this as well as gas safety.

Research reveals that there are on average 70 deaths a year in the UK from electrical fires and that Scottish homes are at a disproportionately high risk from these. It has also been shown that tenants of private landlords are more likely to be at risk of electric shock than home owners.

The private rented sector is growing – the number of dwellings provided by private landlords has risen from 115,000 in (5% of all homes) in 1999, to 267,000 (11% of all homes) in 2011 and all indications point to that trend continuing.”

Kathleen Gell continued: “There have been great improvements in this sector with compulsory registration for landlords and the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme, but we will fall behind on basic safety if we do not act in this area too.”

“We want there to be compulsory checks on wiring and appliances in rental properties. There are standards we could use (Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) ), but we need some teeth to enforce them – we cannot afford any grey areas.”

“Many letting agents already require this level of safety check, but it cannot be enforced: there is no national standard to adhere to and landlords wishing to avoid the cost of a safety check, simply go elsewhere to lease their property.”

“The private rented sector is a major part of the housing landscape in Scotland. We have a duty of care to the people who depend on it for their homes and we need to make sure it is safe.”

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Subletting Scams – why landlords are afraid to report them Cautionary Tales, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property News, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Many landlords are fearful to seek help from their local authorities in terms of dealing with subletting scams.

Just imagine this, you’ve jst let your nice little three bed house to Mr & Mrs Lovely and their two perfect children, only to find out that 10 of their family have also moved in. How would you feel?

Subletting scams can also go a stage further. Mr & Mrs Lovely may never actually move into the property, they simply cram as many immigrants in as possible (sometimes illegal immigrants) and charge them all a rent and make a huge profit.

The landlord then has numerous concerns including:-

  • Mr and Mrs Lovely fail to live up to their name and stop paying rent, but they continue to collect it
  • wear and tear on the property
  • noise related issues affecting neighbours
  • will their landlords insurance still be valid
  • fire safety
  • HMO licensing
  • and so the list goes on.

You would think that a quick call to the local EHO (Environmental heath Officer) should sort the problem wouldn’t you? So far as I’m aware, EHO’s have every right to close the property down if they consider it to be a danger to human life, through overcrowding for example. In such circumstances, that’s exactly what many landlords actually want to happen. What they don’t want is to spend several months going through the Courts to obtain possession order, which under the circumstances they will inevitably obtain but at what cost to themselves and at what risk to human life in the meantime?

Whilst any legal action is ongoing the landlords property is probably getting ruined, they may not receive rent, the neighbours get very upset and the landlords ends up with a huge bill.

The fear of reporting such problems runs deep. Will the local authorities use the problem against the landlord? Will they take pictures of the property and use them in their anti-landlord propaganda to justify licensing schemes? Will the local authority press charges against the landlord for the state of the property, which may well have been perfect when they first rented it to Mr & Mrs Lovely?

In many cases, inventories prepared by landlords are not up to scratch so the fear of reporting problems is that tenants will claim the property was a death trap from day one and the landlord becomes a victim twice over!

I am hoping that any TRO’s (Tenancy Relations Officers), EHO’s (Environmental Health Officers) and others with the powers to actually do something about this will comment on the problem as well as landlords and letting agents. Subletting Scams - why landlords are afraid to report them

 


61 percent of tenants could have out of date gas safety certificates Landlord News, Latest Articles

There has been a rise in Landlords failing to get up to date gas safety certificates and 61% of tenants could be at risk from faulty gas fittings according to a survey conducted by SpareRoom.co.uk. gas safety certificates

The latest survey of UK tenants revealed that potentially 37% are now renting properties that have out-of-date gas safety certificates, which is up from 34% two years ago. More than a quarter (26%) of renters had never seen a gas safety check carried out while they had been renting the property – up from 22% in 2011 – while one in 10 (11%) said the last gas safety check, which must be completed annually, was carried out more than 12 months ago.

An additional 24% of tenants surveyed were not aware that a gas safety check had been carried out in the last 12 months but could not be certain either way, which means as many as 61% of renters could be at risk from unsafe fittings and appliances across the UK. That’s up from 56% in 2011. The table below compares the results of surveys on gas safety carried out by SpareRoom in 2011 and 2013:

Renters were asked: ‘If you’ve been in your property over a year, when was your last gas safety check carried out?’

2011

2013

Within the last 12 months

44%

39%

More than 12 months ago

12%

11%

Never

22%

26%

Don’t know

22%

24%

Landlords are legally required to perform annual gas safety checks on their properties to ensure all gas fittings and appliances are operating safely and efficiently. It’s a landlord’s responsibility to arrange for a registered Gas Safe engineer to carry out this check, and to provide tenants with a copy of the gas safety certificate to prove that a gas safety check has been carried out.

The survey highlights that more and more landlords are failing to adhere to this basic legal requirement, leaving tenants at risk of injury and landlords at risk of prosecution if a tenant was to suffer a gas-related injury or died as a result of a gas leak or explosion.

According to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 4 people died and 333 were seriously injured in the UK last year from fire exposure, explosions, carbon monoxide poisoning and other forms of gas-related exposure.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom comments: “Landlords have legal obligations to carry out annual gas safety checks but it seems awareness is slipping.”

“The current boom in buy-to-let has exacerbated the problem. While most professional landlords know the rules and are diligent in getting checks carried out, many amateur landlords may not even realise they need a certificate. It’s crucial that those thinking of letting properties or rooms get to grips with their responsibilities as landlords, and keep up to speed with any regulatory changes. Too many landlords are clearly forgetting their responsibilities once tenants are in place.”


Our flat could have caught fire Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

My housemate and I attend Greenwich University in London. We live in a two bedroom flat in Charlton, SE7.

During our winter, Easter & Summer breaks we tend to venture back home for some free food and heating, and thus the flat is left empty for a few weeks at a time.

Just before the end of our summer term (2013) we decided to let our Letting Agent know that the cooker had been turning itself off on numerous occasions (more than 5). The cooker would then not work again (heat up) for another hour or so. After a few pestering calls to ask to get it fixed they finally agreed to get a ‘trusted’ handy man in to see what was the problem. We were living back home for the summer on the date they chose to come and fix the problem and so they said they would give their spare set of keys to this trusted handyman, so he could let himself in and out of the flat. We were OK with this as they assured us he was trusted, and most of our possessions had been taken home for the summer anyway; apart from a TV, saucepans and trays, cutlery and crockery and a few tins of beans.

A few weeks past, and my boyfriend and I were due to stay at the flat for one night before our holiday flight at Heathrow the next day. When we got to the flat all looked OK, apart from a pile up of junk mail and a few interesting looking mud marks on the carpet in the hallway (Just to add; myself and my housemate cleaned the flat thoroughly before we left for the summer, so we could come back to a nice clean flat).

As we set about making cups of tea and seeing what was on TV for the night we noticed how hot the flat was. The kitchen was hotter than it would have been with the heating on full blast in the summer! It was then we realised that the cooker had in actual fact been left ON!

Two of the four rings were on as well as the bottom oven and the grill. I opened up the cooker and there were three trays in the cooker which were disintegrating as we stood there. I immediately turned the whole oven off at the switch on the wall next to the cooker (a simple on/off switch to turn the electrics to the oven off or on). Opening all windows and moving the trays out of the oven we also noticed that the rubber which surrounds the oven doors was melting. The sink was also full of ‘dirt’ and dirty plates and a few mugs surrounded the sink. A panel next to the cooker (part of the kitchen units) had also been taken out but not replaced. There was mud all over the kitchen floor walked in from someone’s shoes.

I immediately got on the phone to our lettings agents ‘emergency number’, I called many times that evening – but had no answer. We tried again in the morning before our flight, but no answer either.

When we returned from holiday (having emailed from holiday-but to have no answer) we called again; no answer.

If that cooker was to cause a fire, who would have got the blame?

When we leave the flat for more than a night we photograph that the cooker is switched ‘off’, so we have physical proof on our side if it were to happen again.

How can we get our letting agent to acknowledge what happened/went wrong/what needs to be done to correct this problem? The cooker occasionally switches off still – and we don’t want this mess to come out of our deposit next summer! Furthermore, we had a big electricity bill and we were not even using the flat. We have paid the bill but we feel this is wrong – can we claim compensation and if so how difficult would it be to prove that the bill was as a direct result of this issue? Flat could have caught fire

Thanks for your advice

Hannah


Key Property (UK) Ltd fined £47k for damp unlicensed HMO Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment News, Property Maintenance, Property Market News, Property News

A letting agent who rented out a damp, dangerous and dilapidated property received a hefty fine following a successful council prosecution. Key Property fined £74k for damp and unlicenced HMO

Key Property (UK) Ltd of 47 Bell Road, Hounslow, who trade under the name Key Solutions and Key Lettings, were fined £42,500, on top of costs and compensation worth £5,040, at Feltham Magistrates Court after being found guilty of 15 housing offences.

The offences related to a property on Cromwell Street, Hounslow, which the council investigated following complaints from tenants in July last year.

Officers inspecting the property found seven tenants living at the property, in five separate bedrooms, which included the front and rear living rooms.

They discovered a significant number of defects relating to excess cold, damp and mould, electrical hazards, problems with sanitation and drainage, security, fire safety, structural hazards and hygiene.

A boiler that had been turned off by the manufacturer due to its unsafe installation had been switched back on.

It was also discovered that the property was a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and required a license to be let out to tenants. Having a license would mean the property was being managed well, and was suitable for occupation.

Cllr Steve Curran, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration at the council said:

“The fact the fine for failing to have an HMO license is one of the largest in the country shows the seriousness of the offences.

“I’m pleased magistrates have thrown the book at this criminal letting agent, as the conditions the tenants were living in – no fire alarms, dangerous gas and electrics, and some of the worst damp and mould our officers have ever seen – were, frankly, appalling.

“They took more than £24,000 in rent from these tenants and left them to live in squalor.

“They tried to avoid their legal responsibilities, but thanks to the hard work of our housing team, we were able to successfully prosecute them.”

Key Property were found guilty of 15 housing offences at Feltham Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 4 September.

The offences, fines and costs awarded were:

  • Managing an unlicensed HMO: £15,000 fine
  • Supplying false information: £5,000 fine
  • 3 offences relating to management of the property: £22,500 fine
  • Compensation to tenants: £600
  • Victim surcharge: £120
  • Council’s legal costs: £4,320

The director of Key Property (UK) Ltd is Mrs Adibah Uddin, and the company secretary is Mr Iftikhar Uddin


Guarantee for natural void periods? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I’m sure I’ve heard a radio advert recently from a letting agent that was offering a type of rent guarantee, not sure if was insurance backed or not. And I can’t remember the name of the agent, so I can’t check on their website. Guarantee for natural void periods

Has anyone come across this? I’m sure it said that even if the property was vacant (I assumed it to be mean ‘between tenants’ not just in a fire/flood/deserter situation) you’d still be paid your rent.

Does this exist in the market?

Thanks

Kirsty McGregor


It’s all falling apart and I could do with some advice please Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Our first flat was bought at auction and cost 33k, spent 7k on a refurb and was valued at 55k, it rents out for £335 pcm. I re-mortgaged for 30k and bought another one bedroom flat for 23k also at auction. It has just become vacant after 2 years during which time it rented for £350 pcm.

My third investment property I bought for 25k, spent 17k on refurb and was valued at 90k. It currently rents for £450 pcm.

The tenant in the flat which cost 23k (my second purchase) has moved out and conveniently forgot to tell me. The council informed me the rent had been stopped so I realised she had gone. She had taken the cooker, my fireplace and there were two smashed windows, she was also fiddling the electric, VERY DANGEROUS.

All her belongings were still in the property but I have since had them all removed, the windows fixed and the locks changed. Nightmare!!

The block of 9 flats have deteriorated greatly in the past two years to my horror and I am going to try and sell at auction.

I am scared that if it does not sell it wont rent out either. Out of the 9 flats there are only two being rented, not good and the other flats are falling into disrepair. This is why I have decided to sell, all the other landlords in the block don’t want to know?

I am living through a nightmare at the moment, not eating, sleeping, worrying etc etc.

I applied for a re-mortgage of the cottage before this all started and the offer has just come through of £67,500.

I have suddenly become more fearful about taking on more debt because of what is happening at the moment.

I would like some advice as to which is the best way forward.

My confidence is at an all time low and some good advice would be greatly appreciated.

I hope all this makes sense.

I have just got back from the nightmare flat so my nerves are a bit shot and I thought a post on Property 118 might just ease the pain.

Regards

Mark LancasterIt's all falling apart and I could do with some advice please


Cannabis Factory – Landlords Case Study Advice, Cautionary Tales, Guest Articles, Guest Columns, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

How do you know if your property is being used as a Cannabis factory?

I’m writing this, having been involved recently in a case where a landlord got caught in this conundrum. Leona… we will call her for the sake of confidentiality. I thought I would tell her story for you as it is a classic commonplace tale that illustrates how these things work for landlords and us frontline workers.

Leona’s story.

Leona was renting out a flat she bought as an alternative to a pension, as so many do. She decided she would be best served by using a major high street letting agent.  Go to the professionals, get it done right. OK it will cost a bit more but at least you have some comfort knowing you are using the big names.

The agents took 6 month’s rent up-front. Common practice if the tenant has a bad credit rating and if they don’t have a credible guarantor.

5 months in Leona visited the property to talk to the tenant and see if everything was OK and find out if they wanted to continue the letting. Looking through the letterbox she saw dirt all over the carpets and what looked like several black bin liners full of soil. The bathroom window had been ripped from its hinges and was hanging loose. Through the gap she could see there wasn’t any furniture.

Suspecting that the property was being used as a Cannabis factory she contacted the police, who duly gave her a crime number but didn’t investigate further, probably because the bird had flown. Still not wanting to act in any way that may be deemed inappropriate she contacted her agent and told them about it. They said they would send someone to the property but a couple of weeks later she still hadn’t heard anything back.

When she phoned the agent again she was told that the particular employee didn’t work there anymore so nothing happened beyond a visit. They advised her not to change the locks and that they would serve a section 21 notice and begin the eviction process. At which point she came to me for advice.

The TRO story.

The tenant has another month on the fixed term so I am mindful that if Leona forces entry and changes the locks in error she could be committing an illegal eviction. She is nice and trying very hard to do the right thing so I agree to meet her at the property to see the situation first hand, mindful of the possibility that I might be attending a criminal act.

But I’m also very mindful of the fire hazard presented by the presence of a cannabis factory. In the past fortnight two of them have burnt down in our area, fortunately nobody was hurt but Leona’s flat is on the first floor of a tower block housing 60 families so a fire would be unthinkable. I have to act fast.

I also have contacts in the energy company EDF, specifically Bob and Steve who disconnect cannabis factories with the police, so I called Steve and he also agreed to meet up and see what the coup was.

The EDF story.

Bob and Steve disconnect around 9 or 10 cannabis farms each week in our area alone. They tell me that the main boosters for the equipment used can get up to temperatures around 50 degrees so are constantly on the verge of catching fire.

In our manor Vietnamese gangs are behind most of them, sometimes with willing European accomplices and sometime unwilling ones who are being blackmailed into acting as a front. It may be different gangs in different areas.

Steve runs a check and finds that the property is on an electricity key meter and being charged @ around £70 a week, so whoever the tenant really is he isn’t running a TV and food mixer. Also the tenants underneath reported water leaking down through their ceiling. Steve advises this is usually the automated watering system.

The give-away for EDF is either a huge electricity bill or the complete absence of one. Often they turn up and find the electricity meter removed and the supply hot-wired to the street.

The Police story.

Many cannabis farms can be picked up by helicopters using thermal imaging cameras, at which point they contact EDF for them to run a check on electricity usage and billing names. That’s how some of them come to light but it isn’t fool proof. Farms in basements for instance are difficult to pick up.

As for prosecutions…..well. Cannabis farms are such an endemic problem that further investigation is a waste of time. Once the raid takes place the plants are bagged up and destroyed. No point tracking down fictitious tenants using fake documents

20 cannabis plants growing on a kitchen table will net the farmer £40,000 but in police terms would only be categorised as ‘Personal use’, so not worth prosecuting. A three bedroomed house turned over to serious farming will garner you £500,000, so the odd farm lost here and there gets absorbed into the overall costs, as merely risks of the trade.

I recently worked with the police on a farm where they found a black bin liner containing £50,000. In this case they know the owner but will struggle to connect him to the money or the farm even though we all know him by reputation.

Meanwhile back at Leona’s place

The tenant had changed the locks so she called a friend to climb in through the broken bathroom window and open the door from the inside while Steve and I stood by. Me to deal with any legal issues that may arise from the forced entry, Steve to verify whether or not the place was indeed a cannabis farm.

Once inside there were no signs of occupation, not so much as a stick of furniture or a toothbrush, but piles of soil littered the flat, containing marijuana leaves, discarded dead baby plants and bits of horticultural equipment and 10 black bin liners full of used potting compost.

The tower block in which Leona’s flat sits is part of a row of 3 in the same street. While we were there Steve got a call from the police. It transpired that there were another two farms in the other blocks that needed to be disconnected.

Whether or not they are linked to Leona’s tenants is anybody’s guess but at least they won’t get away with harvesting the other ones.

We left Leona, her sister and their friend to begin the clean-up operation. Put back one of the doors that had been removed, sweep up the piles of dirt on the carpets. She got off lightly to be honest. A good afternoon’s cleaning will get it back to normal.

So what can you do to guard yourself?

Well the 6 month rent up-front ploy is a good indicator. They do this so they won’t be disturbed. It may be that rent in advance is simply because they don’t have a good credit rating or a guarantor but bear in mind it is also a classic sign of skulduggery. You have to ask the question; if their credit rating is so bad, how come they have £5,000 or £6,000 to bang down on the counter?

In such cases you could announce a visit after the first month to make sure they are all settling in and happy.

If you think there is something fishy going on call EDF and mention your concerns, they will look into it from their end. They may not tell you the exact state of play on the person’s account, they have to be mindful of the Data Protection Act but they do know the signs and have more powers if something really is amiss.

Talk to neighbours to see if they have noticed strange comings and goings such as late night visits with a van loading and unloading. The equipment is quite bulky and difficult to install on the QT. In Leona’s case they cut the pigeon netting on the balcony and hauled it all up on ropes to avoid being caught by the tower block’s CCTV in the entry area.

If you have strong suspicions call the police in. remember cannabis farms are a major fire hazard and you could end up losing the property entirely, not to mention endangering the lives of the neighbours.

If the police visit and it turns out that it’s all in error, well it’s only a little bit embarrassing, easily set right with an apology and a bottle of wine.

Finally, if as Leona’s agents did, they tell you that they will serve a section 21 forget it. You don’t have the time for that, each day that goes by makes it more dangerous. Call your council, call EDF, call the police, make waves but remember these things are run by criminal gangs, don’t tackle it yourself.Cannabis Factory Landlords Case Study


Private paying tenants – How large and secure should their income be? Latest Articles

We let out properties mainly to Housing Benefit tenants. Despite the general assertions on this site, we haven’t had substantial arrears, or substantial damage to our property. We know how we can short circuit those arrears, on the whole.

Both instances of arrears we have had however, have arisen under private paying tenants just like Mark’s experience.

I wonder how other landlords calculate affordability for private tenants. We don’t have high rents – about £500 on some properties and about £550 on others. We’ve found tenants who have been able to pay on relatively low earnings. What yardstick do other readers use?

Employers references are some help, but can be manipulated or falsified. Although a credit check can assist, there are limits to that.

We find that at least we know – until any further government cuts -what housing benefit (or equivalent) will be received, although this is now complicated by the contribution to council tax now required of HB tenants.

In contrast, an employee can be fired at any time. How far do others go in enquiries of the employer?

Edwin income


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