Tenant with AWOL Landlord AND Property Manager!

by Readers Question

4 years ago

Tenant with AWOL Landlord AND Property Manager!

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Tenant with AWOL Landlord AND Property Manager!

Hi folks Tenant with AWOL Landlord AND Property Manager

Just need a bit of advice please. It’s a long story so please do bear with me.

I rent a bedsit in a converted house and have been there about 3 years, no dramas or issues. My bedsit was broken into on Wednesday 15th Oct 2014 by bailiffs looking for an electricity meter that’s not in my flat. I pay my bills .

Approximately six months ago, SSE started posting letters through the shared letter box of for ‘Flat B’ in my building. I’m Flat A. They were not addressed to me but I decided to deal with them as the envelopes were getting more frequent.

I’ve been scanning the warning letters as they come and emailing them to my property manager for months to get him to sort out the situation. Apparently he did nothing because SSE rocked up on Weds when I was at work and not only broke into the wrong flat, as I’m A….they broke in in spite of my neighbour physically intervening and telling them I was in work, I was Flat A (they wanted B – and a previous tenant no less) and that I had been leaving notes for the other tenants in the hall to reassure them that the nasty letters were being dealt with by me.

I’m in talks with the police and SSE now – I expect A LOT of grovelling and compensation!

My issue now is, the property manager has done a Lord Lucan. I desperately want to move flats (I feel unsafe there now) but can’t get a peep out of him to discuss it. Here’s an email I’ve just sent (I rang a random letting agency for advice and found out who the property owner has her mortgage with and rang that bank – both advised stopping my standing order for rent)

“Dear Property Manager

I am disappointed that, as my property manager, you have not yet called me in spite of my voicemails and emails to you regarding the matter below (this is with regard to the unpaid SSE bill for a meter that is nothing to do with me, and the fact that bailiffs broke into my flat in Weds 15th October 2014 at 11:30am to locate it – and obviously fail to).

As I can not get hold of you, I asked my neighbour if he had any way of contacting anyone at the letting agency. He told me that your business has folded, that your office is now vacant and that someone else was running things. I had no idea about any of this and was not notified of any changes. I telephoned your associate (name changed to “AngryBloke”) on Saturday to explain what had happened and to ask where my rent money is going to each month (I have a standing order that has been paid 1st month every month for several years) and where my deposit is being held. As you see below, the last rent payment I made 1st October 2014.

(screen shot of bank mandate sent)

“AngryBloke” would not allow me to describe the SSE situation, said ‘I don’t have half an hour to listen to your problems, I am not an agony aunt’ (sic) amongst other unintelligible shouting. He then hung up on me. As neither you nor “AngryBloke” will speak with me, and I cannot obtain a telephone number for the property owner (who resides in same house I live in according to the Land Registry extract!) I have just purchased for title xxxxxxxx5 (suggesting she has a residential mortgage not Buy-to-Let.

I am forced to cancel my standing order until such time as one of you gets in touch with me to satisfactorily explain the following:

1: Why you did not appear to act on my multiple notifications to you about the unpaid bill for SSE electricity account xxxxxxxxxxxx, resulting in my flat being broken into on Wednesday 15th October 2014 – these were via email and voicemail, e.g. the below:

(screen dumps of emails sent to agents in August)

2: Why it is impossible to speak with anyone connected to my formal letting agent either via telephone or email? The office number rings out and the mobile goes to voicemail. “AngryBloke” will not be getting another call from me as the last one was so abusive that it resulted in me bursting into tears. I expect an apology from him and a clear, satisfactory explanation for his behaviour.

3: Why the ground floor back flat (the one behind me and occupied by a lovely neighbour and his daughter) in was treated for bedbugs in October 2014 and none of us other tenants were warned of this infestation by you as property manager. Bedbugs by their nature infest an entire property, not one single bedsit within it. The entire house should have been treated and we should have been told. I now understand why I am suffering with strange blisters and hives – I have/am being bitten by bedbugs that have migrated to my untreated flat. I shall be documenting my bites by collecting images of these for the attention of Environmental Health if necessary.

4: Where my rent payments have been going – have they been given to the property owner or are they going elsewhere? What status is my tenancy payment account?

5: Where my deposit is being held and when it will be repaid to me?

I am looking for alternative rented accommodation, with deposit, fees, a month’s rent and moving costs covered by SSE in light of their violation of my rights and my loss of safety and security. I intend to stay in hotel accommodation, paid for by SSE until such time as alternative rental property is secured and paid for. I am in the process of packing up my belongings for transport to a new flat.

My telephone number remains XXXXXXXXX. I have blind-copied in my parents and boss at work. This is to establish reasonable adults as witnesses via this date/time stamped email in writing that I am cancelling my standing order and my rationale for this action.

I suggest that you contact me as a matter of urgency.

Phew! SO, my question to you guys is what is the best course of action now?

I’ve done a Land Registry search and have the homeowners name – she’s down as a resident of the building but unless she’s a Chinese man or a Nigerian man or my lovely neighbour’s transgender alter ego she aint living here! I did a 192 search on her but can’t find a number to call – she’s registered at the same address as the property agency is run from…which is an empty shop.

I’m trying to get a decent payoff from SSE that will cover a deposit on a flat and rent. They offered me £250, I laughed. They offered me £350. I laughed. They said ‘the last time this happened to someone we gave them £500 and that’s the most we could give you’ – I still laughed, and posted on Twitter that SSE has a habit of breaking into the wrong flat :p

SSE said they’d like to change my locks for me too – I said I can’t authorise that without my landlord/property manager’s apporval – gave them all the contact info, again, but highly unlikely they’ll speak. Given the agency has vanished into thin air, as has the landlady.

I’m wondering if she’s been paying her mortgage and if not, how soon it’ll be before the bank repossesses the whole house.

I’m ready to leave and plan to do so – have I done everything possible to communicate with the letting agent, do you think?

Really appreciate any advice you can give me

Thanks very much x

Esther

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Comments

Mark Alexander

4 years ago

Hi Esther

I don't think I've ever advised a tenant to stop paying rent but I suppose there's a first for everything.

I concur with the advice you have been given to date.

I think your local press, Citizens Advice and MP will also be interested in this story. You may wish to write to and arrange to visit them all.
.

Ian Narbeth

4 years ago

You have a right to know the landlord's address and if it is not on rent demands you can require the agent to provide it. If he refuses he commits an offence and you can refuse to pay rent. Sometimes landlords are unaware of the antics their agents get up to so it will be good to contact him. If you stop paying rent that will very rapidly flush out the landlord. Useful article here: http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2014/05/29/a-tenants-right-to-know-his-landlords-address/

Tessa Shepperson

4 years ago

Who are SSE?? Is it the utility company?

Did you pay a deposit? Was it protected?

Has your fixed term come to an end or not?

Not really possible to give any advice without answers to those questions.

Hazel Taylor

4 years ago

This person sounds like the tenant we would all like to have, we have 3 vacant properties at present. Let me know which area you live/work in, and if you are near our houses/flats we would welcome your interest.

r01

4 years ago

Sounds like you have an amateur or dodgy landlord using a dodgy agent. The landlord should have a buy-to-let mortgage or at least have notified their lender that they are now letting the property out (to comply with lending terms). These people make professional landlords and agents very angry.

I would also ask is your tenancy an AST and when does it end, or are you beyond the AST end date, in which case you are now effectively on a periodic tenancy. Given that you are now leaving anyway, if on a periodic tenancy I suggest you write to the agent and copy in the landlord and his/her mortgage company (which I presume is a bank or B/Society). You will have this detail from your land registry search.

If you paid a deposit to the agent and have never had notification of where or which scheme it has been placed in, the agent is breaking the law on behalf of the landlord but the landlord is ultimately responsible.

As the landlord seems unreachable it is possible he or she is abroad in which case they may well have personal mail re-directed, so daft as it sounds, I would post a copy of all correspondence to the address of the person that holds the property title & mortgage (possibly your own address), as well as the mortgage company (requesting them to contact the landlord on your behalf), leaving clear details on how they can contact you. Make sure you get proof of posting for all letters you send and put your return address on the back of all envelopes so you know if something gets returned it didn't get there. People often don't realise that if anything goes wrong with mail and it has no return address, is simply gets sent to a black hole in Northern Ireland where it can sit for many years before being opened.

If the landlord's letter arrives at your premises then clearly the landlord is not forwarding mail but you have at least notified the lender (who is extremely likely to have a contact for the landlord) and I suspect the moment they receive your correspondence they will be in touch to find out exactly what is going on.

Hope that increases your options and I would repeat Hazel Taylor's request to tell us where you wish to live. I personally have no vacant properties but a professional landlord on this site may well have somewhere ideal for you and good tenants are as hard to find as good landlords.

R

Esther Harvey

4 years ago

Hi all

Thanks ever so much for all your advice - I gave the handyman a printed version of my email to the letting agency to pass on - so far, no call or contact. I can't bring myself to cancel the standing order (it's so weird for me as I've paid every rent fee on time since I left home in 1994!). I'm actively looking for new digs now (Ealing pref) and am 75% packed - I've pretty much written off my bond so that's the stinker - I can't afford new digs without the upfront costs. I might see if the bank will agree to a loan to fund it - I'm determined to get out as this whole scenario is very dodgy!

Thanks again everyone

Esther Harvey

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Hazel Taylor" at "21/10/2014 - 16:09":

yes please! West London, max £850 pcm if you have it 🙂

Esther Harvey

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Tessa Shepperson" at "21/10/2014 - 13:01":

it was a fixed term to start with but then went on a rolling month by month basis - I've been there just over three years, all rent paid up by standing order on 1st every month. I can appreciate it if the letting agent has gone bust, and feel sorry for them, but I don't feel secure so am dying to just go!

Esther Harvey

4 years ago

Just to add another update - last night I spotted two bedbugs happily trotting on my fitted sheet (I'm a rubbish sleeper and often read in the wee hours so caught them in peak munching time). I 'humanely euthanised' them and stick them to a bit of paper, stuck that on my flat door and wrote 'the bedbugs are in my flat now - shall I treat them or will you arrange a guy?'

Very childish but have you ever seen one? They're repugnant. All the other tenants will have seen them this morning so if they didn't know the house was infested? They do now.

To say I want to move out yesterday is an understatement!

I pay rent every month on time, am compulsively neat (a la Monica in Friends), non smoker, non partier, no pets, full time employed and a nice neighbour. If anyone wants a slightly barmy unicorn lady as a tenant in West London, do get in touch 🙂 x

Esther Harvey

4 years ago

I've found my landlady! Via the insolvency register....oy vey. Exact name and DOB so it's definitely her. I've also found out via Companies House that the letting agency status is 'Active - Proposal to Strike Off'. What does this mean, in legalese?

I'm looking at flats today so hoping to get one tonight and start shifting my stuff over. I plan to send a 'Dear John' letter announcing that I've left to the empty lettings shop - I have both directors (one of them is the landlady) private hidey-hole addresses via the Insolvency register and Law Pages listings. Should I write to them at home as well?

What else should I be doing to ensure I am lily-white, ethically and legally?

Thanks for advice in advance! x

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