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Beware of the professional rent dodger

Paul Shamplina, Director of Landlord Action is well aware of these serial non-payers.

He said: "They are often in cahoots with other people who help them produce false references and they normally have one good bank account which shows regular money going in.

"I would always advise landlords to get sight of at least three most current months’ bank statements, giving proof of a regular salary being paid, what date it is paid, other living expenses and, more importantly, evidence that they have been regularly and currently paying their rent.”

Lucia Amati became a victim in January 2008 when she let her London flat. The tenant paid the first month’s rent, then nothing, something which Ms Amati later learned was a regular pattern for this particular tenant.

Ms Amati had been the perfect landlord in that first month, arranging for work to be carried out at her tenant’s request.
However, this was to be the only time either she or her agent had contact with him who, when he was challenged about non payment, claimed not to be the tenant at all, but his twin brother and also cited identity theft as a reason for not paying.
After two months, Ms Amati’s agent contact Landlord Action, a tenant eviction service which has successfully evicted 13,000 rogue tenants in the past 10 years.

Landlord Action set about the process of court proceedings, however, the tenant knew exactly how the system worked and neither paid up or left.

He eventually left the day before the eviction date, eight months after he had moved in, owing £6000 in arrears and costs of £350.

He had already arranged a further tenancy to start on this date and, true to form, he paid the first month’s rent then, again, nothing.

The landlord of this property, who asked not to be named, was left feeling appalled and powerless to make an immediate eviction of a tenant who had no intention of paying the rent.

He said: "This tenant has, in essence, been stealing from me for the past six months, causing me considerable emotional stress and financial difficulties with my mortgage while I, as a law-abiding citizen, follow the frustratingly long eviction process.

"I am saddened to know that serial fraudsters such as this can brazenly continue to use and abuse the system without care for the effect it has on landlords, their families or their agents."

Once again, the tenant left the day before the set eviction date, owing £6400 in arrears and costs of £608.25.

Shamplina said: "Under current data protection laws there is no bad tenant register, although private companies such as Landlord Action do hold their own list of rogue tenants.

"Although you can get a register of people with CCJs, unless a landlord has taken possession action in the past and actually enforced a money order, these don’t get registered at all, leaving people such as this tenant free to rent again."

Landlord Action’s Top Tips for landlords

1 Obtain references
2 Ask tenant for at least three months bank statements
3 Ask their employer how long they have worked for them
4 Use a credit referencing service
5 Seek information, utility bill of tenant
6 Speak to previous landlords
7 Does the tenant have any assets?
8 Obtain a copy of the tenant’s passport
9 Obtain the tenant’s National Insurance number
10 Secure a guarantor (for example, a parent)
11 If you use a Management Agent find out about the company
12 Do they have a large management department?
13 Ask to speak to some of their landlords

* Landlord Action offers a Three Step fixed-fee service and gives free advice to all landlords who call 08707 652005.
Alternatively visit its website at www.landlordaction.co.uk

Have your say on this story using the comment section below

6 thoughts on “Beware of the professional rent dodger

  1. Angela says:

    There are three types of non paying tenant – those who have been vetted and have since fallen on unfortunate times despite their best efforts; those who haven’t been vetted properly and turn out to be non-paying; those who deliberately have ‘good’ references which are false plus have a ‘clear’ account with which they provide income history with/accountants who will ‘vouch’ for them, with no intention of paying rent.

    We had one such tenant. Do not accept applications which give over financial history authorisation to ‘accountants’. ie those which scrub out authorisation to get bank history info yet had his accountant ‘vouch’ for his income. The ‘accountant’ had a disclaimer on their reference, voiding them of any knowledge of his account history. The lettings agents acting for us ‘accepted’ this disclaimer and we ended up with a serial non-paying history, backed up with would you guess it, a cowboy residential lettings lawyer helping him exploit tenant law!! we are owed £5000k by this absolute piece of slime. We got a ccj on him and got him out of the property but let me tell you this was by good fortune not law. Law is weighted toward the scoundrel tenants who exploit the rule of law!
    The only way to beat them is to know their game and thankfully the vast majority of tenants are genuine.
    Make SURE every i is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed. Dont rely on the agent unless you trust them – ASK them to see the application – check it through yourself, and check the references.
    Yes this might be a rather ‘paranoid’ comment to make here but once bitten by a rogue tenant, believe me, you will be doing our own double checking and due diligence. We have made it our priority to ensure this tenant cannot rent a home while abusing tenant law like this again. More should be said about this fringe tenant element.

  2. John Thorpe says:

    These tricksters know only too well how to make a good impression and take you off your guard.

    I get references from Bank and Employer and also get one of the tenanyts close relatives to act as Gurentor which means signing a document to this effect. I have found the London Courts to be very lenient towards tenants (knowing that some who cannot find accommodation will be looking to the Local Authority to re-house them.)
    It has been my experience that those companies insuring the tennts deposit favour the tenant in the arbitration review. (9 out of 10 landlords do not get their claim for damages settled in their favour.)
    The Labour Government has intrduced so much legislation affecting the landlord adversely that most landlords will not provide a home to those in greatest need who are on benefit.
    I have been a landlord in London for 40 years and I do know what I am talking about.
    The small private landlord will be very liucky if he/she is able to make 3.5% return after all expenses on the ciurent capital value of their property befiore tax.

  3. M Steele says:

    The Surerent site has incorporated a Rent Dodger Directory which will be for landlords.
    It is Free to use.

    Landlords can insert the address they have rent arrears on and other landlords can search for an address. When dealing with a new prospective tenant ask for utility bill as proof of recent address then check the address on the Directory.

    There are no tenant names involved simply an address with current rent arrears. If e.g. Joe Bloggs is interested in your flat you get proof of where he is living now or most recently then check that address on the directory. If there are arrears it will show up with contact details for that landlord so you can contact them for more information etc.

    The directory needs to be populated so all landlords should get details of their non paying addresses up there. The system is not ideal but it is a start to fighting back against the serial rent dodgers.

  4. Paul Samson says:

    There is now a web site for showing Bad Tenants. http://www.badtenants.co.uk/ The details are clear on the site. Data protection is covered by the AST including a clause stating that the tenant agrees to their details being put on the web site, should they fail to perform as required. This also illustrates to the potential tenant from the outset, that he/she will not be able to rent anywhere in future should their name be listed. Worth looking at.

  5. John Thorpe says:

    Another weakness for the landlord and the private renting sector is the way the County Court system works. Having got a judgement against a really awful tenant from a former British Colony I felt quite pleased with myself. Hiowever the rogue tenant got the sack ftom his job in the City and had not given me any residential forwarding address. All I had was his work place address and his employer would not (or could not) give a forwarding address.
    Surrey Courts had subcontracted out the job of recording CCJ’s and they would not add the rogue tenants name to the CCJ register without a forwarding address.
    So he is still out there somewhere getting away with murder.
    One hears of people or organisations having a “black list” but I can quite imagine the legal system or human rights people declaring a black list as unlawful.
    How do we landlords stand on this ????

  6. Fran says:

    There’s really no real way of knowing whether a tenant will become the spawn of Satan! We have learnt after 20 years as landlords, to never trust anyone. We have been let down by the law so many times, we have just become cynical. Our more recent experiences have really shown us why the system is in such a mess. We had a tenant that lost his job and began claiming Housing Benefit. It took three months to come through, was less than it should have been and was all paid directly to the tenant. With lump sum in hand he did a runner. I informed the benefits people that he had left and owed arrears…in fact this was when I actually found out he had received the lump sum. Do you know what the response from benefits was??? WE PAY THE RENT TO THE TENANT….IF THEY DON’T USE IT TO PAY RENT TO YOU, THAT’S NOT OUR PROBLEM, IT’S DOWN TO THE TENANT. The benefits people didn’t want to know. Another benefits tenant paid regularly etc, etc. Then after three good months he left. He did not owe anything and I was sorry to lose such a good tenant……THEN around 5 months later we had cause to change the front door lock. Suddenly the old tenant is ringing up looking for a room. Days later I found out why. He didn’t have a key for the front door and all that time since he had left, he had still been receiving rent benefit, etc to the house. He could no longer get in to collect any mail! I informed the benefits people straight away and what happened? the tenant said he had only recently left, consequently I had to prove to the benefits people that he had committed fraud and that I wasn’t lying to them!!! I really feel that the whole system makes you cynical and I often wonder why I am so law abiding, I’m sure it doesn’t pay for people like me.
    Always…as soon as a tenant begins claiming benefit:
    1) Take a photocopy of the housing benefit claim form
    2) Ask tenant to sign a letter which gives you the power to discuss their rent benefits claim with the benefits people.
    3) When the tenant leaves, if possible, ask them for the rent book so that you can sign it and write clearly (under last payment) that they left on (date). Then scribble through the other pages so that they can’t make use of this book as evidence for claiming more rent from the system.
    4) ALWAYS use GREEn biro to mark rent books or sign anything. Green ink is the hardest ink to replicate/write over/forge.
    5) Remember…in Birmingham at least, if a tenant request payments are to go directly to you it wont happen. Firstly, the tenant has to get into rent arrearsof at least 8 weeks before they can show a good reason why the rent should be paid directly to the landlord!!! Now what kind of ass thought of that law!
    As soon as this low economic spell is over I will be selling the lot.

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