Houses that have been used by previous tenants as brothels or cannabis factories – or have been home to squatters – can cause problems when trying to find a new tenant. Even properties that have been owned by uncaring or corrupt landlords can develop a long-lasting stigma that will stay with the property long after it has been sold on to a new investor.
“In the past we’ve taken on a couple of rogue properties,” says Luke Mason, of Belvoir Hitchin.
“We took over one property from a private landlord that was previously used as a cannabis factory. The other rogue property had been used as a brothel. It was managed by an independent lettings ‘specialist’ on behalf of an overseas landlord and it has been alleged that the agent actually found out it was being used as a brothel but did not inform the landlord or take action. In fact, the landlord only found out when the property was raided by the police!”
While it can be difficult to manage a property with a rogue reputation, it is possible to raise its profile within the community.
“Only a few folk will hold memory,” advises Terry Lucking, of Belvoir Peterborough, Corby and Cambridge. “Often the stigma can be very much in our own minds and will naturally pass away quickly. Even if the story of the property gets in the press, tomorrow there will be more exciting news, which over time, helps locals forget.
“If a landlord is faced with a property like this, my suggestions would be to change the front door or paint it a new colour, develop the front garden to make it look and feel different, then give the house a new name and display it. It would also be helpful to keep the rental price aggressive to ensure lots of potential tenants are interested. It may also be a good idea to give new tenants a good behaviour reward (or something similar) for their first year or so to help encourage a sense of responsibility.”
But, of course, the best solution is to avoid a property gaining a bad reputation to begin with…
“My first advice to landlords is to use a reputable agent,” says Luke. “Most criminals find properties using the private landlords advertising in local papers, knowing they are unlikely to conduct credit checks and inspections.
“Belvoir inspects the property at least every three months and reports back to the landlord as well as undertaking proper references. In this climate a lot of small reference agencies are opening up offering very cheap fees, but how reliable are they? Owner-run businesses, in my opinion, will give a far superior and honest service. My personal belief is that we need to push the government to regulate lettings agencies and have fines in place for negligence or complete incompetence.”
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