Private property landlords in the UK are still facing problems from unscrupulous tenants if they fail to ensure that thorough reference searches are carried out, according to the country’s leading recovery organisation.
Landlord Action, which specialises in tenant eviction, has successfully gained possession of a property after one landlady’s six-month battle against a serial offending tenant, which had severe consequences leading to the loss of her home.
In August 2010, landlady Mrs Finberg used a local letting agent to rent out her two-bedroom apartment in the London Borough of Barnet. From the outset, Mrs Finberg was the victim of a rogue tenant who, after paying two months’ rent upfront, failed to make any further payments and went about making ‘decorative’ changes to the property without permission, even though it stated in the agreement that this was not permitted.
‘He painted walls and odd cupboard doors, took down radiators, ripped out a sink detaching a waste pipe and removed much of my furniture, which was then dumped in the garden to rot in the winter weather conditions,’ explained Finberg.
Having used an agent, Finberg was confident that the tenant checking process would be carried out thoroughly, ensuring all identification and previous references were valid. She was wrong.
Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action said it was a difficult case because discretionary grounds for possession such as this where the landlord seeks possession on the grounds of ill treatment to their property, are more difficult as it is up to the courts to decide.
‘Once the tenant was also in arrears, we had to wait two months but at this point we served a section 8 notice seeking possession of the property. Unsurprisingly, the notices were ignored by the tenant,’ explained Shamplina.
At the first hearing in March 2011, the tenant counter claimed against Finberg on the ground of disrepair, claiming that he was saving the rent payments, but not passing them on due to the state of the property.
‘Dealing with counter claims increases legal costs and delays the claim process. In this case the court was adjourned until April, at which point further evidence was presented which demonstrated that previous references were falsified (including employment and tenant references) and the tenant had previously been evicted from a property in the area for similar reasons,’ said Shamplina.
‘Unfortunately not only were the references not checked properly by the agent, but the contract did not have a six month break clause to end the tenancy earlier. We won the case and successfully managed to gain possession of the property,’ he added.
‘Sadly, for Mrs Finberg, the suffering is irrevocable. With rent arrears in excess of £7,000, she was unable to pay the mortgage and lost her home, could not afford to move anywhere else and her property has suffered an incredible amount of damage.
‘This has affected every element of my life leaving me with clinical depression and being subsequently signed off work. I have learnt from my mistakes but I cannot stress enough to other landlords, the importance of carrying out thorough referencing checks, meeting with the person face to face, and taking out insurance to protect yourself, so that if the worst happens, you are covered,’ said Finberg.