Consumer rights: Bogus tenant is making life a misery

How to get compensation from a letting agent who lands you with a dodgy renter...Tips on the best ways to sell a late relative's household goods

A few months ago we rented out a house through a letting agent. He found us a tenant and assured us that all the necessary checks had been done into her credit worthiness. But things didn't work out: she didn't pay the rent and we're fairly sure she's broken the agreement by subletting rooms. We're in the process of having her evicted but in the meantime we've managed to find someone else who rented a property to her. It seems she has done the same thing in the past. What come back do we have against the letting agent who obviously didn't check her out when he said he had? This episode is costing us a fortune in lost rent and court costs. We let because we couldn't sell but we'd be worried about letting again.


West London

As you've discovered, letting can be a nightmare. It is possible that the letting agent did do all the checks, but the credit reference agency they used hadn't picked up on your tenant's past payment record. However, the more likely scenario is that the right checks weren't done and they didn't get references from past landlords.

You may be able to make a complaint against the agent. If he is a member of Arla (the Association of Residential Letting Agents) or the NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) there are complaints procedures you can go through. You'll find more information at or They will look at the agent's professional conduct but can't award you compensation. If the agent comes under the Property Ombudsman scheme ( or the Surveyors Ombudsman Service ( there's a complaints process and the possibility of compensation. In all cases you need to have exhausted the agent's internal complaints procedure first.

However, according to David Oliver, the Compliance Officer at the NAEA, there's no obligation for an agent to be a member of any of those schemes. If he is not, there's no complaints procedure open to you. Your only other option is to make a claim against the agent in the County Court under the special procedure for handling smaller claims (sometimes referred to incorrectly as the Small Claims Court). To be successful, you'll have to prove that the agent was negligent. If the agent isn't able to produce the references and checks he told you he'd made you might win your case. It's fairly inexpensive to take a small claim through the court, but there's no guarantee you'll win and legal action should always be the last resort. Take advice before you go down that route. If there's a Law Centre near you (find out at, or your phone book) they should be able to help. Your local Citizens Advice is a good place to start.

When it comes to letting your house out again, make sure you check out the agent as well as the tenant. You want to be sure that they are reputable and a member of one of the schemes I've mentioned. You can take out insurance to cover you in case the tenant doesn't pay or causes damage. And you can safeguard yourself further by checking out any tenants yourself. If you use a search engine to ask "how do I check my tenants" various options will pop up. Experian, the credit reference agency, has, where you can get an instant report on a prospective tenant or a more comprehensive report. You can't see all their payment details on cards and loans but you can find out about any County Court judgments that have been made against them for debts, and if they've been made bankrupt. You can ask for previous landlord references and employer's references. If you're taking out insurance, the company will do checks too.

As you know, you can't evict a non-paying tenant yourself, but have to go through the courts. You've been unlucky, because most leave when they're behind with the rent and get a letter from the landlord's solicitor telling them to go or face court action. But if you decide you can't go through it all again, beware of leaving the house empty and unloved. You'll lose rent, and have to pay some council tax, insurance (don't forget to tell your insurance company it's empty) and repairs, and keep it burglar proof.


My mum died recently. I'm the executor of her will, and her belongings are to be sold and the proceeds split between her grandchildren. They're getting impatient to get their hands on the money. I suspect there's not a lot that's valuable but she had some old furniture, a few interesting pieces of china and a nice picture. I'm finding it difficult, and I'm worried I'll be lied to about how much her items are worth?



This is one of the hardest things to do, so don't let yourself be pushed to get on with it. There are a few options. You could sell the items you think are valuable yourself at auction or at an online auction. You could call in several firms of valuers and ask them for estimates of how much any valuable items could make. It might be worth taking the china and the painting to specialist local dealers rather than putting everything up for sale together. There are firms that specialise in house clearances and will value the items and take them away to be sold – usually at auction. If there's a lot of other furniture in the house there's also the question of how to dispose of that. The cost of having someone clear the house might well be more than the saleable items make. Check out any firms you contact to make sure they're members of professional trade bodies, possibly the best way is to ask friends and relatives for recommendations.

As the grandchildren are the ones who'll benefit from the sale, you could get them involved in finding out how much items are worth. That way they'll see for themselves that often what appear to be good pieces of furniture don't sell for much. Old furniture is often too big for modern houses, so is hard to shift. As executor, you are obliged to get the best possible price for the contents to make sure the beneficiaries get as much as possible, and it can be lonely making these decisions. Think about talking to your solicitor or your mother's solicitor about how to handle it. Even though their advice will cost money, they will have valuable experience. You don't have to do it on your own.

Do you need a financial makeover?

Write to Julian Knight at the Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

    £30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

    Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

    £55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor