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
Sunday 07 March 2010
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.
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 arla.co.uk or naea.co.uk. They will look at the agent's professional conduct but can't award you compensation. If the agent comes under the Property Ombudsman scheme (tpos.co.uk) or the Surveyors Ombudsman Service (surveyors-ombudsman.org.uk) 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 lawcentres.org.uk, 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 CheckMyTenant.co.uk, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
No escape for credit flitters
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 26-30 January
City Watchdog to investigate banks' handling of PPI compensation claims
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
Day In a Page
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion