Channel 5 has just aired the first episode of a new programme exposing letting scams. The new series, called Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords, will be shown in six parts.
The first episode showed the story of two sub-letting scams which the programme makers say have cost the landlords thousands of pounds. The programme was made with the help of eviction specialists Landlord Action.
The first case involved Mr and Mrs Bailey of London. They were scammed by a ‘Jerome Baker’ after the unfortunate landlords signed an agreement with his rent-to-rent company. Only 24 hours later they found out it was a hoax and there was actually no rent-to-rent company.
When the landlords tried to back out of the agreement, Baker ignored their correspondence. He later broke into the rental property in the early hours of the morning to change the locks. Subsequently he sub-let the property to several different tenants. When the landlords complained to the Police, they were told there was nothing that could be done as the letting scam was a civil matter and not a criminal one.
Mrs Bailey said: “He sent heavies round to warn us and broke into our property on more than one occasion, yet we were powerless to stop him.
“I contacted everyone I could think of from Stella Creasy and Jeannette Arnold to Theresa May and the House of Lords.”
The Johnsons are more than £16,000 out of pocket and have now learnt that Baker has operated similar rent-to-rent scams under a number of false names.
The second case featured in the show is of an elderly couple with a rental property in the town of Hatfield.
They let their property to a tenant called Jecintha Rahman. She immediately started to sub-let it. Her letting scam involved taking deposits and rent advances from unsuspecting sub-tenants who were never given access to the property.
Rahman repeated this many times until the police eventually caught up with her. Rahman was arrested and charged for theft and fraud. She later served four months on remand and was given a suspended sentence.
Victor Jameson of Cambridge Letting Agents New View Residential commented: “Unfortunately, these kinds of letting scam seem to be on the increase, particularly in London, where fraudulent rent gains can be at their greatest.
“We have a buy-to-let client with property in Cambridge and London. He used a London agent for his property there and fell victim to such a letting scam. This rent-to-rent scheme involved a number of levels of sub-tenants. The middle-man was not paying the rent up the chain and so the occupants had to be evicted, despite having done nothing wrong. The conditions were overcrowded and squalid. The whole situation was a real shame and our client lost thousands of pounds in court expenses and unpaid rent.
“The best way to avoid these problems is to use a reputable and regulated letting agent. Most, but not all, letting agents in Cambridge are regulated by ARLA and the Property Ombudsman. Always check with the letting agent which organisations they belong to. They should also carry professional indemnity insurance and client money protection.”
Original Article: www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk
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