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Rogue landlords: my thoughts

imageI previously wrote a post about rogue agents, or ‘sharks’ as I like to call them. I guess it would be fair to also talk about other types of ‘rogues’ in the property industry. I have come across an interesting article posted on The Guardian’s website which I thought would be a good read as it gives an example of sharks in other forms. Click here to read the article.

The link I have shared basically discusses why landlords should receive higher fines for letting a property to tenants which is deemed dangerous or uninhabitable, or by profiting from exploiting tenants. The government is proposing an unlimited fine to those landlords, which could be a considerable increase compared to the paltry £5,000 fine they can currently receive as a maximum.

This is great news, especially for tenants. Too much is highlighted by the media on bad agents, but in all fairness, I believe that most agents have a hard time satisfying landlord’s needs. It’s understandable that the landlord would want to generate the most income on their investment by trying to reduce their cost but they should also realise that by dealing with any issues quickly can prevent major, potentially expensive costs in the future. So if you own a property and there are issues, get it fixed!

Reading the article made me think about a situation I had with a new client a few months ago. He instructed us to let his properties, which we did at a higher price than the landlord had ever achieved in the past. As you can imagine, he was extremely pleased with us and gave us some excellent feedback. However, after the contracts had been signed, he had started to call me for general advice. This then turned to conversations on ways in which he could extract money from his outgoing tenants. He explained to me that one of the tenants in his property was abroad, and she had asked him if it would be ok if her boyfriend stayed in the property from time to time, to which he agreed. As long as the rent was paid in full and on time he had no problem. Over time, the boyfriend eventually moved in full-time but no amendment had been made to include the boyfriend’s name into the tenancy agreement. The landlord suspected that the so-called boyfriend was not actually the original tenant’s partner, but actually someone the original tenant was sub-letting the property to, but the landlord had no problem with this as he was still receiving rental payments. Furthermore, the landlord actually lived in the same building as the flat he was renting out so he had often bumped into the ‘boyfriend’ and they also had general conversations and got on well together. I believe he found out from the boyfriend that he was paying the original tenant a rental amount which was greater than what the landlord was receiving. The ‘boyfriend’ remained in the property for approximately 6 months.

I gathered from my conversations with the landlord that he may be struggling financially. In discussions, he mentioned he was currently unemployed and relied on his properties to generate his income, which he completely depended on. He told me that he was thinking of asking the outgoing tenant for a large sum of money or he would take action against her for breaching a term of the agreement, where a clause had been added restricting the tenant from sub-letting the property. I advised him that legally, the most the landlord can do in this instance is evict the tenant through the courts. He wasn’t happy with this information as the tenant was leaving anyway and he became visibly angry, not at me but at the tenant. He was swearing and shouting about how this was unfair for landlords. I pointed out to him that he was aware that the actual tenant was not living in the property for months so the argument against him would be why he hadn’t taken action earlier. His only response was that he would try his luck with the tenant with the hope that she wouldn’t know her rights and would hand over the requested amount of money without any fuss to avoid any further action. I urged him not to do this as he could put himself in an even worse situation, if the tenant decides to report the landlord for harassment or blackmail. After a very long conversation with the landlord, and after what seemed like hours of advising him against his intentions, he finally agreed not to ask the tenant for an extra payment. The situation had been settled with no issues, which was a relief for me.

The landlord only instructed me to let the property on an ‘introduction only’ service. I had no obligation to provide any advice whatsoever, but I genuinely think I saved him from a lot of trouble and a potentially difficult situation that he could have got himself in to. We now speak quite regularly, sometimes just for a general chat and a catch up, and I feel that he genuinely respects me and the company for going above and beyond our contractual obligations to him to prevent him getting into any potential legal troubles.

Back to the point of rogue landlords. The story I have shared with you is a personal one. Looking deeper in to it, if the landlord hadn’t taken my advice, I can’t help but think he would’ve had legal action taken against him rather than the other way round. It’s impossible for landlords to know all the legislation relating to renting a property, especially as it is not their full-time occupation or profession. This is why agents exist – to give advice and guidance, to help the landlord avoid any legal action taken against them, to educate the landlord on their rights and the tenant’s rights. Even if agents are instructed on a ‘let only’ basis, I believe they still have a duty of care to landlords.

The question I want to ask is this. Do rogue landlords exist because of incorrect or inadequate information from agents? I, for one, cannot imagine rogue landlords would exist unless the legal consequences of certain actions by landlords haven’t been explained to them properly. At the end of the day, landlords must have been in touch with an agent at some point in their lives if they have managed to purchase a property. A standard agent will usually tell the landlord what they want to hear. A good agent will tell the landlord what they should be hearing, whether the landlord likes it or not.

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