Here is a question to the Landlord Law Blog clinic from Mori who is a letting agent:
I want to share an experience and see if anyone else has views on the subject.
Last week we had some bailiffs turn up at our agency branch attempting to seize goods to the value of an unpaid council tax bill. The bill in question related to a property which we manage on behalf one of our landlord clients.It in unclear why it happened but the council had the landlord’s name but our address.
We had had only seen one copy of the bill which was sent to our client, he said he would pay it. Nothing further happened until the bailiffs arrived so heaven knows where the reminder notices went (we suspect our ex-office junior may have ‘filed’ them).
Luckily I was in the branch when the bailiffs turned up and was able to diffuse the situation, they wanted to take the electrical items in the branch but when I explained the situation they made a list of items instead and said they could come back at any time to take them if they were granted authority by the court.
Our client has now paid the outstanding sum so the matter is resolved but if the bailiffs had managed to take the office equipment, would this have been legal if we are only instructed as agent?
Also has anyone else had this experience and how was it dealt with? I would be very interested to know people’s thoughts.
Thank you for sharing this, it must have been a worrying experience and it would be interesting to know whether other agents have experienced this also.
My view is that you can NOT be liable for this. As you say, you are just the agent. Under agency law an agent is not liable personally for anything due from the principal, save in very exceptional circumstances.
For example under the tenancy deposit laws – but this is only because the regulations specifically provide for this.
So you should have been able to successfully challenge any application made by the bailiffs to the court, had they done this.
The main problem in your case is the fact that you were not made aware of the situation earlier. Presumably you have now disciplined the office junior and made them aware that any post items like this which are received by them in future MUST be passed on to you immediately.