Here is a question to the blog clinic from Bryan who is a landlord
I am a landlord renting a property and I have made a very poor choice of agent to manage it. I used a small business based on a dubious recommendation. My fault I know.
Rent payments have been sporadic, the agent blames the tenants for the inconsistency but I have serious doubts about the man’s competency.
The latest situation is that I have not received any rent for three months and he cannot confirm to me that the tenants have paid. His last email to me just said ‘there are some arrears and they have housing benefit’, he didn’t tell me what he was doing about it or send a statement as I had asked.
My brother in law went to the property incognito to check who was living there and saw people entering the property, we presume they were the tenants.
I contacted the council and had to jump through hoops to prove I was the landlord, eventually they confirmed that housing benefit had been paid to the tenants.
It also appears that the tenants deposit has not been registered despite the agents assurance that it had.
I have signed a contract with this agent but cannot find the disengagement clause, although I have plenty of grounds to end the agreement but that is another matter. I cannot contact the tenants because I have never been given telephone numbers or email addresses and they do not reply to letters.
I am entitled to start a claim for rent arrears?
You cannot bring a claim for rent arrears against the tenants as you cannot prove that they have not paid without the operation of your agent.
I think the best thing to do is to either take over the management of the property yourself or to transfer over to a good agent who can sort things out for you.
You say you cannot contact the tenants direct, but you could put a letter through the letter box to them (with a witness to prove that you have done this) saying that [Agent 1] is no longer acting as your agent and that you are taking over the management yourself or that [Agent 2] is taking over the management of the property in their place.
Then go on to give details for the payment of rent in future. Make it very clear that as [Agent 1] is no longer authorised to accept rent on your behalf payment of rent to him will not discharge their liability for rent and you will still be entitled to claim it from them.
Ask them to contact you at the contact details provided in the letter to confirm the arrangements and to discuss the tenancy generally. It would probably also be a good idea to try to arrange an inspection visit.
Provided you are able to prove service of this letter, if they fail to pay rent, you will at least be able to prove non payment of rent from that time onwards, and that may be sufficient in due course to evict them under the rent arrears ground.
So far as the agents are concerned, you need to write to them giving them notice that due to their various breaches of their agency contract [and set out all the breaches you can think of in the letter] you are taking over the management of the property yourself or instructing XYZ Agency to take over the management of the property as appropriate.
Request that they provide you with all the paperwork relating to the tenancy within the next 7 days, account to you for all payments made to you by the tenants and give details of the tenancy deposit protection (if this has been done).
A visit to the agency office may be a good idea too as you can then request that paperwork be handed over to you there and then.
However a good agency firm will be able to do all this for you. Perhaps some of our letting agent readers could comment on what they would do if instructed in these circumstances.