Here is a post from Sally (not her real name) who posted this on the blog clinic as she wanted to warn landlords about a situation she had experienced.
Not exactly a ‘problem’ that I need help with, more something I would like to warn other Landlords about.
A tenant approached my lettings agent with 2 other persons to rent a 2-bed as 3-bed. We agreed (no lounge) but on a later inspection we found more furniture in the property. The lead tenant explained it was his furniture, and he needed to put it somwhere (our flat was fully furnished) and there was no clause in the tenancy agreement about having ‘too much’ furniture (true!)
We had our suspicions and warned him against sub-letting as the rent was set for the 3 of them, plus I explained about a previous tenant who had sub-let and who was now repaying us £6,500 from a court judgement in 2008.
Not satisfied with his response I popped back a week or so later, knocked on the door and the unknown person who answered the door invited me in (thank you). I started chatting to people resident in there. The flat was being run as a hostel and they were paying by the room or by the bed. One person was on the phone and I asked if he was speaking to my tenant? He replied yes so I suggested he might like to come round and we can have a chat.
The tenancy was nearing it’s end date, so we agreed him vacating at the end, and he has just moved out. All the new furnishing we put in the property have really suffered, not so much wear and tear but because he constantly moved them around to accommodate different people they have been pulled apart!
But here comes the part that I would like to alert you all to. My husband has found information at the flat that this tenant has 25 flats in this area that he has rented, usually through reputable local estate agents, that he is sub-letting in this way and is preparing for the Olympics next year. He has a website that has no further information yet, but will do soon. This is in London SE16.
My concern is a) he is not being upfront about what he is doing and b) is sub-letting, not allowed in the tenancy agreement but also c) if the local authority were to be contacted, the LANDLORD (ie. you, not him) could surely get into trouble with having 8-10 people in a 2-bed flat and running it as a hostel, with no licence, nothing?
To add insult to injury, when my husband got back into the flat we couldn’t get the boiler to work. Then realised he had turned the gas OFF so that his tenants had no hot water nor heating. Eon turned up to read the neters as their records showed no gas use. He also turned the fans off in kitchen and bathroom to save electricity which has resulted in mouldy areas in the flat, made worse by lack of heating and ventilation with that number of people in there. (We have an appointment with Envirovent, recommended supplier on landlord law, to attend next week)
As access to your property can only be in agreement with a tenant, it is easy for someone to state that they just have a lot of furniture.. I had no evidence there was anyone else living there outside of the tenancy agreement as there was no-one else there when we inspected and few belongings.
I did however ask him which bedroom was his and he was vague… I knew then.
We are still sorting out the flat after his departure and are still on cordial terms with him and he is accepting deductions from his deposit as we tot them up. But my real concern is that if he ever got a tricky person in one of his ‘rental’ properties that he could just stop paying the rent and walk away from it, leaving a Landlord with a stranger in their flat and a court to case in order to evict him.
He does not own any of these flats, so he will pass credit checks as he has all utilities in his name, no problem, but we cannot prove where he actually lives, plus if ever there was a problem and you got a court order for costs, you would never get the money as he doesn’t own any of these properties.
I know plenty of Landlords in my area that are very laissez-faire about what their tenants do and are then surprised when they get themselves into a pickle over a situation they should have sorted out previously and just let drift as they were still getting their rent in every month.
I am therefore spreading the word about this as much as possible, to warn other Landlords about this practice, particularly in London and particularly in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe where he is based.
Any thoughts anyone has on this situation, please respond as this is a new one on me, after 21 years of being a landlord.
With the Olympics next year there will no doubt be quite a lot of this. Ben has written about it in at least one of his posts, and there is also some guidance on the National Landlords Association site.
Landlords will I am afraid, have to be extra vigilant until it is all over.