TRO Ben Reeve Lewis explains how tenants can check out their landlords being signing up …
Much is spoken of regarding landlords and agents checking their tenants, and quite rightly so, as it provides security and peace of mind. But it’s a two way street.
Working in the frontline of housing fraud and seeing how much of it goes on, it occurred to me that much heartache and expense could be spared if tenants knew how to run a few basic checks on the landlord of the property they are considering renting.
Before becoming a tenant myself about 4 years ago I didn’t sign on the dotted line until I knew the owners address, business details, financial solvency and even their favourite charities. But then again I’m a Tenancy Relations Officer, there’s no need to be THAT paranoid. Most landlords are fine.
However there a handful of basic checks that are common sense really but all too often unknown
Nothing is foolproof
The first thing to bear in mind is that as with tenant referencing nothing is foolproof. Someone might look good on paper but……..
For instance I am currently working to help a landlord who is being ripped off by a very dodgy managing agent. The landlord is a successful human rights lawyer, so is nobody’s fool and he ran checks on the managing agent in all the right places, he just didn’t know he was a fraudster…..that does take a different level of checking.
Secondly with small landlords there may not be too much apart from Facebook to go on. There isn’t a single magic website unless you get lucky.
So where do you go to put the picture together?
Is the person you believe to be the owner of the property actually the owner?
The Land Registry is the place to go for this
For a few pounds they can supply the document which shows who the owner is and will usually reveal any charges registered on the property which may indicate financial difficulties. Even bankruptcy is listed on there.
Don’t get too nervous if you see a registered charge, it may be that the landlord is merely renting the property out in order to discharge their debt and has moved in with friends, even renting themselves.
When advising homeowners in difficulty, which I do as well as tracking down rogue landlords, I often suggest letting their property as a way out of debt.
Also bear in mind that if the landlord has just bought the property they may not show up as owners for a few weeks. The Land Registry is a government office, don’t expect speed!
If the landlord is a company, are they genuine and solvent?
Non existent and dissolved companies running properties are quite common and not illegal. Many people recommend ‘Companies House Webcheck’ but I don’t find it that useful as the directors details aren’t always clear or free. Far better to use the website ‘Dellam’ which has all the directors and secretaries clearly set out at no cost.
If the company is dissolved it will say so in red at the top of the page.
Quite often companies will use a business registration address for their company rather than a home address or one you recognise from elsewhere. This is quite normal.
Armed with the name of the director of the company you can make a further check.
Is the Director stable?
There are a number of sites that allow you to search for details of company directors but my favourite is always ‘Company Director Check’ because it also provides the names of co-workers in the company which I find useful for my job. You probably wouldn’t.
You have to spell the name correctly otherwise you get no result. I usually cut and paste the name from Dellam.
This site shows you all other companies run by that person including companies that are dissolved.
Don’t worry too much about a list of dissolved companies. Many otherwise solvent business people close companies for a variety of reasons over the years but watch out for a lot of short lived companies as this can be an indicator of what is called ‘Long firm fraud’, whereby people set up companies, purchase stuff on credit and pay promptly to raise their rating and then do a massive borrowing spree and fold up before doing a runner.
Does the landlord live where they say they live?
Under Section 47 & 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 a landlord must provide an address in England or Wales (not Scotland) where notices can be served on them and this address is usually on the tenancy agreement.
For belt and braces you could do a land registry check on that address to but also take a look at 192.com which draws a lot of its information from the Electoral Roll.
The landing page will give you partial address details which could match up for you but getting full address is only about £2.
If you find that ascertaining your landlords address is complicated by their appearance at several then you may want to ask yourself why this might be.
Digging up dirt
Rate or Hate is behaving weirdly at the time of writing this. Maybe it will clear up later.
I have checked out several of my usual suspects on the sites and the results are accurate but also bear in mind that all Trip Advisor style websites can be an invitation for sour grapes, vendettas and unfounded allegations so treat with caution unless you have heard other things that chime with what you read.
Finally don’t forget that old favourite ‘Google’. Often my first port of call is simply putting the person’s name into it and it can be surprising what comes up.
Remember to use advanced search. Putting in John Smith wont get you very far but setting the search terms in parenthesis and with additional information, for instance ”John Smith, Edgbaston landlord” will narrow things down a bit. You may have to play around with combinations and terms.
All of the above are basic common sense activities to be considered before handing over the cash.
The most essential being:
- Do they own it?
- If a company, are they stable with reliable directors.
The rest are matters for your nosiness/caution/common sense/paranoia.