This months theme is on ‘checking and referencing’ but it is not just the landlords who need to be careful.
Tenants also need to take care.
Frauds and scams
There are a number of fraudsters out to get you.
For example is the person who shows you the property really the landlord? They could be someone just out to get your rent and deposit from you after which they will fade away into the sunset. Students are often targeted in this way.
Then sometimes the property itself is non existent. The prospective tenant, usually someone coming from abroad or who is unable to view the property, will be asked to pay the deposit up front and will then arrive to find it does not exist.
Be particularly careful also if you are asked to send money via the ‘Western Union’ service as this is often used in scams. One of these is where you are asked to wire money to a friend or relative to prove that you can pay the rent. After which the ‘landlord’ intercepts the money and disappears.
It is difficult sometimes to spot these situations. If you are a student, you will be safer if you just rent properties recommended by your student accommodation office. Otherwise, doing a search on the internet will often help – Ben did a post here with some guidance on this.
To find out more about frauds, I have free scams and frauds information section on my Landlord Law site which lists all the scams I have come across.
Other reasons to check your landlord
Other than the scams above, probably the worst problem is if you move in, only to find that your landlords has failed to pay the mortgage and that you are about to be evicted by the mortgage company.
In the past unfortunate tenants have been ordered to leave within 24 hours. Now you have the right to apply to the Court for two months to allow you to find somewhere else to live. However you will not want to be put in this position at all.
It may be a difficult one to avoid however. Even if you use a reputable letting agent, they are sometimes taken by surprise by this as they usually do not check this out before taking a property on.
There is a company on the internet with a service called Check Your Landlord but this only covers the United States. We need something similar over here.
Then you will want to avoid landlords who fail to do repairs properly and who generally offer a poor service.
Again, the internet is your friend here – a search against the landlord’s name may bring up information posted by previous tenants.
See also if the landlord is registered with the National Landlords Association (or indeed any landlord association) as this is a good sign – the NLA have some guidance for tenants on their site which is worth looking at.
There is also a huge amount of advice for tenants on the Shelter website.
The website How to Check a Landlord Reference has some helpful guidance specifically on this topic but again it is aimed at Americans.
Entering into a tenancy agreement is an important financial commitment so you need to take care.
It is not something you can just walk away from, as your landlord, until he re-lets the property, will have the right to sue you for the rent, on a month by month basis, for the rest of the fixed term.
Do as many checks as you can and at the very least search against the landlord’s name in Google.
Although in the current housing crisis many tenants may not have a lot of choice over where they rent.
But that is another issue.