Here is a question to the blog clinic from Sally (not her real name) who is a tenant.
I’ve recently rented a property (1bedroom flat) I found on gumtree. I paid full rent and deposit (in cash), signed tenancy, collected keys and on my move in date, I found another couple on the property.
Basically, the “Landlord”, who’s a long-term council tenant had fraudulently rented the property to 3 different people simultaneously. He’s currently turned himself into the police.
The council have asked us to vacate the flat, the other couple have as they’re more well-off than I am; I’ve stayed put. What can I do in this matter? Thanks
This is a typical example of the sort of thing which can happen and is why tenants need to be really careful who they rent from.
However, if your landlord is the actual Council tenant, and if the other people have moved out, then you may be able to stay there for a short while. As between yourself and the landlord, there is a valid tenancy. However, as he granted it to you in breach of his own terms and conditions, this tenancy will not be binding upon the Council.
It may take them a while to get a possession order through the courts though, so this may allow you a period of time to look around to find somewhere else. Or you may be able to reach an agreement with the Council to stay for a limited period of time as this is not your fault and you have acted in good faith. And of course, you have nowhere else to live.
Long term however you will not be able to stay there.
To help you and others avoid scams, here is some guidance issued by the NLA in conjunction with the NAS and the National Crime Agency:
1. Do not send money up front to anyone advertising online, make sure they are genuine first and view the property if you can;
2. Beware if you are asked to wire any money via a money transfer service, criminals can use details from the receipt to withdraw money from another location;
3. To use only government approved deposit schemes;
4. Contact the organisations the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status. Tenants wanting to check whether a prospective landlord is a member of the NLA or accredited should ask them for their membership number, then go to landlords.org.uk/member-verification;
5. Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK should first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to;
6. Get paperwork and proof: ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the “landlord” has a genuine legal connection with property.