Landlady loses her home after agents messed up on referencing
Tuesday 26th April 2011
A landlady has lost her former home after renting it out to tenants whose references – carried out by an agent – did not reveal their former track record.
Yvonne Finberg is now warning other landlords to be extremely careful over references, and to ensure that they are genuine.
She endured a six-month battle against a serial offending tenant, who was eventually evicted.
However, the ordeal cost her £7,000, leaving her unable to pay the mortgage.
Paul Shamplina, of Landlord Action, which eventually secured possession of the property, said: “It highlights once again the crucial need to carry out thorough tenant referencing to avoid falling victim of unscrupulous tenants and the consequences if you don’t.”
In August 2010, Mrs Finberg went to live with her mother and used a local letting agent to rent out her two-bedroom apartment in Barnet.
After paying two months’ rent upfront, the tenant failed to make any further payments and went about making ‘decorative’ changes to the property without permission, even though it stated in the agreement that this was not permitted.
Mrs Finberg said: “He painted walls and odd cupboard doors, took down radiators, ripped out a sink detaching a waste pipe and removed much of my furniture, which was then dumped in the garden to rot in the winter weather conditions.”
Having used an agent, Mrs Finberg was confident that the tenant-checking process would be carried out thoroughly, ensuring all identification and previous references were valid. It later emerged in court that the tenant had ‘form’.
Shamplina said that gaining possession was difficult: “Discretionary grounds for possession such as this, where the landlord seeks possession on the grounds of ill-treatment to their property, are more difficult as it is up to the courts to decide.
“Once the tenant was also in arrears, we had to wait two months, but at this point we served a section 8 notice seeking possession of the property. Unsurprisingly, the notices were ignored by the tenant.”
At the first hearing last month, the tenant counter-claimed against Mrs Finberg on the ground of disrepair, claiming that he was saving the rent payments, but not passing them on due to the state of the property.
Shamplina said: “Dealing with counter claims increases legal costs and delays the claim process. In this case, court was adjourned until April, at which point further evidence was presented which demonstrated that previous references were falsified (including employment and tenant references) and the tenant had previously been evicted from a property in the area for similar reasons.
“Unfortunately not only were the references not checked properly by the agent, but the contract did not have a six-month break clause to end the tenancy earlier. We won the case and successfully managed to gain possession of the property, but sadly, for Mrs Finberg the suffering is irrevocable.
“With rent arrears in excess of £7,000, she was unable to pay the mortgage and lost her home, could not afford to move anywhere else and her property has suffered an incredible amount of damage.”
Mrs Finberg said: “This has affected every element of my life, leaving me with clinical depression and being subsequently signed off work.
“I have learnt from my mistakes but I cannot stress enough to other landlords, the importance of carrying out thorough referencing checks, meeting with the person face to face, and taking out insurance to protect yourself, so that if the worst happens, you are covered.”
The agent concerned did reimburse Mrs Finberg, but she said that, as a novice landlord, she was unaware that letting agents were not regulated.
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