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More needs to be done to protect landlords from fraud

There is a growing need to improve fraud detection in the private rented sector, according to Landlord Action.

Paul Shamplina, the founder of Landlord Action, wants to see more letting agents and referencing companies invest in technology with the means to validate tenants’ financial means and payment histories to help better protect landlords moving forward.

Shamplina will once again appear on tonight’s Channel 5’s ‘Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords’, to be aired at 9pm, this time highlighting the need for better fraud detection when it comes to referencing.

Tonight’s episode will feature a pensioner and widow Marilyn Hunter. She thought she had rented out her treasured family home to a ‘house-proud’ mother and daughter, who would look after the property as she would. 

She said: “I’ve been letting the property for 12 years with very few issues. I have always used a letting agent, as I did in this case, and they use a third-party tenant referencing company. At first, everything seemed to be going well, I had visited the tenants, they were very friendly, and the property was being beautifully kept. Then the rent payments started falling behind.”

Marilyn spoke to the tenant who was very apologetic and brought the payments up to date. Unfortunately, neighbours then suspected there were more people living at the house, which Marilyn found to be true. She again spoke to the tenants and said that due to late payments and dishonesty she would have to ask them to leave but was happy for them to stay until they found somewhere. 

After a further 10 months of late and often incomplete rent payments, and with the tenants becoming increasingly hostile Marilyn contacted Landlord Action. Her daughter was now heavily pregnant and was hoping to move back into the once family home, so it was a race against time.

She added: “The references obtained suggest the tenant earned £54,000 a year, which we now believe was a fraudulent claim. We have since learnt that the tenant has set up several ‘businesses’ registered with companies house, took out a magazine subscription in my name which I’m being asked to pay, and I have received a box full of letters chasing for money.

“We still receive threatening visits from debt collectors trying to track her down. I am now £10,000 in debt myself as a result and am going to have to try, over time, to reclaim some of the money through attachment of assets.”

Commenting on Marilyn’s case, Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, said: “Sometimes landlords can think they have taken all the necessary precautions but still end up in a difficult situation.

“Technology has made it easier for people to falsify documents, which is why letting agents and referencing companies need to invest in even smarter technology which improves fraud detection. Landlords should also ask questions, ask to see the full referencing report and take time to grill down any information which does not appear to stack up.”

The TV show will also show landlord Chris Bull from Derbyshire. He rented out his home to a professional couple who seemed to be the perfect tenants. But they soon stopped paying and refused to speak to the landlord.

Even when Bull confronted them at the home the couple maintained they no longer lived at the property and did not owe any rent. On top of £2000 of rent arrears, the landlord also discovered the tenants had somehow transferred all of the utility bills into his name.

Landlord Action was not only drafted in to help evict the tenants but is currently involved in the ongoing debt recovery.

Watch Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords on Channel 5, Mondays at 9pm. 

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