Warning to landlords and letting agents over fake referencing
This week’s episode of “Bad Tenants, Rogue Landlords” (Thursday 19th April, Channel 5, 8pm) will serve as a warning to all landlords and letting agents over the dangers of fake tenant references, as landlord Paul Bloom faces a struggle to get his property back from a bogus company let.
Paul Bloom, a professional landlord with several properties in London, let one of his flats in a quiet part of Hampstead, London. The letting agent he used was approached by a third party wishing to rent the property as a company let. After passing referencing, it was understood that an employee of the travel company MSalliance Ltd would occupy the property.
However, only the day after the tenant moved in, he asked Mr Bloom to visit the property because he thought something was wrong with the boiler. Upon arrival, Paul had trouble accessing the property, the tenant did not speak very good English or seem to know anything about the company he was supposed to work for. Paul realised that something was not right.
The tenants only paid the first month’s rent and then payments stopped. When neighbours started to complain about noise and anti-social behaviour, it quickly came to light that this was not a legitimate company let and Paul was going to face a tough battle with his violent tenant to regain possession of his property.
With such rapid advances in technology, falsifying documents via apps on smartphones is easier than ever. Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action says that cases where traditional referencing has fallen short of the innovation required to spot these crooks is becoming increasingly common.
He comments: “Company lets are not unusual in London and many landlords like the idea of a professional organisation taking on the tenancy agreement because, in theory, it offers greater security and guaranteed rent. In reality, the same risks as renting to an individual tenant apply. Unless the company wishing to take on the tenancy is a recognised name, those responsible for arranging the referencing should request company registration details, ensure the company is still trading and request details of the employees who will be occupying the property.
My advice is to take the time to call the employer and if something doesn’t feel right, dig deeper and always trust your gut instinct. You’ll see in this particularly eventful episode, just what can happen when things go wrong.”
After instructing Landlord Action, the scale of the problem became evident, as they had also been instructed by another landlord with tenants claiming to work for the same company. Even passports had been falsified.
The landlord, Paul Bloom said “I work in music and come across a lot of colourful characters, but it doesn’t come close to how people seem to be able to work the system in the property industry. Professional rogues are so aware of how to get around every measure put in place to protect landlords. I’ve learnt a valuable lesson and will certainly be doing all I can to cross-reference my tenants in future, and where possible meet tenants before they move in.”
Watch “Bad Tenants Rogue Landlords” on Thursday 19th April, at 8pm on Channel 5.