Letting Agent not checking property

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  • rochdaleblade
    started a topic Letting Agent not checking property

    Letting Agent not checking property

    I have an apartment which I rented out when I moved in with my now wife. For the last 5 years it has been rented out through a local agency who were acquaintances of my wife. Last month they phoned me to say that my tenant, who moved in in Dec 2015, had given her notice. She had always paid the rent on time and I have had very little communication from the agent, so i assumed that the tenancy was progressing normally. However, When I visited the flat, it was in an horrendous state. She had had a cat which had caused a lot damage, and the whole place smelled of cannabis. In short, I have had to replace all of the carpets and have the whole flat deep cleaned and redecorated. Several items of furniture have had to be thrown out and lots of items have been stolen, including the washing machine. I will be getting the deposit, but that will only make a small dent the expense. I intend to pursue my former tenant through the courts, but as she appears to have accrued debts all over the place, i am assuming that any remuneration will take a long time.
    I have questioned the agency, as to how many times they have inspected the flat and the agent verbally admitted that she last went about three years ago, although she "doesn't know if any other member of staff has been in that time". The smell of cats and drugs hits you before you even enter the property, so I have no doubt that these should have been noted during any inspections. I have since learned that the tenant had several police convictions and bad debts before she moved in. I have asked the agent repeatedly for a copy of the tenant check they did before the tenant moved in and a copy of the inventory so that i can file a police report for the missing items, however, they just keep stalling. I suspect that neither has been done.
    The agency do not appear to be members of The Property Ombudsman.or The Property Redress Scheme, and I can find no record of any deposit being secured with any of the deposit protection schemes.
    Can I demand to see copies of the tenant check/inventory/findings of any monitoring visits under the freedom of information act? I don't want to initiate proceedings against them only for these items to appear later.
    Also, what is my best course of action if the agency are not members of a redress scheme? Should I be contacting a solicitor and exactly what should I be claiming for?

  • rochdaleblade
    replied
    Again. Many thanks for your input. I will pursue these options. Even putting the wheels in motion will make me feel better. The agents have finally stopped blanking me, after i offered to pop round to their house to pick up the tenants keys. They have admitted in writing that they "cannot find" an inventory, so presumably allowing the tenant to remove anything from the flat is classed as negligence.

    Whilst I accept that it would certainly be possible to hide a cat for an inspection, the most of the furniture and doors had been heavily scratched. Indeed, one set of drawers had been scratched so badly that it was possible to see inside it. The whole place reeked of cat urine which could be smelled from the landing below my flat

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  • jpkeates
    replied
    All of those points are (as usual) sensible and valid.

    I'm not sure I agree with all of your points, but it does offer rochdaleblade an alternative route to consider - if nothing else a solicitors letter alleging negligence might start a useful dialogue with the agent (who will have some kind of liability insurance).

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  • Lawcruncher
    replied
    Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
    If the claim is negligence, the quality and frequency of inspections would have to be below what would be reasonably expected and the loss reasonably forseeable.
    Agreed.

    Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
    I am also not any kind of expert, but I don't think there's any kind of best practice or even standard level of frequency and quality of inspections.
    There may be differences of opinion about what is reasonable for any particular property in given circumstances, but no inspection for three years surely has to be too long in any case.

    Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
    I don't think that it's reasonable to think that not inspecting would lead to damage.
    Clearly a failure to inspect regularly does not inevitably lead to damage, but if a tenant knows regular inspections are inevitable it will, in at least some cases, discourage untenantlike behaviour. Apart from that, inspections are not just about checking up on what the tenant may have done wrong. If an agent is employed to manage property that has to include checking for wants of repair. If someone holds himself out as a property professional it is implicit that he has at least a basic grasp of how to maintain property.

    Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
    The agent can probably provide dozens of examples where inspecting at the frequency and presumably quality they routinely do has not led to damage.
    Doctors can provide dozens of examples of people who not have routine chest x-rays do not get lung cancer.

    Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
    A cat and cannabis use are not necessarily something that would be detected during an inspection arranged in advance.
    No doubt about that, but an inspection is going to reveal a lot of things which may need sorting. In this case we are apparently talking about thousands of pounds needing to be spent on the property.

    It is as rochdaleblade says, landlords employ agents to give them peace of mind. They expect full management to mean what it says. Property management has to be proactive. Agents are not guarantors for the tenants they find, but they do need to do the job they are paid to do.

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  • jpkeates
    replied
    Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
    This is well outside my area of expertise, but I do not think it is as clear-cut as that. The measure of damages is different according to whether the claim is for breach of contract or negligence. The basic questions here are what duty of care did the agent owe and would the damages have arisen in any event.
    If the claim is negligence, the quality and frequency of inspections would have to be below what would be reasonably expected and the loss reasonably forseeable.

    I am also not any kind of expert, but I don't think there's any kind of best practice or even standard level of frequency and quality of inspections and I don't think that it's reasonable to think that not inspecting would lead to damage.

    The agent can probably provide dozens of examples where inspecting at the frequency and presumably quality they routinely do has not led to damage.

    A cat and cannabis use are not necessarily something that would be detected during an inspection arranged in advance.

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  • Lawcruncher
    replied
    Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
    What did you agree with the agent about inspections?
    It's unlikely you have much of a case against them, because, even if they agreed that they would regularly inspect and haven't, your claim would probably be limited to the proportion of the fees that were due for that unperformed service.
    They didn't cause any damage, and could reasonably claim that there was no damage initially, so they believed none was likely to happen subsequently.

    Your claim is against the tenant, not the agent.
    This is well outside my area of expertise, but I do not think it is as clear-cut as that. The measure of damages is different according to whether the claim is for breach of contract or negligence. The basic questions here are what duty of care did the agent owe and would the damages have arisen in any event.

    I suggest that rochdaleblade posts his question here: http://swarblaw.co.uk/viewforum.php?...40fdcc859705e1

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  • jpkeates
    replied
    Two separate issues.
    However good a tenant is at ducking responsibility, if you are patient and thorough, there's not much escape.
    Use Money Collection Online to start the process of recovering your money.
    Start by documenting everything that you believe you have lost (as opposed to what you have had to pay out) and write to the tenant making your demand for repayment clear.
    That can be quite therapeutic in itself.
    Then follow the small claims process patiently (just treat it as part of the job and don't get fed up or angry).

    The most common outcome is that the tenant won't defend or attend court and you'll win.
    If your claims are based on loss not cost, you'll probably win anyway.
    That gets you the ccj.

    Then (assuming the tenant doesn't pay), you pay £50 to order the tenant to court to agree a repayment plan.
    Not attending that session is an offence in itself, which tends to focus people's mind a little.
    Not paying in line with the court ordered payment plan is something you can again action.

    The reason people get away with not paying what they owe is that people give up chasing them, because it is work and it's time consuming (and it makes people angry and fed up when they are lied about).
    If you act calmly and determinedly, it's possible to come out at least feeling even.

    And.
    Agents need to be managed.
    They're not all very good at what they do - particularly in large cities and towns.
    But there are good agents out there, you just have to find them - the best people to ask for opinions are tenants in my experience.

    But you have to do something for the income - if you believe things should happen at certain times, like inspections, gas safety checks, rent increases, even payment of rent, put them in a diary and chase the agent for proof they've happened.

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  • rochdaleblade
    replied
    Thanks for your input. I feared that this was the case. I intend to chase up the former tenant for the cost of some of the repairs. However, as she is a scally, who knows how to play the system, I feel that the best outcome I would get would be a few pound per week for the next ten years. I am more annoyed with the agency as having previously rented it out privately to a tenant I knew personally, I decided to go through an agency for peace of mind. I assumed as professionals in the field that they would know some of the pitfalls. I certainly wasn't expecting them to rent it out to a convicted criminal, not do an inventory and not check the property for years at a time. I feel that I would have been better off just advertising on Gumtree and accepting the first tenant to come along. I will put my concerns in writing to the agency and mention the ombudsman scheme, but I will certainly take a more hands on approach when using a letting agency in future.

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  • jpkeates
    replied
    The agent has to be a member of a redress scheme.
    If not, report them to the property ombudsman.

    What did you agree with the agent about inspections?
    It's unlikely you have much of a case against them, because, even if they agreed that they would regularly inspect and haven't, your claim would probably be limited to the proportion of the fees that were due for that unperformed service.
    They didn't cause any damage, and could reasonably claim that there was no damage initially, so they believed none was likely to happen subsequently.

    Your claim is against the tenant, not the agent.

    Leave a comment:

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