Fake Landlord Steals Tenant’s Cash

The rise of online rental property advertising has led to a surge in property scams. Criminals are fraudulently offering properties to prospective tenants and then stealing deposits. In a recent case, a scammer rented a property via popular short-term letting website Airbnb and then advertised it on Gumtree.

Fraudulent Property Listing
It wasn’t long before a fish took the bait. The victim in question contacted the fake landlord and arranged a viewing of the property. He was shown around and seemingly happy with the place, arranged for an advanced payment to be transferred to the landlord. Shortly after the money transfer went through, the landlord stopped responding to calls and text messages, so the victim went to the police.

Operation Falcon
It soon became apparent that the fake landlord did not own the property and therefore had no authorisation to let it out. The money paid as a deposit was sent to a stolen bank account and withdrawn almost immediately. An investigation was launched by the Met’s Operation Falcon department, set up to deal with online fraud and linked crime.

The tenant had managed to take a photo of the fake landlord, which the police are now circulating in the media, in the hope that somebody is able to identify the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, this type of fraud is all too common. Most scammers advertise their fake properties on websites like Gumtree, so it is always worth keeping a check online to see if your properties every pop up for rent, especially if you use Airbnb.

Tenants Criticise Poorly Designed Kitchen

A tenant has complained his rental home’s kitchen was so poorly designed that it gave his wife a bad back. The property, a £1,040 per month flat in North London, had a very small kitchen with a sink cunningly positioned in the corner, between two units. This meant that anyone washing up had to lean forward for an extended period because the sink was so inaccessible.

Very Little Choice in the London Rental Sector
The couple were forced to live in the flat for two years and when asked, they said it wasn’t worth complaining to the landlord because they felt it would be a waste of time. They claimed landlords have all the advantages because of the lack of availability of affordable rental property in London. Although the couple spotted the sink problem when they went for a viewing, they feared losing the centrally located property to another party and went ahead with the tenancy anyway. It wasn’t until they started washing up every day that they realised just how badly designed the kitchen was.

A “Silly” Design
When the letting agent responsible for the flat was contacted by the press, they admitted that the design of the kitchen was problematic and there was nowhere else for the sink to sit. However, the agent did acknowledge that placing the sink in the corner was “a bit silly”.

The rental sector hinges on supply and demand. In London, there are too many prospective tenants and not enough affordable properties. As a result, landlords know they will always find a tenant, no matter how unappealing their property is.

Landlord Installs Coin Operated Toilet – Allegedly

The press is always full of tales of rogue landlords and feckless tenants causing havoc in rental homes. Do a search on any given day and you will find at least one story where a disgruntled landlord complains about clearing up the mess left behind by a tenant or a fed-up tenant complains about their landlord refusing to lift a finger. What you won’t see very often is a tenant complaining that his landlord has installed a coin-operated toilet.

Reddit Post
A thread first appeared on popular discussion site Reddit, where the poster asked for advice on whether his new coin-operated toilet was actually legal. The tenant claimed his Melbourne landlord has equipped the bathroom with a pay-to-use toilet, which required the tenant (and his guests) to pay one dollar to use the facilities. Not surprisingly, the tenant was unhappy with the arrangement.

“I understand in our laundry having to pay for the communal washing machine. But I pay the water bill that goes into my apartment,” the tenant wrote.

“[The landlord] said it was a government incentive to save water. But then why does he get to collect the money?”

Elaborate Hoax
Some people offered replies to the poster’s problem, but the majority thought it was an elaborate hoax. To dispel the naysayers, the OP posted a photo of the coin operated toilet, but most people were still unconvinced the toilet was real. The poster was advised to go to the press with his story, but once press got wind of it and contacted him, the trail went cold and the ‘tenant’ disappeared.

Government Consultation on Landlord Banning Orders

The government is getting tough in its approach to the problem of rogue landlords and letting agents. An official consultation has been launched, which will run until February 10, 2017. Views are being sought on which offences should be considered serious enough to cause a landlord or property agent to be banned from letting or managing rental properties. If a landlord or agent is banned, their name will appear in a national database of offenders.

Consultation on Possible Offences
Possible offences up for inclusion are threatening tenants, illegal evictions, and failing to carry out essential health and safety work, all of which are considered serious. The government’s housing minister hopes the introduction of a banning order will stamp out the problem of rogue landlords and make sure tenants are protected from exploitation.

However, David Cox, managing director of ARLA, is not convinced the proposed banning orders will work in the way the government intends them to do.

“It seems completely illogical that the database of rogue landlords and letting agents will only be accessible to local authorities and DCLG; surely this ultimately defeats the purpose of the legislation? If there is no public access to the database how will landlords or tenants understand if they are using a banned agent and how do agents see if those applying for employment are blacklisted or banned?”

A Holistic Approach
He rightly points out that lists would need to be combined to prevent a people jumping from one profession to another.

Kylie Jenner is a New Celebrity Landlord

Kylie Jenner is famous for many things, not least her lipstick range, glamorous Instagram feed and famous siblings. She may only be 20 years old, but Ms Jenner has a range of business interests. She also owns several properties, but instead of leaving them empty, she has decided to rent one of them out, which makes her a celebrity landlord.

Kylie’s brother, Rob Kardashian, and his girlfriend, Blac Chyna, recently became parents to a baby girl. According to the press, rather than live in Blac’s home, they have decided to rent one of Kylie’s homes in Hidden Hills. The seven bedroom mansion is closer to Rob’s family, so they will have more support while they raise their daughter.

Kylie’s Property Empire
The young Ms Jenner is rapidly turning into something of a property tycoon. She recently bought a second property next to her existing home in an exclusive gated community in Los Angeles, which means she now owns a joint compound. This is fairly unusual, but if she ever wants to extend one of the properties, it will make life a lot easier. Her most recent property acquisition has eight bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, and a massage room.

Celebrity Landlords
Kylie isn’t the only celebrity to recognise the value in letting out exclusive property in desirable areas. American actress, Brooke Shields, rents out her home in the Pacific Palisades and if you fancy living there, it will set you back $35k a month. Richard Gere also lets out his apartment in New York’s NoHo neighbourhood. This will cost you $20k a month.

Canadian Landlord Finds Livestock in his Rental Property

UK landlords are used to tenants moving cats and dogs into their properties, even when the tenancy agreement says “no pets”. It’s a common problem. Tenants like to share their homes with pets, which is fine until they start to cause damage. Stories of homes where dogs have defecated everywhere and cats have scratched carpets abound, but a Canadian landlord has had a much worse time.

Nightmare Tenants Move In
The landlord formed a good first impression of his new tenants when he leased a three-bedroom rental property in Ontario. Unfortunately, shortly after the tenants moved in, they started introducing livestock into the house. This might have been tolerable, except they failed to clean up the mess. There were reports of a goat, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats living inside the house, which nobody bothered cleaning up after. They also didn’t bother paying any rent on the property.

Long Eviction Process
It took the landlord seven months to obtain an eviction order to get the couple and their son out of the property. By the time they did move out, the damage was horrendous. Timber floors were soaked in urine and there was mess everywhere. The landlord hired professional cleaners, filled two large skips with rubbish and animal carcasses, and ripped up the floors in an attempt to rectify the damage.

He now says he will only let his rental property out on short-term lets, as this will make it easier to evict problem tenants.

Reddit Users Discuss Tenants from Hell Stories

Reddit is a great site for general discussions on random topics. People share their thoughts and experiences on a whole range of things, which often makes for entertaining reading. How it works is simple: one user asks a question and then waits for other users to post their answer in the thread. In this example, a user asked for ‘tenants from hell’ stories. There were more than 500 responses, but some of the best were as follows:

Tenant DIY
One landlord complained that a tenant removed a kitchen island and took it outside to act as an outdoor serving area next to the pool.

Another tenant shoved marbles down a drain because his sink was clogged and he figured the marbles would push the blockage out. It worked in the sense that it pushed the blockage into the drainage system servicing an entire block of flats.

On a similar theme, a different tenant pushed plumber’s putty into the sink and bath drains, and then left the water running. The resultant flood was epic.

Fishy Story
Other horror stories included the guy who cut out holes in the drywall and left fish inside to rot; it took the landlord several weeks to figure out where the stench was coming from. Then there were the tenants who introduced bed bugs into their property.

Arachnophobia!
And finally, the worst ever story (from my perspective) was the tenant who called the landlord out to kill a spider. He refused, but agreed to go to unblock her sink. The spider turned out to be as large as a man’s hand…

Let us know your tenant horror stories in the comments!

Landlords Flaunting Right to Rent Scheme Face Prosecution

Failing to check up on a tenant’s immigration status has become a criminal offence. The new measures will be triggered under the Immigration Act 2016 and are an attempt by the government to crack down on rogue landlords providing accommodation for illegal immigrants.

“We are clear that illegal immigrants should not be able to access or remain in private rented accommodation, preventing lawful residents from finding a home,” says the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire.

“We know the vast majority of landlords are diligent in their responsibilities when it comes to their tenants and we want to help them to be able to evict illegal immigrants more easily”.

Right to Rent Rolled Out Nationwide
The Right to Rent scheme was first rolled out in 2014 and has since been extended to the rest of England. By the end of next year, the government hopes to implement the Right to Rent scheme in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Civil Penalties and Criminal Prosecutions for Rogue Landlords
Landlords and letting agents who flaunt the scheme will be liable for a civil penalty of up to £3,000. Landlords who repeatedly ignore the requirements of the scheme face being prosecuted and sent to prison for up to five years. They could also have their accounts frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

On the plus side, landlords who discover they are housing illegal immigrants will have greater powers to evict their tenants quickly once they report them to the Home Office.

Fraudster Landlord Scams on the Rise

Fraudsters are becoming increasingly active in the online rental market, so tenants – and genuine landlords – need to make sure they are not taken in by scams.

Many tenants look online when they need a new place to rent. It’s the obvious choice for today’s internet savvy generation. A woman in Exeter thought she had found the perfect flat when she placed an ad on Gumtree. Sadly, it turned out to be anything but the perfect flat.

Fraudsters Target Free Advertising Platforms
Fed up with living in supported accommodation, the tenant advertised for a flat suitable for tenants on benefits. A woman got in touch offering a one-bed flat, but when the tenant asked to go and view the place, the landlord said she couldn’t take the time off work after being messed around by previous time-wasters. Her story seemed genuine and the tenant was sent a deposit guarantee letter and a signed tenancy agreement. This was enough to persuade her to transfer a £500 deposit to the landlord’s account, which disappeared without trace, just like the bogus landlord.

Stolen Property Listings
This story is not uncommon and fraudsters typically use listings stolen from genuine property ads, with a few key details changed to suit the ad. Sites like Gumtree do provide plenty of resources to alert people looking for rental property, but scammers continue to run amok.

The RLA believes not enough is being done to protect tenants.

“It’s the duty of websites where properties are advertised to show some due diligence in establishing that a property is valid.”

Landlord Legal Fight against Government Tax Increase Fails

Landlords have lost their legal bid to force a judicial review of the government’s plans to cut tax relief for landlords.

The new changes come into effect next year when tax relief on mortgage interest is gradually reduced to a flat rate of 20%. This, as well as an extra 3% stamp duty in buy to let property purchases, has been described as “unfair, undemocratic and underhanded” by landlords.

Cherie Blair’s Legal Challenge
A campaign group, championed by Cherie Blair, decided to launch a legal challenge, but Timothy Brennan QC said the claim was “unarguable” and that the case was not in the public interest. Mr Justice Dingemans refused to allow a judicial review to go ahead on the basis that “It would be a miserable spectacle to watch a case that is bound to fail.”

Axe the Tenant Tax Group
Steve Bolton and Chris Cooper, founding members of the Axe the Tenant Tax group, were not happy with the court’s decision.

“It has completely missed the opportunity to protect tenants, landlords and the housing market from the disastrous consequences of Section 24,” they said after the verdict.

NLA Verdict
Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association, added:

“This decision is ultimately disappointing not just for landlords, but for the tenants who will see their rents rise as a consequence of the changes to landlord taxation.”

Although he conceded that: “While we have never been convinced that there was a solid enough legal case to overturn George Osborne’s decision, we hoped the courts would be prepared at least to listen to the arguments.”