A TV show on Channel 5 this evening may well serve as a warning to letting agents about the dangers of fake tenant references.
Tonight’s Bad Tenants, Rogue Landlords - on air at 8pm - sees professional landlord Paul Bloom facing a struggle to get his property back from a bogus company let.
The letting agent used by Bloom for his property in Hampstead, north London, was approached by a third party wishing to rent 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, the tenant asked Bloom to visit the property because he thought something was wrong with the boiler.
Upon arrival, the landlord 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.
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 the landlord was going to face a tough battle with his violent tenant to regain possession of his property.
Paul Shamplina, the founder of Landlord Action and a regular in the TV series, says that cases where traditional referencing has fallen short of the innovation required to spot these crooks is becoming increasingly common.
“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” he says.
“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” Shamplina adds.
He says agents or landlords should take the time to call the employer and if something doesn’t feel right, dig deeper.