ARLA Agent fails Landlord

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Frustrated Landlord
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I am a long established landlord who has always used letting agents for tenant finding and tenancy set up. I self manage after that.

I've been using the ARLA agent that failed me for four years. Their staff, level of service and quality of paperwork is to be admired, which is why I've stuck with them. Unbeknown to me, they changed referencing company a couple of years ago. They actually do no referencing at all - they rely on an 'insurance company' to do this for them. The agent has admitted they have no idea how this is done and don't have the resources to 'double up on this'.

On their website, they claim to do 'thorough referencing in house'. As I found out, what they actually do is send off the prospective tenants details to a company called LetRisks. LetRisks do not have a credit license so they pass the prospective tenants further down the line to Experian, who use name (no date of birth, no NI number) and match that to the address the tenants give. They rely on information coming up to inform the check. If nothing comes up, the tenants get the ok by default. My tenants were checked against an address of less than 3 months.

Nobody can explain to me how you can thoroughly reference someone without a date of birth. On Facebook alone there are 12 people with the same name as one of these tenants. Which one did they think they were referencing???

LetRisks were to have checked the employers of the couple. They checked one, but not the other. Of the 'couple', the girl self-certified that she worked as a carer part time and earned 7,800. No questions were asked of her such as: how are you paid? how often are you paid? where are your bank statements to support spending of these earnings?

LetRisks simply wrote to the 'cared-for' lady and asked her to confirm that she paid her 'carer' 7,800. No questions were asked of her regarding the provenance of funds to pay out what amounts to 650 a month. Was she disabled? They didn't ask. No checks were done to verify the authenticity of this employment whatsoever, yet this passed their so-say stringent referencing enough to satisfy them that it was money to support a tenancy.

I paid referencing fees of 400 + VAT. Codes of conduct with ARLA and TPO warn agents to be wary of fraudulent tenancy applications. As the agent admits to not doing any of the checking themselves how can they make themselves wary? The prospective tenants are encouraged to scan their ID documents and forward them by email to the agent. Do they check them? It is unlikely. Apart from at the viewing (often done in less than 10 minutes by the office junior), there is no face to face transaction with the lettings manager or a person responsible for the Code of Conduct checks.

The tenancy duly proved to be fraudulent. He just wanted to put a roof over his ex-partner's head and get the state to pay for the keep of their two year old. They re-wrote the tenancy as if it had been issued to her only, re-wrote the rent level and applied for housing benefit. Did I get paid? No.

I got payments to them suspended by the Council, but ended up with nothing myself. She had moved in a new boyfriend and the fraud office wanted to investigate why there was an application from a single mother..... you can guess how that went.

I got the girl out on a Section 8 in July. I'm over 4,000 down in loss of rent which the ex-partner has said he'll pay back at 20 a month. I'm appealing that and awaiting a hearing. He has earnings protected to 900 a month so I'll be lucky if I can increase his voluntary payments to 100 a month.

I'm also out of pocket by another 3000 for the cleaning and repairs to the property. I've got no chance of getting that from the ex-partner or the girl on benefits. If you were me, would you complain to

ARLA or The Property Ombudsman?

I'm also tempted to use a solicitor and pursue the ARLA agent for negligence because I paid for referencing that clearly wasn't done. What is stopping me is a shortage of funds and not knowing a solicitor good enough to take it on.

Any thoughts, anyone?

Thanks.


This member has been thanked by 1 member for this post.
01/10/2014 18:19

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