Potential Concerns About Letting Agent

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S
SML3000
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Hi fellow RLA members.

This one is pretty odd so please forgive the long post:

I have a property which is fully managed by a local independent letting agent. They have been going for a number or years and came highly recommended by a fellow landlord. I have been using them for just over one year and aside from the fact there seem to have been quite a lot of minor plumbing related issues (considering how new the house is) for which they send out tradesmen, I have had a positive experience. The property in question is occupied by a young couple whom I've come to know despite the fact the property is managed.

Earlier this week I received a call from the male tenant expressing concerns that someone has been letting themself into the property while he and his girlfriend are out at work. They have formed this opinion based on noticing that things have been moved in the kitchen and living room, a muddy footprint not matching any of their shoes was found on the carpet and a belief that the boiler settings and radiator valves have been altered on a few occasions recently. They have also had a report from a neighbour (after voicing their concerns to said neighbour) that an unknown man has been seen entering the property on at least three occasions over recent weeks. The neighbour just assumed it was a family member or letting agent going in with authorization. We have a sketchy description from the neighbout of the guy and his car but neither match anyone.any car me or the tenants know. How trust-worthy the neighbour report is I don't know. Nothing has been stolen or obviously damaged in the house and there is no sign of forced entry. There is an alarm in the property which I'm assured is always used when the tenants are out. Therefore anybody going in would need keys AND the alarm code. I have keys/the alarm code but it is DEFINITELY not me. The tenants obviously have keys/the alarm code but haven't given them to any outside parties. The previous tenants handed in all of their keys (that I know about) and do not match the description of the person seen entering the property. That leaves the letting agents (they have keys/the alarm code but say it's not them and, although I don't know ALL of the staff who work there, the description doesn't fit anyone I have seen in their office) and/or the tradesmen they use - on one occassion during this tenancy the agents sent a heating engineer to the property while the tenants were at work (which was pre-arranged) but he apparently handed in the keys at the end of his job. Also, while the property was empty for 10 days between my last tenants leaving and my current tenants moving in, the agent sent in a contract cleaner and someone to shampoo the carpets (over two visits I believe), so they obviously had keys (and most likely the alarm code) at some point but I'm assured they returned them. Of course someone could have had another copy of a key cut but who knows for sure and why would they risk it?

The thing that has stumped both the tenants and myself is that if the motive is not theft/vandalism/intimidation then why on earth would anyone do such a thing? I wondered whether to go to the police about the matter but after informally speaking to a friend who works as an officer he suggested that with no hard evidence of theft or forced entry it would be a bit of a thin complaint. Then my friend suggested a worrying potential explanation which, until that point, I had not even entertained... seeing as it seems that radiators and the boiler have supposedly been tampered with, maybe the letting agents themselves, in an effort to create more revenue, have been attempting to deliberately create problems in order for the tenant to call them and ask that a tradeperson be sent to investigate. Now, this is NOT something I have any proof of what-so-ever and I'm not even sure if I believe it could be something the agents would ever consider let alone do! I've always been 99% happy with the agents themselves thus far (especially compared with some other bigger firms I've used, who have been terrible)... they're the best I've used yet and the staff, particularly the two main ones I deal with are all very friendly/decent. I would hate to make baseless accusations against them just because of a seed of doubt planted in my mind by a friend. I just couldn't imagine the people I know at the agency doing such a thing! However, if someone really IS going into the property (and it still is a big IF as there is no solid proof, however my tenants aren't the type to lie, be overly dramatic, easily spooked or paranoid) but not stealing/damaging anything, then I really can't think of any other alternative explanation... can anybody here on the forum? Has anyone experienced anything similar or had the same suspicions? If so, what did you do and did you prove anything?

I've looked into CCTV and changing all of the locks but they are both pretty expensive as first steps, seeing as it's all speculation at present. Therefore, for now we're just changing the alarm code and seeing what happens... however the agent says they need to be informed of the new code too.

Any advice or suggestions? Sorry for the long post but this is a pretty concerning situation even though it may turn out to be nothing at all.

Thanking you in advance.

Cheers.

SML

06/04/2012 00:00

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