It does appear to be quite common now that the person that signs the tenancy agreement as the tenant is not in fact the person that is actually residing at the property. Sometimes agents carrying out periodic viewings attend properties expecting to see a family and are faced with as many as 15 complete strangers.
So what can the law do to help? In Rose Chimuka’s case, she was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 4 years and 3 months imprisonment.
The scam involved Chimuka, often using a false name, approaching estate agents saying that she was looking for a large family home to rent. She would discuss school catchment areas and often confirm that her husband worked away.
However, rather than moving in with family, Chimuka would advertise locally for tenants so that she could sub-let the property to other tenants without the property owners consent or knowledge. She would then sub-divide the houses she had rented and put locks on internal doors and permit up to 15 people in some cases to reside in the properties.
Chimuka would collect rent money in cash from her ‘tenants’ and fail to pay her own rent for the properties she was renting.
Landlords often point the finger at agents accusing them of not carrying out the right checks etc. However, when you are faced with prospective tenants giving false information it can be difficult to detect the lies until it is too late. PainSmith Solicitors has obtained possession proceedings in these circumstances and whilst the proceedings can be slow (due to court backlogs) we have obtained possession at the first hearing. So there is hope and the courts are sympathetic to landlords in these situations.