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.


  • Peter Smith 10th April 2012 at 11:47 am

    The overlooked problem here is that the landlords are not the only victims; we should not forget the actual tenants who are normally acting in good faith and suddenly find themselves homeless with very little notice and no come back for advance rent and deposits paid.

    I’m not so sure that agents are as faultless as you suggest. It is part of the service for which they are paid that they get bank and employment/business details plus identity confirmation. Moreover they should be supervising move-in day. Any tenant of a large family home not arriving with furniture and family is obviously suspect.

    • PainSmith 11th April 2012 at 5:10 pm

      Tenants are not homeless, even where this situation arises Landlords can not throw unsuspecting tenants out. There is a process and procedure that must be followed they are usually aware that possession proceedings are being pursued for some months before they have to leave.

      With regards to agents, most landlords pay for a reference to be carried out and this reference is handed to landlords who approve or do not approve it. The agents are simply that, agents the landlords should have the final say. If landlords want further checks done which in our experience they do not for cost reasons, they can and should request this.

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