Beware Of Fake Landlords

Did anyone else happen to catch episode 8 of series 2 of Fake Britain? It aired on BBC1, Friday morning, 11am. Without prior knowledge of the episode, I was intrigued to discover that there was a feature about “Fake Landlords”

In the Urban Dictionary, I’m what is known as a “wasteman” (definition from Urban Dictionary: someone who does nothing with their life, most of the time a drunken fuck up, sitting on couches in the alleyways of the London streets), so I’m able to endure all kinds of daytime shit on TV. I think it may air again during prime time (but I’m not sure when) for the nine-to-five mugs grafters. If you missed it, don’t worry about finding out when/where/how because you can watch it below.

What is a fake landlord?

A fake landlord is someone that pretends to have authorisation to let a property, in which they actually have no authority over whatsoever. The fake landlord will take viewings, take a deposit and usually one month’s rent upfront (more if their lucky), give the tenant the keys, and then drive off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again.

Shortly after, the real home owners/occupiers will return home and try to use their keys to enter the property, only to find the locks have been changed, and their home has been taken over by strangers.

How do fake landlords do it?

They usually target properties they know will be empty (e.g. when the occupants are on holiday). They will then force entry into the property, change the locks, and start marketing the property to prospective tenants as if it’s their own.

It’s an extremely easy trap for tenants to fall into, especially novice tenants that are unfamiliar with the letting process. When a “fake landlord” has accessible keys to the property, and convincingly takes viewings, everything appears unsuspecting. What makes the charade more believable is that the landlords are known to provide fake letting agent documents.

Fake Britain takes a look into ‘Fake Landlords’

Nasty stuff. As you saw, the end result leaves tenants in an extremely awkward situation and home-owners left temporarily homeless while their homes were invaded by strangers.

How to avoid the “fake landlord” trap

Unfortunately, the feature on Fake Britain failed to get the story from the tenant’s side. But my gut instincts tell me they were careless and missed out on the obvious tell-tale signs something dodgy was occurring, hence why I said it’s easy for novice tenants to fall into the trap.

If you’re looking to rent a property, it might be worth noting down the following points in order to avoid a fake landlord:

  • Talk to the neighbours – don’t feel uneasy about approaching the neighbours. It’s perfectly normal for perspective tenants to talk to the neighbours, especially to find out about the local area. While you’re there, enquiry about the landlord. The neighbours will most likely know if the property is legitimately being rented to tenants.
  • Ensure landlord provides all legal documents – a landlord is legally required to provide a Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate for the property.

    Firstly, most fake landlords won’t provide these documents. More importantly, you shouldn’t be letting from anyone that doesn’t provide them.

  • Ask for references– ask the landlord for the details of the previous tenants. You’re more than entitled to ask for references, just like many legitimate landlords ask for references from tenants.

    If available, follow these references up.

  • Enquiry about utility services– investigate which companies supply the gas, electricity, and water. They’re perfectly valid questions, and most landlords expect to hear them from perspective tenants. The landlord should be familiar with these details. If they’re not, it could be a signal that something dodgy is going on.
  • Tenancy Agreements– most fake landlords will insist on and provide a Tenancy Agreement contract as part of the charade since they’re so easily obtainable. However, if a landlord doesn’t insist on a Tenancy Agreement then something is clearly wrong. Either he/she is among the band of the most irresponsible landlords on the planet or something unsavoury is taking place. Either way, stay well clear of landlords that don’t require a Tenancy Agreement contract, much like the landlords that fail to provide the Gas and Energy certificates.
  • Good landlords ask questions and require references– since the recession, landlords have become increasingly thorough with their vetting process. Tenants falling into arrears is becoming a real problem for landlords.

    If the landlord doesn’t ask tough questions about employment, previous rental history, and require proof of ID, then it sends a clear signal, and it’s not a good one.

  • Tenancy Deposit– deposits MUST be secured in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme by law. Always ask which authorised deposit scheme your landlord will be putting your deposit into.

    It’s another one of those details a fake landlord can easily make up after investing 2mins research on Google. However, it’s always best to enquiry as you never know how stupid these people can be.

  • Land Registry– if you really want to be sure you’re not being taken for a ride, you can always go onto the Land Registry Website and pay £4 to get the title register and make sure the landlord actually owns the property.
  • If they’re representing a letting agent– this one is kind of a no-brainer, but I thought I’d throw it in anyways. If you’re dealing with an agent, make sure you actually visit their high-street shop to make sure everything is legitimate. Many of these fake landlords impersonate letting agents.

If anyone has any more tips I can add to the list or has first hand experience involving fake landlords, don’t be shy to take the spotlight via the comment form below…

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15 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Ryan 5th September, 2011 @ 10:51

10/10 once again Landlord!
Quite disturbing if I'm honest, even for the layman, that first person just went away for 2 weeks and had someone move in. Luckily I think having a dog (not a yappy thing) would help against someone breaking in.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th September, 2011 @ 10:08

Hi Ryan,

Thanks :)

Yeah, dogs can be useful. But you can't leave them alone in the house for 2 weeks while you're away. But getting an alarm fitted might be a good investment!

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Guest Avatar
Gary 6th September, 2011 @ 13:22

Probably the best thing to do is to spend £4 on the Land Registry website to get the title register and make sure the landlord actually owns the property that way.

3
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th September, 2011 @ 13:44

Great tip Gary. I'm going to add that to the list. Many thanks!

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Guest Avatar
Gary 14th September, 2011 @ 12:24

Forgot to mention...

When checking the Land Registry, you should see that the owner has a different address listed. If that's not the case then it could suggest that the landlord is one of these 'accidental landlord' jokers who has not got permission from the mortgagee to let the property. In that case it would be worth asking the landlord (or the landlord's agent) for proof that the lender has given permission for the property to be let, or even better might be to check directly with the lender (whose identity is on the Land Reg docs).

I don't know how a repossession usually works out with a sitting tenant where a borrower has breached the terms and conditions of his/her mortgage by letting the property without permission, and I certainly wouldn't care to find out (in either the landlord or tenant scenario).

Even though it is unlikely to come to that as long as the mortgage is serviced, I would be concerned if the landlord wasn't doing things properly. If they're only letting the property because they overpaid for the place towards the top of the property bubble and don't want to cystallise their loss by selling, then are they going to be in a sufficiently good financial position to get the boiler replaced if needs be? I would stick with renting from a proper investor with decent margins if possible.

So that's not exactly a "fake landlord" issue, maybe more a "fake landlord but genuine owner" issue.

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Adrian 8th December, 2012 @ 06:48

Hi everyone. Me and my wife have just lost £1000 , to a fake landlord. The F landlord posted on Gumtree a nice house, then his fake agent let us in the property with the real landlord inside and builders .the agent told the real landlord he will bring his certificate ,to prove that he is a real agent the next day. The real landlord just say hello and let the agent deal with us. Then we went outside asked if we like the property in Woodford Green, we said yes. The the fake landlord called and said he is going to meet with us tomorrow . We gave him the deposit in full and we signed the tenancy. The next day he said to give him the rent and we said to do give him that at the property to show us all the keys . The next day. Him , the agent had switch off their phone. We went to the property and ask neighbours if Hudayfa shah is the landlord. Then he called the real landlord Wich said he only let the agent in that night because his going to prove his identity the next day when we were ripped off by £1000 , Be carrefull of Hudayfa Shah if is the real name. All the best

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paul 2nd February, 2016 @ 23:41

I recently found out my "landlord" is actually the decorator/builder who the owner employed to carry out renovation work for him. He wrote me out a tenancy agreement for 12 months and told me i didnt need to pay a deposit or any upfront costs and i could move straight in. 2 and a half months later, since i havnt been able to make any rent payments he tells me he's not the owner and wants me to leave since the tenancy is not valid. Does anyone know what rights i have to continue living here? and what action i can take against this decorator/builder who let me have the house without the owners permission? I also have a wife and 3 young children all under 5 years old living with me.

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Guest Avatar
Gary 2nd February, 2016 @ 23:50

Paul

Get down the Citizens Advice Bureau

In the law of agency, there is the concept of agency through "apparent authority", in other words the fact that the true landlord allowed this other guy to have the run of the property (and hence hold himself out as the owner) may mean he had apparent authority as an agent of the landlord and therefore the true landlord is bound by the tenancy agreement he formed with you

A bit like if I knock on your door and your wife sells me your TV, she had apparent authority to do so which means I'm in the clear and don't have to give the TV back

Get some proper advice but I think there may be a case that you are entitled to see out your contract

8
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Dave 7th June, 2016 @ 15:43

If you do suspect or confirm landlord is fake , who / where do you report it ?

Ta muchly

Dave

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Guest Avatar
Joseph Teale 12th August, 2016 @ 13:52

HI guys, someone just attempted to scam me, here how I realised. They wanted me to send a over a holding fee without viewing the property claiming (I've had two people do these to me already, they viewed and then didn't proceed) well dur it happens.

The rooms looked far to furnished and modern. But when you're desperate you don't think. But the clincher, if you conversing over email, make sure you google search the emails they send you, I did it, found the rooms in several difference places, even countries.

Easy.

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Guest Avatar
KATE 12th December, 2016 @ 10:24

Hi guys!

I recently found a gorgeous 1 bedroom flat on Gumtree. The rent is ridiculously low(650 with bills and council included!!), comes all furnished and fully equipped! The landlord is in another country and said he wants to find a person who can take care of the flat more than he needs the money. This seems too suspicious for me. He said he wants to make sure I have serious intentions before he travels all the way here, cause last time nobody showed up. (+make sure I have the money lol)
He emailed me beautiful pictures of the property and the tenancy agreement so I could tell it's real (in his opinion), but he won't give me the full address cause he's afraid of thieves.(again, because he's abroad) So I can't even check it on the Land Registry Website.
Let me know what you think, this sounds like a scam to me, and I don't want to lose my money.

Have a great day!

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Guest Avatar
Ryan 12th December, 2016 @ 13:08

Hi Kate,

That sounds as dodgy as kebab at 4 on a Saturday morning. I would avoid like the plague and never hand over money until you've seen the place. If he's worried about the journey then shouldn't be a landlord, there's a risk in no shows and if genuine he'll have to suck it up!

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Guest Avatar
KATE 12th December, 2016 @ 13:26

Thanks Ryan!! You're right!

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Ashley 6th February, 2017 @ 10:57

Hi I am the same looking for a property in Luton to rent the man has said it's all Bills included and sent a tenancy and lovely pictures but he is saying he don't live in England and someone has let him down so he doesn't want to get a flight over just for me to view the property he needs to no I'm sure on renting it he also told me he doesnt mind how the rent is paid as long as it is well looked after with me being in need to move asap it was very tempting but I am glad I have looked online and read all this prior to meeting at the property and being sucked in. Does anyone have advice on what I can do when renting privately what can assure me its not a scam. Thanks

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Steve 3rd September, 2017 @ 13:39

I have tenants in a property that as trustee I have not given permission to be there.

My brother who has no legal interest in the property managed to get it changed to his name at land registry and gave keys to his friend for safe keeping.

It is thought this friend has changed the locks and let the property out.

Sometimes not only the tenants are the victims as I now have unspecified costs trying to get control of property back.

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