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Urgent - advice please

(21 Posts)
ListenToYourHeart Thu 18-Oct-12 20:22:25

Having some problems regarding housing/LL/mortgage company.

Basically DP and I started renting a private property back in August, the estate agent asked for 6 months rent upfront as we were on HB, we paid the 6 months upfront and a month later the estate agent went bust and done a runner.

We then got a letter from a management company explaining they had taken over the property and could we provide receipts of rent paid/deposits and a copy of our tenancy agreement. And to not make any more payments or have any other dealing with the estate agent and to pay out rent to them in February when it's next due - they said that the LL had not paid her mortgage and as it was a BTL they would be taking over managing it and basically not to worry about anything.

So tonight the LL turns up (back from 4 months in her home town as her mum had died) saying she didn't have a clue who we were, she never gave permission for the flat to be rented to us and she has not received a penny of the upfront rent we paid. She went on to say she had spoke to the mortgage company and they were treating the situation as fraudulent and the police were involved, she then said she does not know what will happen next or whether the flat will be repossessed, she also said out contract means nothing as it only has our names and the estate agents name on it - nothing about her.

What the hell do we do? Sat here crying with worry as we have a DD and don't have money to just move, I'm worried sick and really need some advice in what to do?

Thanks for reading

ListenToYourHeart Thu 18-Oct-12 20:24:10

Sorry for typo's I'm so shook up, I couldn't concentrate properly.

izzyizin Thu 18-Oct-12 23:37:36

I'm so sorry you've been waiting so long for a response.

I know it's easier said than done but please try not to worry and give the Shelter helpline www.shelter.org.uk a call in the morning.

From what you've said, it sounds as if you have sufficient documentary evidence by way of your original tenancy agreement and correspondence from the management company who allegedly subsequently assumed responsibility for letting the property to prove that you have done nothing untoward.

Regardless of whether the police become involved or whether the property becomes repossessed by a mortgage company, you cannot be asked to vacate the premises until such time as due process of law has been seen to be done.

Has the woman who claimed to have bought the property on mortgage for the purpose of letting it out given you her details and a note of which police force/station are dealing with the matter?

After you've spoken to Shelter please come back with an update.

Nothing can be done until tomorrow and in the meantime please try to get a good night's sleep, honey.

ListenToYourHeart Fri 19-Oct-12 14:44:39

Thanks for your reply, and the link to shelter will call them once my partner gets home.

Spoke to the managing agents and there now saying we might not be ok as the LL is saying that the estate agent let us the flat fraudulently because he never got her permission to re-let it and changed the locks before he let it to us (obviously we never knew any of this at the beginning and happily paid the 6 months rent upfront as I know that can e standard when your on HB).

Managing agents have told us at the moment they don't know what is going to happening as the discussions are between the LL, mortgage company and the leaseholders. They have just said they will update us when they know.

Really don't know what we will do as we have paid rent to cover us till February and if we can't get that back or stay here till February we are really stuck.

Thanks again for replying and everything.

izzyizin Fri 19-Oct-12 15:38:04

It would seem that the facts of the matter are 1) that prior to granting you tenancy of the property, the estate agent had previously acted for the LL or entered into some negotiation with her as evidenced by his being in possession of keys to the property which enabled him to change the locks.

2)The position of the management company is less clear as it is not known how it came to 'take over' the property from the allegedly defaulting estate agent but, in any event, it would seem the company accepted your account and has assured you that, as you had paid six months rent upfront, you are not required to make another rent payment until February of next year.

I would suggest you put the above 2 points to Shelter when seeking their advice later today - bearing in mind the helpline closes at 8pm, I would suggest you ring them sooner rather than later as you can call back when your dp returns home if necessary.

FWIW, IMO as there has been no wrongdoing on your part it would seem probable that should the LL or the mortgage holders wish to regain possession of the property they cannot do so without first having given you notice to quit by whatever date your next rent payment falls due.

Xenia Fri 19-Oct-12 17:18:59

I agree. It is not likeyou are those Romanian squatters who move into London property and produce a fake tenancy contract and have paid nothing.

What interests me is why you signed a contract so an estate agent let to you. Why? If I was letting a house and Savills or someone was the landlord I would think wow this is really weird, really fishy, the agent is very unlikely to own the property , how can they be letting it to me? Also deposits have to go into a special rental scheme. Did you not realise that and ask about that when you took it on?

Make sure you have copies of everything, where the money went, your cheque stub if you paid by cheque, the fraudulent tenancy etc.

You cannot be removed without a court order for a start. The person at fault seems to be the fraudulent estate agent. Have you tried to track them down as they are the people who should be refunding your deposit. Did the landlord think the property was empty?

Also check if your deposit was put into the special deposit schemes for deposits.

ListenToYourHeart Sat 20-Oct-12 21:31:09

Basically the LL and management company have said that the estate agent was not granted permission to rent us out the flat, he had the keys to show prespective tenats around whilst the LL was in India but that was it, So the LL is demanding we leave as she said the estate agent has fraudently let us the flat and run off with our £4800 sad. The LL is seriously angry and spent the whole meeting yelling at us infornt of our 2 year old daughter because I told her we cant just leave - we have no where to go, hardly any money and no where at the moment arranged to store our furniture. I then asked her to leave as she was scaring my daughter, so she left saying we was squatting and trespassing on her property and she would take legal action to remove us.

I phoned shelter and they have said that if the contract has been made fraudently and the LL can prove so then we have no protection, however she cant just kick us out on to the street she needs to take the correct procedure, shelter said my best option was to get legal advice and to ring the councils emergeny homeless prevetion team and the police to report the fraud.

The police have then told us they have over the last month had over a 100 reports about this estate agent as he has been operating in all the local area's in different names and has run off with thousands of pounds and that they are still investigating the situation but gave us a department to contact on monday and a crime ref no.

The housing are meeting with me on monday or tuesday whenever they can fit us in to see our conracts and recipts etc and to see where we stand and what they can do.

what the hell is going to happen??? sad

Im so worried, cant believe we are going to lose our home.

In anwser to xenia we didnt pay a deposit as the flat was in bad decorative order so the estate agent said he would waiver the deposit as we were going to have to pay out to decorate - hes wrote this in the contract too.

Xenia Sun 21-Oct-12 09:51:10

In effect you are worse off for paying rent ni advance and no deposit. If you had paid part of it as a deposit and it had been protected in the special rent deposit scheme you would have been getting some of your £4800 back.

Was the tenancy contract int he name of the estate agent or the landlord?Even if in name of landlord was it signed by the estate agent?

You cannot be removed without a court order. That is likely to take 2 - 3 months so that means you will have the benefit of those extra months which will take us up to Christmas and you have paid up to end of Jan. That would not be too bad unless when the court order to remove you comes through you are then ordered to pay the landlord's costs and lost rent - you need a property lawyer or Shelter to tell you if that is a risk. if it is then the sooner you go the better. If it is not a risk then the longer you stay the better.

Meanwhile can you find the thief agent and sue them for the money? You could try moneyclaimsonline if you have his address and sue on line and then send bailfiffs to seize his car but it sounds more likely he will disappear and his assets. It may also not be so simple as the LL says. It sounds like the landlord may have given some kind of authority to the agent to let as they had the keys. Do not assume what the LL says is right. The LL may have authorised the EA to let it and thus you can stay but the LL has a claim against the EA. That would be simpler for you - you stay to end of Jan where you paid up to and LL has a claim against EA IF LL had authorise the EA to let.

ListenToYourHeart Sun 21-Oct-12 21:26:09

The tenancy has the estate agents name and signature on it but also has the LL's name and address written in under LL details.

Oh ok yeah I know she can't just throw us on to the streets however can we really be made to pay the lost rent too? Going to see a solicitor tomorrow so I'm going to bring that up - Thank you.

The estate agent has left hes house, have heard he has stolen in excess of £25,000. One of the other people he stole from went round hes house and by looking through the letter box it was empty.

The police have given us contact details of a insolvency company to call monday that are dealing with the case.

Ok that makes sense, I do think she is lying to be honest as in all 3 times I have spoke to her she has changed her story, firstly she told me the EA changed the locks and thats why he has 4 sets of the keys, then she said she gave him one set of keys and he has made copies, then she told us that he had the keys to arrange something with the previous tenant.

Thank you for your help, Just hoping we get some answers tomorrow and some RL help.

Xenia Mon 22-Oct-12 07:31:28

I think don't believe the LL immediately as the legal dispute may be between LL and EA and if there is any hint the EA was authorised to let then the LL has a claim against the EA, you haev a right to stay until end of Jan as you paid for that and then you lose no money over this. However as I said above avoid staying and then being outed by court order and having to pay LL costs of that - so the lawyer will help you decide which is the less risky course.

"estate agents name and signature on it but also has the LL's name and address written in under LL details."

So it looks like the EA signed on behalf of the LL which is very rare. Did that not look a bit strange to you? If I signe a contract with XYZ Ltd and they are named but under signature ABC signs it that would look weird. Is there any landlord signature on it? I am just trying to get at whether there was anything to make you realise when you signed it there was something strange going on which is what would be looked at if it went to court? I think no one would expect you to know there was anything strange and that the EA had obviously originally had some authority from the LL to let it but even so it is the landlord who signs always so there may be an argument you were put on notice by the strangely signed document that something fishy was going on as the LL had not signed the document. May be not. Could go either way . Good luck with it.

xkcdfangirl Mon 22-Oct-12 08:01:40

How awful! You obviously will need to try to find somewhere else to move to come February, but in any case stay put until you are legally forced to quit. You are a completely innocent party - the estate agent has stolen thousands of pounds from the landlord but that does not make you guilty of anything. I doubt any court would oblige you to pay costs unless you stay beyond February, as you have no real choice and have already paid the rent - it's not your fault the Landlord stole it.

You cannot be just thrown out onto the street without due process. However, if you leave without having secured alternative accommodation you will get less help from the council because they will say you "have made yourself intentionally homeless". If you can find a new place to go to in Feb and move then that that is fine, but otherwise you will have to wait to be actually evicted as then you will be considered properly "homeless" and the council will definitely have to accommodate you.

marriedinwhite Mon 22-Oct-12 08:17:09

Oh you poor girl. Get as much professional advice as you can from Shelter/CAB/solicitor/housing office.

I don't see what's so unusual about the EA signing the lease Xenia. This is fairly commonplace and it isn't unusual at all in my experience for the estate agent to sign when they are acting as managing agent. There is a separate agreement between the landlord and the agent.

mycatlikestwiglets Mon 22-Oct-12 09:48:58

I agree with marriedinwhite that there is nothing strange or untoward about the agent having signed the lease on the landlord's behalf - that's what often happens pursuant to an agency agreement. The agent has the authority of the landlord to sign and the legal effect is the same as if the landlord has signed.

I would think OP that in this case, you have a good argument that the agent, even if not having the actual authority of the landlord to sign, had ostensible authority - the legal effect is the same in that the landlord will be bound by the agent's signature. I say that because if it is true that the landlord was allowing the agent to market the flat to prospective tenants, there's a good chance a court would consider you as being entitled to assume the agent was authorised by the landlord to sign a letting agreement on her behalf. That will protect your position in relation to the landlord - any issue over the agent having run off with the rent is therefore her problem, not yours. Don't just take the landlord's word for anything, try to get as much independent advice as you can as others have advised above.

Xenia Mon 22-Oct-12 13:02:06

Good point. So the question would be if that point is raised and lost and she has to pay costs and pay back rent is that so risky a result it would be better to move out sooner or is it likely to be won and worth staying put until end of Jan to which the rent was paid and say - LL's problem to recover money from their thieving agent, nothing to do with tenant.

ListenToYourHeart Mon 22-Oct-12 21:08:52

Xenia - At the top of the contract it says EA details xxxx Then it says LL details xxxx Then at the end of the contract it says LL/EA Signature: (this is where the estate agent has put hes signature) then there is my sinature and my DP's.

I had no reason to thin the contract was illegal/fake etc, my FIL was there who has seen many tenancy agreements and even he read over it and has said it looks legal.

We have explained all this to the LL but she would not even look at it she just kept saying the EA had no permission to rent us her flat.

I really dont want to be taken to court as I'm already so stressed about it all and if I could avoid that happening it would be such a relief.

Spoke to the housing again this morning but they were very un-helpful they have basically said come back when your served with a eviction notice even though they told me on friday to come in today so they could see the tenancy etc, There only other advice was to start looking for another private rented flat/house however we don't have any money for a deposit or rent upfront at the moment therefore were going back to citzens advice tomorrow.

The police have told us today that there is a chance we could get some of our money back however all the infomation is still being processed and the company who are dealing with it have not recieved the paper work yet - I dont know if that means that the EA has been caught or not.

My main worry is that if we are taken to court they make us pay rent to the landlord ontop of what we paid to the EA as we really could not afford that.

Thank you again for all your help.

marriedinwhite Mon 22-Oct-12 21:28:10

OP. You need to be calm and rational about this. How did you find the EA - was he or she working from a bona fide office with signs, etc., or was it just via a small ad or gumtree or something. How did this person present themselves?

Rationally and logically I would write a little log about everything that happened from the first day. Make it precise and concise. Write to your local councillor and your MP - see if they will take up your case and if they will provide you with advice. You need someone who will be able to review all the facts, look at what has happened, to point you in the right direction as your advocate and generally to act as your advocate. This might be a good place to start.

All will end up well; this might be your first step on the ladder to proper social housing.

Good luck - with love.

ListenToYourHeart Mon 22-Oct-12 21:44:29

The estate agent has been trading in my town for 10+ years he has all of a sudden turned to fraud and in total now owes thousands according to the police.

I knew 2 people who knew the estate agent personally and are so shocked by he's actions.

Thanks for that advice though, I have started to keep notes of everything and nothing down everything the LL says as well as the managing company and the police.

I didn't think about contacting the local MP - thanks, I will get on to that tomorrow.

It don't feel like we have a chance in getting social housing as the housing just seem to advise in us finding another private rental.

izzyizin Tue 23-Oct-12 00:39:40

You've acted in good faith throughout and have proof that you paid 6 months advance rent to a well-established estate agent who you had no reason to believe was not acting on behalf of the landlord.

Regardless of the fact that the EA failed to hand the relevant sum to the LL, given you have proof the rent for the property is paid up until the end of January I cannot see that the LL has ground to serve you notice to quit at the present time. If the LL were to institute proceedings for possession of the property she would be hard pressed to succeed in any claim for unpaid rent.

The demand for social housing being what it is your local housing department are unlikely to be of much practical help to you until such time as any possession proceeding are at an end and you have notice of eviction/are evicted, but please be aware that if they accomodate you it may be in a B&B or other property which may cost more than you are currently paying.

Are you on your local council's housing waiting list? If not, you're best advised to register asap and to wait to see whether the LL proceeds against you before taking the matter up with one of your Ward Councillors.

At this stage I would again suggest you wait to see whether you are served with any notice to quit before raising the matter with your MP.

Try not to worry too much as there is no way you can be legally removed from the property without due process of law and you may find it alleviates your stress to avoid taking much notice of the LL and her bluff & bluster.

fuckwittery Tue 23-Oct-12 00:49:16

I'm wondering if the Property Ombudsman could help you www.tpos.co.uk/index.htm

Or any professional regulatory body the Estate Agency was registered with
www.naea.co.uk/
or
www.arla.co.uk/

worth ringing round. Poor you. Have you been to the CAB? Are you eligible for legal aid for a solicitor? (you mentioned seeing a solicitor, are they a housing specialist and have you got legal aid for the help?)

SavoyCabbage Tue 23-Oct-12 01:00:17

What a horrible situation.
the LL is probably as shocked as you are at the moment and is looking for someone to blame and that why she's acting like a fool now. Try not to take too much notice of her at the moment until you get some legal advice.

mycatlikestwiglets Tue 23-Oct-12 11:12:07

Really try not to worry about this OP - the likelihood that you will have to re-pay rent which you can show you've already paid is very low imo. You're as much (if not more) of a victim as the landlady here - and I reiterate that if the landlord had instructed the agent to let prospective tenants view the flat, there is a good likelihood of it being established that they had ostensible authority to sign a lease on the landlord's behalf. The landlord is clearly hoping to intimidate you to get you to move out. Be sympathetic to her situation but make clear to her that you consider you have a right to be there.

In your position I would absolutely be waiting to see whether you are served with a formal notice seeking possession of the property and take it from there. You are entitled to assume until then that your tenancy stands.

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