Tenant Kevin Rogers had been living in a posh two-and-a-half thousand pound per month apartment in Kensington for months without having paid a penny for it.
The property belongs to high flying investment banker Franco Smith living in Asia who let out his £2.5k a month property and let it be managed by local estate agents.
This estate agent found the tenant, Mr Kevin Rogers who offered to pay the whole six months up front, he gave a cheque for £15,000 and signed the tenancy agreement, he was given the keys to the plush property in Kensington, London and moved in immediately.
A few days later the cheque bounced.
The landlord was enraged. The police were called. They went to the property and were shown the agreement and swiftly told the agent there is nothing they could do, it’s a civil matter and they would have to instruct tenant eviction specialists.
These tenants like Mr Rogers who are regarded as “seasoned tenants” who surf from property to property looking for a landlord like an eagle waiting for the amateur landlord, looking to take advantage.
They understand the difference between civil and criminal law they know they cannot be sent to jail because it is a civil offence, and the truth is many landlords are just simply not bothering chasing tenants for the money once they have got the possession order and got them out of their property.
What landlords are basically saying is that, well it simply isn’t my problem anymore, as long as their out of my property I don’t care. This attitude is having a detrimental effect because just imagine what the tenant will be saying to his friends, “I know a landlord, I lived in his property for months without paying a penny, he was a right mug” and well you can imagine who the next tenant calling up to rent their property is going to be.
The process to get a tenant evicted can potentially take several months, and unfortunately for the landlord Mr Smith, it did.
Speaking to the landlord he said: “I went to the Police, they refused to help, they said they couldn’t do anything as it is a civil matter. I feel like I have been mugged for thousands of pounds in broad daylight and there telling me it is not a crime, it’s beyond ridiculous.”
The process for Mr Smith therefore was to wait until the tenant had missed two months’ rent, before contacting our eviction company who served a section 8 notice giving the tenant two weeks to pay the arrears or move out of the property.
The tenant who it transpired had been evicted by us before, so he was given a friendly call and was told directly that we know his game so stop trying to take advantage of this landlord.
His response was what you would expect from a professional bad tenant he said: “I am willing to move out of the property but Kensington council have told me stay put until the bailiff are instructed, they told me not to leave.”
Over the following weeks the stress built on the landlord and the agent. The next steps was to apply to court under the section 8 to get a possession order from the county court Judge. The date was set, the hearing was to take place in Central London in six weeks time.
The court day arrived, we had the landlord calling from Tokyo calling for updates regularly throughout the day. The documents were prepared a solicitor was instructed who accompanied the agent for the hearing.
But the hearing failed to take place. The tenant sent a last minute fax to the court claiming he was in hospital with an “emergency appointment”. If you’re a landlord I’m sure you can imagine the anger and disappointment that was emanating from the landlord and his agent.
The Judge said he had no choice but to adjourn the hearing to the “next open date after 14 days”, which was six weeks later.
We contacted Kensington Council and asked them to enlighten us why they couldn’t re-house a tenant who is clearly waiting for the bailiffs and draining the landlord.
Emma Strugnell a Kensington and Chelsea Council spokesman said: “In general terms, we encourage tenants to contact us as soon as they become aware of a housing issue. An initial assessment is carried out to assess whether we have a duty to provide temporary accommodation when the tenant becomes homeless.
“A tenant who holds an Assured Shorthold Tenancy is entitled to remain in their current accommodation until a possession order and bailiff’s warrant is issued.
“If the applicant is considered eligible for Council assistance, they would be offered temporary accommodation on the date the possession order expires. Usually, the only people who wait for a bailiff’s warrant are those that we cannot help or those who are not happy with our offer of temporary accommodation.”
The hearing eventually took place weeks later and the Judge granted the possession order immediately, the tenant tried his tricks and excuses but thankfully the Judge saw straight through him.
He didn’t leave however, he waited for the bailiffs to be instructed, which was four weeks later, on the day of the eviction he sent a last minute appeal to stop the eviction which was heard and dismissed.
The tenant was finally evicted.
The struggle between finding the right balance between landlords and tenants goes on, we spoke to Shelter a homeless charity about tenants who are on purposely abusing the system and to give us a better understanding.
A spokesman for Shelter said: “Tenants are becoming aware of the laws but there are 1500 rogue landlords who are repeat offenders and many withhold tenants deposits.
“Recent research by us revealed that 38% of families with children who are renting privately have cut down on buying food to pay their rent.”
The current financial climate and the changes in law has made it more difficult for everyone. We have found the majority of tenants are fine and reasonable, some without any fault of their own are going through hardship.
This case with the tenant is an extreme case but there are tenants like this out there, you do not want to be one of the landlords who ends up with one. What this highlights for landlords and agents is that if they do not do their checks properly, if they don’t put certain procedures in place they can be taken advantage of and they will be taken advantage of.
*This case is a true case, the names of the landlord, tenant and agent are fictious and have been changed for this article to protect their reputation.