A landlord fears he could lose his home after claiming to run up £30,000 in rent arrears.

Max Christian (pictured, above), from Stockport, signed up his three-bedroom Camden flat with Camden-based London Residential in March 2019 but only received the first quarter’s rent. The agency refutes this (see below) and say he did this only on a tenant-find basis.

Christian tells LandlordZONE that his nightmare began later that year when he discovered the original tenants had moved out and one of the letting agent’s employees had moved in. 

“I eventually got them out by having their two Mercedes ticketed on the private forecourt and got the flat sold STC last year through another agency,” he explains.

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“Then just before completion, new squatters appeared and new high security locks were installed so I couldn’t sell it with vacant possession. London Residential then rang to suggest I use them instead to sell the flat, as nobody else could access it.” 

‘Squatters’

These people have now been in his flat for nearly a year and Max is owed more than £30,000 in rent arrears.

He’s handed the firm a Section 8 with the help of Landlord Action, but the situation is also complicated by the fact that the tenancy is in the name of the letting agent’s co-founder who lives in the States and therefore beyond the reach of the county court order Max obtained. London Residential says this tenant used to be a director of the company but is no longer involved.

Max says Landlord Residential has twice acknowledged that the second set of squatters are under its control – which the agency denies – once by offering to sell the flat with vacant possession and once by saying they won’t leave until forced by law. A recording of the conversation is available on YouTube.

Adds Max: “I just want my flat back so I can sell it and pay my bills as I have a mortgage on my own house too. I find it incredible that the law protects their rights more than mine, but I’m not going to give up.”

The experience has left him vowing never to let out a property again and resigned to the fact that the rent arrears will never be paid.

London Residential says

The agency says it disputes the claims made by Max Christian:

  • Mr Christian instructed our firm solely on a tenant find basis – a very important point – and elected to manage the tenancy himself when his tenant moved in during October 2019, and not in March 2019 as alleged. Mr Christian was responsible for full dealings with the tenant from the commencement of the tenancy in October 2019.
  • The tenant paid his rent for the initial six months, not three months as stated in the article.
  • When the initial lockdown started in 2020 he fell into financial difficulty at this point, not in 2019 as stated by the article. Negotiations between the Landlord and tenant failed to find a resolution and the tenant retains possession of the property.
  • London Residential have never been in control of anyone living in this property and this seems to be a case of the tenant allowing guests to stay in the flat.
  • As the Landlord has given possession of the property to the tenant, it is not a case that this property is being squatted in. The reference in the Article to squatters is pejorative and inflammatory the purpose of which is merely designed to damage the reputation of London Residential. A Section 8 notice has been served on the tenant but by a different firm of solicitors than mentioned in the article.
  • The Tenant was briefly a Director of London Residential 15 years ago but since has no involvement with the company and any suggestion that he is involved with the business is incorrect.
  • Whilst the article references that Mr Christian is taking legal action to recover possession of the property he had previously attempted to force this issue by changing the locks to the flat which the tenant has reported as a matter of harassment. There are clear laws in place that govern the eviction process and it is unacceptable for any Landlord to take matters into their own hands.

12 COMMENTS

  1. The first time we used an agency (after doing it ourselves for 20 years!) they installed a tenant who hadn’t given references, didn’t have a permanent job, had a dog (not allowed) and hadn’t actually signed the lease! Unbelievable. He did sign when we went round to see him, thankfully, and turned out to be a good tenant. No thanks to the agency.

  2. Why any of us continue to be landlords is beyond me. None of the laws protect us and debtors are actively encouraged to continue to ‘steal’ property by not paying rent. My latest round of ‘problem tenants’ are those who move partners in. That means those people aren’t referenced, I can’t buy a rent guarantee and I’m not insured if anything goes wrong. Citizen’s advice have suggested I evict the original tenant. …………………. hello? Earth to Citizen’s Advice. If only the law would allow me to.

    • If you are able to obtain RGI for your tenant which I would be amazed if you could then any illegal occupier will be removed at the same time as a rent defaulting tenant.

      Of course not referencing the illegal occupier could cause problems

      Say the property burns down and the insurance company finds out the illegal occupier was a former arsonist.
      Do you reckon the insurance company might cite that such a material fact wasn’t advised to them and they decline the claim!!

      This could happen to any LL where there is an illegal occupier.

      Being a LL is a very risky business that very few LL appreciate.

  3. Max Christian’s story is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, this is modern UK for you. Landlords are easy targets and it is all the fault of the government and the law – all regulations are working against the landlords. Judges’ rulings are in favour of the tenants. The tenants could stay in a property for upto 18 months without paying a penny., wreck your property not only leaving the landlord with huge rent arrears but large bills to put the property back into a condition to re-let yet to be wrecked again by the next tenant! Time to leave the Private Landlords’ market. Let the government including the councils take care of the homeless on UK’s streets – that is, if they can afford to do so especially those councils such as Croydon who have no money – they are bankrupt!!

    • It is not so much as leave the PRS it is avoid AST tenants.

      Just take in single unrelated lodgers.
      Stay at your property once a month then no tenant rights.

      Eady to get rid of lodgers.

  4. this country has become a scam heaven. non paying tenants scams. utility companies standing charges scam. parking scam. debt collector scams. phone scams. law is too soft and criminals are always 10 steps ahead of the law. if all these bad things finish then who will pay the deep pocket coutrs salaries. so they keep people fighting and keep making money at the expense of you. theres no future as goverment keep making easier for crimnals to run these scams.

  5. The PRS is difficult for landlords but the lesson of this heartbreaking story is to avoid agents and if you have to use one make sure you check them out THOROUGHLY. There are as many terrible and sometimes downright crooked (as in this case) agents as there are bad tenants.
    Surely in this case it should be the agent who is being pursued through the courts for their appalling (fraudulent?) actions? Especially at the moment when it is next to impossible to get tenants out. The landlord had a contract with the agent, the agent broke it in the worst way possible.

  6. I sympathise fully with Max Christian. What a situation the Agency has got him into ?Obviously they broke his trust.
    Letting direct may be a solution as suggested by some, but it may not be feasible for so many landlords for
    various reasons.
    In these dire circumstances, my suggestion would be to get some reputable and well know Agents to let your property, even at a slightly higher cost (as it is with the new legislation in place, they have rocketed at unaffordable highs), and ensure that the refernces have been properly carried out. As Ram Khullar put it, in order to maintain or reduce homelessness, the Government and Councils will at some stage have to take action in favour of Landlords. Keep fingers crossed Landlords.

  7. An estate agency can only operate if it is part of a redress scheme, If the Max’s claims are correct the redress scheme should bar the agency from operating and close it down. Squatting is now a criminal offence and I believe that you can evict without knowing the names of the individuals occupying the property. If Landlord action cannot advise on this there are several reputable companies specialising in eviction law who I hope would.

  8. Always get a Guarantor whio is a UK Home owner and in Full Time employment whilst letting during the Covid period. Otherwise sell up ! I had bad experience with 8 letting agents who tried to off load me without vetting and checking tenants credit file properly. Tried to give me one Tenant with a CCJ. I always ask to double check 6 months bank statements together with I insist on visiting where the tenants are living. As I need to see history of rental. I always go into letting agents office and check everything online they have done.
    MOST landlords do not bother with this and this is their downfall and you are heading for disaster. One Letting agent was bringing round evicted tenants and taking a back hander. Others bought round cannibis growers these were national high street estate agents ! ALL landlords need to do all their own due diligence !

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