Landlord couple Udayanga Vitharana and Kumari Sujantha have been let down by their letting agent, legal representatives, the benefits system and the courts in their attempt to evict a wayward tenant.

The woman stopped paying rent last April but has been running a beauty business from the house in Crawley, Sussex where she has hosted clients during lockdown.

She’s been exploiting the benefits system by falsely claiming extra Universal Credit and also blocked the couple’s three attempts to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement.

The tenant now owes the couple more than £14,000 in rent, but last week a court threw out a Section 8 notice they had issued in May after the unlicenced legal firm representing them omitted to tell the judge vital facts in the case and provide important paperwork. They found out months later she had paid £50 to their account just before this without telling them, to ensure she wasn’t two months’ in arrears.

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Udayanga tells LandlordZONE that the tenant is using benefit and legal loopholes to stay in the three-bedroom property. He has no idea when they will get another court date – and in the meantime, they’re trying to pay two mortgages. “This issue has been very difficult for us mentally and physically over the past 10 months,” he says. “I suffer from a chronic illness and the stress caused by this is affecting my wellbeing.”

False references

The couple discovered she had given false information on her reference form which hadn’t been picked up by online lettings agency Open Rent. “She said she worked for a non-existent company,” says Udayanga. “We only wanted a professional person and wouldn’t have signed the contract if we’d known her situation – I expected more thorough checks.”

OpenRent says the couple’s complaint is being handled by its team. Founder Adam Hyslop tells LandlordZONE: “They are in dialogue with the customer and our referencing provider to determine what went wrong and propose a resolution to the customer based on those findings.”

The landlord couple then found out she had been claiming benefits for months – and it also transpired she was claiming for two people, receiving £750 instead of £480. The DWP is now investigating benefit fraud. “We finally started receiving direct payments in October but it doesn’t cover our mortgage,” he says.

Their tenant has refused access to the property since May and, as a result, an evaluation request was declined. “By doing so, she prevented us from getting a better re-mortgage deal,” adds Udayanga. “We are so fed up – we just want our house back.”

Read more about the problem of unlicenced legal firms.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The Landlord followed best practice and sought professional tenant referencing and are unlucky to find themselves in this position.

    However, I do worry that many smaller Landlords try to save a few quid up-front, cross their fingers, and opt for a cheap n cheerful tenant referencing service, that in effect are just collecting the information from tenants and then ticking the boxes, rather than really ‘deep diving’ into the tenant history for financial and character; I guess the old adages of ‘you only get what you pay for’ and then ‘act in haste and repent at leisure’, are the likely outcomes.

    Agents will increasingly need to be circumspect and check that their outsourced tenant referencing service is fit for purpose, and not just opt for the cheapest provider out there and assume that they have fulfilled the tenant referencing obligation to their client landlord, else I can foresee Landlord clients increasingly heading for the Courts to seek recompense from Agents who have ‘supplied’ poor tenants?

  2. I’m sorry but since when does paying £50 reduce arrears such that it isn’t a month of arrears.
    For a month of arrears to be removed the FULL monthly rent has to be paid.

    This will leave a month of arrears which means the S8 won’t be valid until 2 months of rent occur.
    It should be noted that 2 months rent arrears occur the DAY AFTER THE 2ND MONTHLY RENT IS DUE.
    This for where rent is paid in advance monthly.

    Reducing a 2nd months arrears by £50 does NOT invalidate the S8.
    The tenant is in a 2nd month of arrears even if by only £1

    So many in the industry misunderstand this.

    ONLY by reducing rent arrears to 1 month may a S8 be invalidated.
    £50 doesn’t do it!!

    • Its invalidated because the documentation gives the wrong valutation of outstanding debt plus it it has to be 2 months rent, by paying the £50.00 she will no longer be 2 months in arrears because one of the months has been part paid. Its a loop hole that really should have been closed many years ago. A proffesional solicitor would have picked this up as would a decent accountant who wouldhave notified the client of a recieved payment

  3. This situation is frightening. My heart bleeds for the Landlords. Where are the NRLA? In my opinion, in bed with the government. If tenants want to be treated with dignity, respect and courtesy they should treat the Landlord likewise and act according to the Contract they signed.
    We are lucky and have a very good tenant, we have mutual respect. If this is not given there should be a right to evict.

  4. Suppose the £29 fee, or whatever the ridiculously low fee was, for the online “letting agent” has come back to haunt them. Pay peanuts, you are lucky to get monkeys. The only problem I have with this article is the dig at letting agents …. the agent in question here is not a proper agent … they are cheap internet option and don’t do the industry any favours.

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