Exploiting DSS Tenants

Jumping on the bandwagon of exploitation stories of desperate LHA (Local Housing Allowance) claimants I want to tell my tenant, Nadine’s, story.  Last year, during the Harry saga  she texted me to say she wanted to talk to me personally.  It was either going to be “there’s a nasty smell from Harry’s room, can you investigate” or “I’m moving out”.  It was the latter.  I was absolutely devastated as she had been the gel keeping that particular house together over the last 3 years – I’d rather have investigated Harry’s room as he hadn’t been out for days.  How on earth was I going to sell a room when the USPs were a beautiful garden and a dying drunk upstairs?

Going It Alone

Nadine was excited as her elderly mum had given her £1,500 to get herself a flat of her own which she felt, at the age of 45, she was more than ready for.  She’d found one above a shop and turned down my offer to look at it and go through the paperwork to make sure she was getting a decent deal.  It was £500 deposit, £500 for first month’s rent by which time her LHA would kick in (God willing that the Housing Department would shuffle her application from desk to desk in a timely and orderly fashion).  She was so excited and I really did wish her well with a tear in my eye.

A month later she called me in despair, asking me to visit. It was indeed above a shop, along a narrow unlit alley, over commercial rubbish and up a slippery high set of steps.  The bathroom floor had holes in the floorboards so you could see to the damp storage unit below (not unlike medieval toilets, in fact) and shook if you jumped up and down.  Everywhere was cold and damp with mould growing over her clothes, her shoes and starting on the carpet.  Doors and tiles had fallen off in the kitchen,water was coming through the roof onto her bed and in the living room where the chimney breast met the ceiling.  On top of everything there was no smoke alarm or gas safety certificate for the boiler – it was absolutely freezing and desolate. Even her pet rats had a blanket over their cage!

Taking Action

She was at her wits end so I suggested she put her complaints in writing to her landlord, Baz, but his address wasn’t on the tenancy agreement.  So we called to arrange a meeting for which he was an hour and a half late and, acknowledging her independence let Nadine do the talking.  He was polite, even sympathetic and, when she went to make a cuppa, he turned to me and asked who I was.  “I’m her ex landlord and here to advise her” I said feeling smug – even smugger when I stood up and discovered was a good head taller than the slippery little bugger.

He assured her he’d fix everything and “no” she couldn’t leave her contract early.  It was let on behalf of a company who took tenancy agreements VERY seriously.  “Where’s her deposit registered then?  Where’s the smoke alarm and gas certificate?”  I was loving being sanctimonious, it suits me.  We left the meeting with him assuring her he’d fixed the problems and us assuring him that we’d contact Environmental Health if work hadn’t commenced within the next week.

Broken Promises

The next week came and went with no remedial work starting but I did get a phone call from Baz asking what Deposit Protection meant , did I have a copy of her reference I gave and could he buy me a drink!  Answer “Look it up on the internet, you didn’t ask me for a reference and absolutely bloody not!”  However, I got him talking and it turned out he was managing 200 properties for a company (flats and bedsits) and only let to LHA claimants (DSS) or foreigners “as they don’t know their rights”.  I should have contacted that company and bid for his letting contract.

The Professionals

In the meantime, Nadine sought advice from Housing and Legal Aid Centre who backed up what we’d already done.  She told them she had a Plan B as I hadn’t relet her old room and the advisor said “You’re lucky, love, most people I see don’t have a Plan B.  They have to live with Plan A”.  So, she got onto Environmental Health who stopped short of condemning the flat and confessed they’d had “dealings” with Baz before.  Nadine was still in her fixed term and was left to live in the flat – winter had set in and she couldn’t have been more miserable.

Then, one bright sunny day the following week Baz called me of the blue with the charming words “What do I have to do to get her out of
the flat within the next 24 hours?”.  “Her full deposit and any rent paid until the end of the month – you in trouble, Baz?!”  Nadine was delighted, we packed her bags and rats and moved her back into the cosy warmth of her old room, but not before slipping down the snowy steps to her flat!

The End.  Actually, not quite.  Nadine later found out that he’d painted over the mould and relet the flat to another LHA claimant within 1 month.

12 Comments

Filed under Tenant Stories, Uncategorized

12 responses to “Exploiting DSS Tenants

  1. Ben reeve-Lewis

    This may be by the by now but under Section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act if there is no address for service of documents for the landlord given to the tenant the landlord is not entitled to receive any rent.

    I would make sure Environmental Health go again too, and report the lack of gas safe to the HSE and just for good measure tell her to contact the tax man coz you can bet your life Baz aint paying tax on the rental income. It’ll be a nice little goodbye present

  2. Yes, I was going to mention the section 48 point as well.

    You could also consider contacting Channel 4 who I think are making a documentary to follow up their Landlords from Hell one. Although I expect they have been inundated with cases …

  3. Thanks, Ben and Tessa. Wouldn’t it be awful if I ended up on “Landlords from Hell”?!! Only joking, my tenants know what’s good for them. Baz told me he was a member of the NLA and I thought I’d waggle my index finger at him there without putting anyone’s accommodation at risk. I must just get a drink out of him first…………….. From my experience it’s the foreigners who are at the mercy of rogue landlords the most due to lack of understanding of the law and language.

  4. Ben reeve-Lewis

    Yes and foreigners are going to be even more exposed come the olympics. I tweeted out a story today somewhere about a website that advertsies properties, calling for deposits and rent up front that are clearly scams. The writer of the article says the evidence is that the rents being asked dont match the area. I think it was a flat in Millionaire’s Bayswater for £1,000 a month.

    The problem is that rents for the Olympics are going to be huge anyway so how will a savvy foreign renter check true rent? I think London’d landlords are going to get a bad reputation next year when the scams come out.

    • All I can say is that I’m very glad I’m not going to have to rent for the Olympics. Surely other hosting cities must have encountered this problem before – it’s us hooligan Brits all over again!

  5. Ben reeve-Lewis

    Nah it wont be Brits. It will be mainly Nigerians. They are called ‘419 scams’, a method of getting people to front up money to rip them off. It originated in Nigeria i believe but isnt restricted to that country exclusively and Nigerian friends and colleagues tell me it isnt even Nigerian based per se, being more based specifically in Lagos, and even then on a tribal basis.

    I dont pretend to understand it all I must confess

  6. An excellently written piece and typifies the types of exploitative landlands that require far to much effort from others to get them to carry out their legal responsibilties. I have a few such landlords here and I continually despair at the fact that there is nothing that can get them out of the sector. I

    If I could buy them all out, I would!

    Kind Regards

    Sharon

    Leasehold Life

    • Thanks, Sharon. I’m aware of the rising amount of crappy, irresponsible landlords who are out to make a quick buck from HMOs. The worryng thing is, that in our local paper, one used to find around 10 rooms a week being advertsied. This week there were over 20 and the room price had gone up dramatically with utility bills on top! I went for a nosey to an HMO recently where the landlord was charging an extortionate amount, there was huge amount of damp and (one of the tenants told me) he was trying to apply for a £2.5m loan to invest in more HMOs! The trouble is, if you’re trying to make a living as a landlord with mortgages on the properties, it ain’t going to work unless you’re fleecing the unsuspecting. I have too much respect for my tenants as human beings, which is probably why I don’t make much money.

      Thanks for reading and I’ll be posting more from “from the field” as it were.

  7. Looking forward to more postings 🙂

  8. Pingback: Church Helps the Homeless – Or Does It?! | A Practical Guide to Managing a House of Multiple Occupation

  9. Pingback: The Return of the Mad Czech! | A Practical Guide to Managing a House of Multiple Occupation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s