Here is a question to the blog clinic from Jordan who is a tenant
Me and my friend rented a flat in Liverpool, we signed a contract with a man who said he was the landlord.
We lived there for two months but one day we came back from work and found that the place had been boarded up. We could not even get to the door because there was a steel sheet over it. All our belongings were inside including computers and mobiles.
We called the person who we thought was our landlord and told him what had happened, another man who did not speak much English showed up and could not get in, he made a phone call and then left. We have not been able to contact anyone since.
We think we’ve been scammed by a bogus landlord and paid him a total of 3 months plus a deposit. Our stuff is still inside but we don’t know who to contact. At the moment we are lodging with friends.
Please can you give us some advice about getting our things and our money back?
This is an awful situation and I feel for you. It does indeed sound as if you have been scammed.
I suspect that you have little chance of getting any money back and so you should concentrate on getting your possessions.
The obvious people to contact are the police. They tend not to be very good though, I have to say, with landlord & tenant issues, and they may just tell you that it is a ‘civil matter’ and say they can’t help.
However you may as well make the report. You will probably need to do this anyway if you want to claim off your insurance, if you have insurance.
The other people to contact are the Local Authority. Tenant harassment and unlawful eviction is one of the things they are supposed to help with. See if you can find their tenancy relations officer.
You may also want to speak to the homelessness dept too, in the circumstances they may be able to help you find somewhere else to live.
You could also do a bit of detective work yourself and see if you can track down the owner of the property – the Land Registry is the best place to start.
By the way – if you can find the person who rented the property to you, you will be entitled to the return of your deposit and any rent paid in advance, and (if you take them to court) compensation for the eviction and your possessions.
However you cannot claim the rent for the two months you have lived there. As for those two months you did actually get what you paid for.
So far as your deposit is concerned, I imagine it was never protected in a scheme. However you may as well check, as it it was, you will be able to claim it back. You will find guidance on how to check here.
Avoiding the problem in the first place
All this begs the question ‘how can tenants protect themselves against this sort of thing happening?’
Ideally tenants should be able to carry out ‘landlord checks’ in the same way that landlords carry out checks against tenants. However I am not aware of any companies which provide this service.
The best way a tenant can protect himself is by only renting from reputable agents who carry the ‘SafeAgent’ logo and who belong to a professional organisation such as ARLA, RICS or NALS.
You should also check that they belong to one of the three Property Redress Schemes.
Note – You should also read the comment below from Ben Reeve Lewis who has far more experience in this than I do.