Monday, 22 August 2011

Brent Housing Scams Alert

Brent Citizens Advice Bureau issued an alert on housing scams in the current edition of its Newsletter:

Clients are regularly reporting housing scams in Brent, which have a huge impact on vulnerable clients already struggling to make ends meet. Brent CAB is compiling evidence about these scams to help campaign against them. They include problems with landlords, estate agents and letting agencies.

Deposit scams are a frequent issue. Landlords often refuse to pay tenants their deposit back when they move out. They unjustly say the client has damaged the property or that they will pay the deposit back on a specific date. When the date comes, the deposit is not paid back. The landlord provides another date and keeps delaying the process. The landlord is meant to put the deposit into a special deposit account called a payment protection scheme so that they cannot access the money, but they often don’t. This means the client is forced to go to court to get the money back.

Another deposit problem often arises when clients pay their estate agent the deposit to give to the landlord. When the client leaves the property they ask the landlord for the deposit, but the landlord says the estate agent has it, whereas the estate agent says the landlord has it. The client is in a Catch 22 position and will again have to take court action to get their deposit back – this naturally costs time and money.

Letting agencies often do not fulfill their agreements. One of these provided a client with a contract for accommodation and said that work would be done to fix broken appliances by a certain date. After this date the client moved in but no changes had been made, including a shower which was still not working. The agency abdicated responsibility. This happens frequently in Brent.

Some Brent landlords dishonestly put their name on the client's tenancy agreement as a user of the property. This means the tenant has no security of tenure and can be evicted with very limited notice. In houses of multiple occupancy, if the tenant pays in cash and does not get a receipt each time or write it in a rent book, it is also possible they will lose their deposit as a landlord can claim it, saying they did not pay rent on a specific week, where there is no proof of payment.

Brent CAB has Housing Advisers available to help Brent residents with these problems: 270-272 High Road, Willesden, NW10 2EY Advice line: Monday-Friday 9.30am-5.30pm 0845 050 5250

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