First time land lord here and would love to hear your opinion on how to proceed next with what I suspect may be a case of fraud to enter contract.
About a month ago I advertised my property through openrent and have managed to find a tenant who has passed its rent guard reference with a moderate risk rating and enough income to cover the rent without a guarantor. On that basis I’ve proceeded with contract signatures and the move in date is mid August.
During referencing I wanted to double check the tenants income so I requested a copy of his 3 months bank statements. It all looked good, appeared to show rent payment coming out on time and salary coming in on time. Also showed a decent amount of savings. I have also requested 3 months payslips which were provided.
However I had a few red flags emerge over the past week.
I tried setting him up as a payee in my bank and the bank came back with the warning that his name does not match the account details. I was stunned by this as I copied the details directly off his bank statements
I read through the statements in further detail and noticed in one of the three that the transactions were from the month of May and then at the end of the statement there were 3 transactions from March! That rung alarm bells that the statement might be falsified. Then i checked all three statements and they all have the same number of transactions per month, even though the account is used as a current account.
I checked the PDF information on my Mac and saw in the metadata that the bank statement files had been edited by a PDF editing software. This I cannot prove as that mark may have been put there by the bank, even though I highly doubt it.
A few days ago the tenant even though having 12k+ savings requested to defer payment of the security deposit and first months rent to closer to the start of the tenancy.
He has been unable to produce a passport when asked. Instead he’s providing me with his driving license and claims the passport has been lost and that he will provide an employer reference to confirm right to rent.
Having been a bit suspicious, I googled his employer and discovered that the company was formed 3 years ago, and has a virtual office, so no one to call.
So I don’t know what to do. We have both signed the tenancy agreement but I have not been able to confirm right to rent and don’t have the deposit and first months rent sent to openrent yet.
I could be worried needlessly but I think there is something wrong going on here. Unfortunately I can’t see a way to prove it. Can I back out of the tenancy even though a contract has been signed but deposit not provided and keys not due to given for another 3 weeks?
What would you do about this?
Not sure about anything else you mention but you personally need to check and be sure he has the right to rent. If you don’t do this you can be liable for an unlimited fine or prison, so you should have been absolutely certain on this before issuing any tenancy. (Certain too, on all your other points before handing over your hard earned investment).
Cannot see how an employer’s reference adds up to you seeing evidence of his passport. To cover yourself further I would call up The Home Office just so you have a record.
With so many things not seeming as they should perhaps you should look for another tenant.
I don’t know legally, but if the tenancy has not started, (and great he’s not yet paid the deposit and first month’s rent so I that’s not an issue) don’t see why you can’t withdraw.
Perhaps someone else or OR staff can clarify.
Personally I would call OR asap and ask that the Tenancy be rescinded.
If you still want to persist with this person then start a new Tenancy once you are certain about everything you have mentioned and he has definitely passed all the checks with flying colours.
So I called OpenRent, they have taken the details and will be calling me back.
I have confirmed that the PDF information has been tampered with, as there is no digital signature from the bank on the statements. Downloading a statement from the same bank using my own account results in a file that is password encrypted and digitaly signed, with the Bank name as an author. His is not.
I am stressed beyond belief with this issue Debating whether to send an email to the tenant asking to provide accurate bank statements or not.
you now know you went about things in the wrong order. Consult a solicitor
I have called the NRLA and their advice was to call OpenRent and rescind the tenancy on the grounds of fraud evidence. There is a case open now with OpenRent and awaiting response.
To be fair, I would have thought that RentGuard would check these sort of things. The statements provided do not have a digital signature, have the bank’s password protection removed, their creation date is 2014 and a modification date on the day they were sent to me. I proceeded with the tenancy on good faith that the referencing report would be accurate and would have validated these items but it looks like they were missed.
Will update when I hear more from OR…
As usual Colin sums it up in a sentence!
We all live and learn, you were enthusiastic being new, and you won’t make the same mistake again. Sounds as though you are nifty with the IT side of things.
If he’s lied and you haven’t done Right to Rent then surely there’s no problem rescinding the contract. I hope so anyway. Good luck
Doesn’t sound like its that simple in rescinding the tenancy. OpenRent has responded proposing a tenancy surrender but that requires both parties to agree and sign a deed of surrender. The tenant has been pleading ignorance so far so not sure how far I can go. I have requested the bank statements are re-sent and will be validating them again to be 100% sure.
That sounds unbelievable. He’s lied and forged bank statements but you are not allowed to rescind contract and are expected to hand over your property to him?
How about just telling him you believe his paperwork to be fraudulent etc. so you are rescinding the contract forthwith?
Can’t see him wanting to take you to court.
What about Colin’s idea of contacting solicitor or back to NRLA?
Also. what about the Right to Rent?
A letter from an employer is not an acceptable form of proof.
I’ve reached out to a solicitor to see what they say…
Regarding right to rent, straight from the Gov. website, they need a photo ID (driving license included) and a second document from List A/Group 2:
A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check confirming the holder’s name signed by the person who employs the holder (giving their name and business address) confirming the holder’s status as employee and employee reference number or their National Insurance number.
Ok that’s interesting about the letter. Wouldn’t that be easy to forge though? ( Just commenting generally, not just in relation to your tenant)
Glad you are managing to get legal advice. It’s all turned into a bit of a nightmare before it’s even begun.
You made the classic error of focusing on his credit and forgot the basics.
never mind rentguard checking anything ,its down to you to check everything, go to a solicitor. ,he will check
What did the solicitor say?
I agree with almost everyone above - you should have done Right to Rent first.
The guy does not have a passport, but he has not provided a BRP. The question is - why? If he has it - why hide it? And if he does not - 99% he wouldn’t pass Right to Rent anyway, no matter how much tinkering with PDF he’s able to produce.
Check if someone can rent your residential property: https://www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check
Once you prove he has no RR, cancelling with Open Rent should be straight forward.
P.S. I’m assuming he is not a UK citizen, because if that was tha case, he woudn’t have any problems producing a pile of genuine paperwork for you from Social Security, HMRC, etc.
He does have a driving license and on it it states that place of birth is the UK. That’s why I was not too careful with obtaining all the right to rent docs, as it appeared to be ok. I’m working with him to resolve the issue so let’s see.
Right to rent would be the least of my worries. If you suspect fraud, even if not sure cancel the contract by any means and start afresh…
I would hear big warning bells. A passport is a legal requirement too or you as a Landlord could get in to trouble. Just wondering why you haven’t accepted his rent & deposit along with signing the SHTA at the same time. I’m sure some one will have the answers re you both having signed the agreement and can you turn back as I am not sure on that score. One thing I can tell you are some unscrupulous people around that will do anything to get the property. I had a couple turn up to view and wanted to do the deal there and then whilst displaying a massive wad of cash in his back pocket. After chasing up all references etc turned out the wonderful career he supposedly had, the company didn’t even have a letterhead and he went on to say he was always paid in cash, yeah right … Tread carefully here …
tread carefully??? Run run run carefully!!
Happened to me before. Tenant provided payslips, when I called the employer to verify his reference, they had never heard of him. It turned out the payslips were falsified. What sent my alarm bells ringing is that the job with the payslips was the NHS but he claimed he had a second job in IT, which sounded highly unlikely.
Never sign a tenancy agreement unless you have the first months rent and the damage deposit.