The Landlord of the Property instructed the Agent to find suitable tenants.
The Landlord made it clear to the Agent that they needed to know if potential tenants were self-employed or foreign nationals as this had implications for the rental protection insurance they had in place.
The Agent did what was instructed ensuring that the Tenants they found were referenced by a third-party and in line with the Landlord’s specific requests. The Landlord then accepted the Tenants on the basis of the information provided by the Agent.
The tenancy commenced but unfortunately ran into problems as the Tenants lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They handed their keys back to the Landlord owing rent and, in their view, leaving the Property in poor condition.
The Landlord then raised a complaint against the Agent, arguing they had been misled regarding the Tenants’ employment status and, as such, wished to be compensated for the lost rent that they were unable to claim via their rent protection insurance.
When the Tenants wished to let the Property, they told the Agent that they were employed in construction, earning £48,000 each.
The Tenants completed the referencing form provided by a third-party referencing company in which both tenants said that they were self-employed. There was no evidence that the Agent knew that the Tenants were self-employed at this stage. Once the process was complete, the referencing company provided the report to the Agent to verify that the Tenants had passed the referencing and were deemed a ‘pass’ for the let. The report noted that the Tenants’ employment status as ‘self-employed’.
In addition, the to the report, the Agent obtained a previous landlord check that confirmed that the Tenants had paid the rent on time and looked after their previous property which they had been at for over three years.
The referencing report was not passed to the Landlord as the Agent considered they could not do so due to data protection obligations and instead confirmed the Tenants had met the letting criteria.
Paragraph 11g of the TPO Code requires agents to provide landlords with all relevant facts relating to the application to enable landlords to make informed decisions, regardless of whether the tenant has met, or failed to meet the referencing criteria.
It was evident from the Agent’s correspondence that they only supplied the outcome of the referencing and did not clarify any other information including the Tenants’ employment status which was clearly an oversight.
From the Tenants’ perspective, being unable to access government support at that time due to their employment status, placed them in a position where they understood the right of the Landlord to take back possession of the property when they could no longer afford the rent. They left their deposit for the Landlord, but this did not cover the entirety of the rent owed.
The cause of the non-payment of rent was due to the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the Tenants’ income rather than any intent to deliberately not pay. Furthermore, it was not concluded that the Agent had intended to mislead the Landlord but rather failed to consider the full contents of the referencing report. The complaint was supported on this basis and an award was made to support the avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused to the Landlord.