New legislation and licensing is being brought in to crackdown on bad landlords, although it is the professionals who have to pay the price, However, could more be done to protect buy-to-let investors against rogue tenants?

In the news recently was a couple who decided to rent out their house in South Shields when they moved to another property. However their investment plan went awry when tenants left them with rent arrears and repair bills which they claim cost more than £10,000. They had to take civil action to get their house back. The couple admit that, with hindsight, they would have done things differently, but feel they could have received better advice.

This couple’s experience shows why landlords have to go through the proper procedures when letting their properties, such as conducting background checks and following up references. Using software to set up inventories, check-ins and check-outs, as well as rental payments, would also have been of great benefit to this couple. However, rogue tenants can still slip through the net, even when using a lettings agency. Landlord insurance would have been another safety net, as the couple could have protected themselves and their rental property against rogue tenants. Depending on the policy, they could have been covered from financial losses including malicious damage, rent guarantee and legal protection insurance.

Rogue tenants are finding ways of slipping through the net, including using well-known free-to-list advertising websites. The problem has been highlighted by campaign group Landlord Action, which suggests landlords should not use these sites because they are being targeted by rogue tenants. In a recent Channel 5 episode of Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords, Landlord Action founder, Paul Shamplina, helped London landlord Vicki McNaught to evict her tenant who was not paying rent. She used a free-to-list site to find a tenant, because it was cheaper than using a letting agent. However, she now says she will always go through an agency in future. She argued that the law needs changing, so landlords are less vulnerable to rogue tenants. It is thought that unscrupulous tenants target these sites because they hope there will be fewer checks on them.

Obviously, tenants need laws to protect them and make sure they are living in a safe, secure environment, but it is wrong that landlords are left out of pocket when tenants fail to pay rent, steal or damage property. Unfortunately, it is considered a civil matter rather than a crime, which means landlords have to take action through the small claims court at their own expense.

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