Landlord wins long-running case against agent after tenancy went wrong

A customer has won a payout from Sequence after the Connells brand was refused leave to appeal.

In a long-running case, amateur landlord Saul Shevlin brought action against Sequence after a tenant moved into his property, holding all-night parties to the dismay of neighbours.

He alleged professional negligence and breach of contract over the selection of the tenant and the management of the tenancy in the rental property that had been his former home.

He won the case, at Colchester County Court, which found negligence although not breach of contract, back in July 2016, but Sequence said it wanted to appeal.

However, permission to appeal has now finally been refused at Chelmsford County Court which said it had “no real prospect of success”.

Shevlin has now had his award of £8,462.14 damages, plus £410 costs, confirmed.

He told EYE this has now been paid. Sequence has declined to comment.

Both courts were critical of the company’s referencing procedure of the tenant, who moved into Shevlin’s property. The referencing company itself was not a part of the action.

Shevlin had a long-standing relationship with Sequence, starting in around 2010. Between then and 2015, he paid the agent to find him tenants – around five over the period – plus a 12.5% monthly management fee.

When a particular tenant was found, he would be told that they had passed referencing, and Shevlin would then get a copy of the report.

There were no problems.

However, in March 2014 he was told Sequence had found a suitable tenant, who was working full-time as a financial adviser and was a non-smoker. She had passed referencing.

The tenancy started, but Shevlin did not receive the referencing report, carried out by TLC, for 18 months despite requesting it some 20 times.

The tenant immediately fell behind with the rent, Shevlin alleged.

She moved in with a number of others, and held noisy all-night parties. Police were called five times and there were two arrests. Windows were smashed, contents vandalised or stolen, there was graffiti on walls, utility bills were unpaid and bailiffs made frequent visits to the property.

Shevlin said he felt the property was being badly managed and requested a Section 21 notice be served.

In April 2015 the tenant moved out – or ‘disappeared’ as Shevlin puts it as the agent had no forwarding address for her. The property was in a terrible state.

He had made a number of requests to see the referencing report but says the agent quoted the Data Protection Act and said he could not see it.

He approached TLC directly, and was emailed the full report. It was on this basis that he complained and then took legal action.

The referencing report had identified to the agent some risks – for example, the prospective tenant had used a different alias in the past.

In response, Sequence obtained a water bill in the tenant’s name which bore a copy of her driving licence. This showed both a birth date and an address different from those she had given the referencing company.

The landlord also said that the address of the employer was a repairs workshop, although the tenant had been described to him as a financial adviser.

The tenant had also said that she was unsure of her credit rating “as my ex-partner did silly things in both our names”.

There were no bank statements or wage slips.

The case, Saul Shevlin v. Sequence (UK) Limited, was first heard in June 2016 where Colchester County Court found Sequence to be negligent. It did not find the agent to be in breach of contract, with Shevlin having signed its terms of agreement which stipulated that Sequence would not be responsible for credit checks.

However, the court found that there had been a breach of Sequence’s duty of care, and ordered that the sum being claimed should be paid.

The court said that Shevlin had chosen Sequence because he wanted an agent he could have confidence in.

While TLC were commissioned to provide a referencing report, there were a number of ‘red flags’ which the agent should have investigated. Sequence should have asked for a further credit check to be made.

Had Shevlin known the full facts, he would never have accepted the tenant, he said.

It was also noted in court that management of the property was being carried out not locally, but by a branch in Norwich (of William H Brown) 70 miles away.

The appeal at Chelmsford resulted in the judge being in full agreement with the earlier ruling, and Shevlin says he has now received costs plus damages, relating to damaged and missing items plus unpaid rent, in full.

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10 Comments

  1. David M

    This is where “professional” agency over “DIY” has to deliver a professional service otherwise we all get tarnished.

    So easy to avoid and to show you care.

    All reference reports should be delivered to the Landlord 48hrs prior to a tenancy commencing, with the landlord given time to highlight his objections at the very least.

    The agency should re-visit their procedures and operational manager and identify if its an individual or process that went wrong rather than dragging it through the courts.

     

     

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    1. GeorgeHammond78

      ‘what went wrong’ …..Nothing; we see this with the corporates all the time – they did what they normally do, chased the commission without a care for their client.

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  2. Michael

    “All reference reports should be delivered to the Landlord 48hrs prior to a tenancy commencing, ” there is some Data Protection involved here though. Full reports will contain names & addresses of people, such as past landlords, which we can’t pass on without their permission. In our case we give the landlord the result of the report and discuss any grey areas but we don’t hand over the full report. Its a shame we don’t get two versions, one with personal details redacted so we could hand that one over.

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    1. GeorgeHammond78

      Sorry Michael but you’re just hiding behind the DP Act. If you have the proper processes in place and are properly ICO registered, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot give your client the full report. Not doing so, should (but rarely does) raise suspicion in the client. 

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      1. Dom_P

        Hi, I don’t think he is hiding behind the DPA at all, and the redacted suggestion is a very good one.
        If my tenants moved out and were referenced by an agent I didn’t know, I wouldn’t want them giving out my personal details to another Landlord who I had no relationship with at all, although I’d be happy to provide a reference for their records and to verify this on request. In any case, the agent should be able to provide the reference as they will have payment history and any repair works that were needed etc.

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        1. GeorgeHammond78

          Dom, given your standing with the readership here, thank you for your ringing endorsement….

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          1. Dom_P

            Hi George, I’m a little confused by your reply; I don’t think I’ve got a ‘standing with the readership’ as far as I’m aware?!

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  3. Beano200062

    Is this a regional thing? Having to show what you have done with regards the work the landlord entrusts you? I have been referencing 1000’s of tenants for 100’s of landlords for nearly 20 years and not ONCE have I been asked to provide a copy of the background/finance check. Once I have provided the landlord with basic details of the applicant….. that’s it, they either approve for referencing or they don’t. If they do….. they leave it in my capable hands….. Strange.

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    1. singlelayer

      Must be! I’m in North Lincs and I’m the same as you, Beano…

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  4. CountryLass

    I call the landlord and read through the report, if they ask for a copy then I check with the Tenant first before sending. I don’t think I have ever had someone ask though…

    To me, the refusal to give it over means that the agent knew there were issues and did nothing. I look at the referencing and credit checks and ask myself two questions.

    Would I be happy renting my house to this person?

    How much of a headache is this tenant going to cause me?

    People can pull the wool over my eyes, the same as anyone else’s, but I just have to be confident that I have done everything I can to make sure that I am putting in a tenant who is going to pay the rent, keep the property and gardens nice and not turn the neighbours into homicidal maniacs!

    Sorry Sequence, it sounds to me like you screwed up…

     

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