May 25, 2016
The right people

Despite the fact that many people regard letting agents as more or less the same, there are in fact numerous selection criteria on which to judge the good from the bad, and the exciting from the mildly indifferent.

For example, there are many services and innovations which can make a difference to how effectively your property is offered for rental, and how the subsequent tenancy is managed. These could be the subscription to one or more of the key property portals, namely RightMove and Zoopla, a responsive and easy to use website, or the option to have floor plans and videos to name but a few.

However, despite the advances in technology, which we were typically among the first in the area to embrace, we still believe it is the people that make or break a service-led industry and that excellence in recruitment is as importance as achieving high rents and quick lets for our clients. 

You deserve a good service from your letting agent, and we believe this means regular and meaningful communication delivered by pleasant and personable people who are thoroughly on your side throughout the process. Of course, they may not always tell you what you want to hear, but then there are plenty of letting agents who will and we believe sincerity is worth more than flattery. 

We always recruit people who will offer our landlords honesty, who are genuinely “nice people” and who are driven to achieve the best results for our clients – trust me, such people are not very easy to find but they are out there.

But enough about that, it’s only what you should expect from your agent. How about “choosing the right landlords”? Believe it or not there are times when, as the agent, you simply have to say “thank you but perhaps you should try another agent”. It might be that the property is not fit for purpose, or the landlord is showing absolutely no regard for tenant welfare.

Many of you reading this will be current landlord clients and we deem each of you as “a genuine and decent landlord”. (We don’t just work with anyone you know).

Here are 3 landlords with a less than glamorous track record for customer satisfaction.

Nicholas Van Hoogstraten

Infamous businessman and property magnate Nicholas van Hoogstraten gives most dodgy landlords a run for their money. 

A judge in one of his many court cases branded him as a “sort of self-imagined devil who thinks that he is an emissary of Beelzebub”, and his devilish landlord behaviour seems to back this up. 

Van Hoogstraten was quick to send in heavies if rent was late or he wanted tenants evicted. He once tore the roof off a property to get rid of the tenant, and one lady came back from hospital to find that her home had been left open for looters to take what they wanted. 

The controversial millionaire once described Zimbabwe’s tyrannical President, Robert Mugabe, as “100% decent and incorruptible”, and remains close to the government of Zimbabwe, where he is now said to be the biggest landowner.

In the 1980s, he acquired more than 2,000 properties during the housing boom and described his tenants as “filth”. 

Van Hoogstraten faced multiple charges for harassing tenants in west London. He was accused of cutting off hot water and electricity supplies, kicking down doors in the middle of the night, and throwing tenants’ belongings into the streets.

However, it wasn’t just tenants that were terrorised by him. In 1968 he was jailed for paying a gang to throw a grenade into the home of a synagogue official and was given further prison sentences for handling stolen goods and trying to bribe prison officers.

In 2002 he was sentenced to ten years in prison for the manslaughter of businessman Mohammed Raja, who was killed by two men allegedly working for Van Hoogstraten after Raja had threatened to sue.

Van Hoogstraten was later acquitted, but was branded a psychopath in court and the dreadful way he treated his tenants cited as proof of his propensity for violence.

Katia Goremsandu

The 65-year old Bulgarian currently stands accused of being Britain’s worst landlord after she was convicted of an impressive seven housing offences in eight years — all while receiving thousands of pounds in housing benefit from her tenants.

Goremsandu currently tops the Ministry of Justice’s record of landlords prosecuted for providing poor quality or unlicensed homes; however, she claims she has been persecuted by her local council and her properties are deliberately vandalised by tenants envious of her wealth.

Goremsandu is the director of a property company registered in Kensington. Company records list her address as an apartment in a rather fetching Georgian villa in Bayswater, west London. 

At the time of writing, she owns eight properties in the capital, three of them run-down bedsits in the north London borough of Haringey, most of which have been financed with buy-to-let mortgages.

Fergus Wilson

The notorious Fergus Wilson, who kicked out 200 families on benefits from his properties to replace them with Eastern European migrants, once said coldly of his decision: “I have taken the decision to evict all families with more than two children and also three-generation households. 

Most of our houses in Ashford go to childless couples. However, after a couple of months there are four, five, six children and I have to evict the family. The tenancy has been taken by deception. We have had a number of eastern European families slip in under the radar with four, five and six children. We have had no British tenants with three or more children for some weeks. They have been evicted as I took the decision to no longer take housing benefit cases. All those British tenants with three or more children have long gone.

We’ve found [migrants] to be a good category of tenant who don’t default on their rent.”

Mr Wilson once told Channel 4: “I feel sorry for battered wives who have come to us because we’re very much consigning them to go back to their husbands to be beaten up again.”