Expats relying on eviction services to regain their buy to let homes from tenants in rent arrears could be breaking the law.
A judge’s ruling has revealed that eviction services that handle repossessions of rented homes are acting illegally when they take a case to court.
The loophole was exposed in the case of Gill v Kassam.
Husband and wife landlord team Mr and Mrs Gill instructed a firm called Remove A Tenant to evict a tenant Mr Kassam from a buy to let home due to rent arrears.
Papers were filed with Birmingham County Court by Remove A Tenant and a possession order granted.
Kassam appealed claiming Remove A Tenant were not lawyers and could not act in court for the landlords.
Court rules say anyone can represent themselves in court, but if an agent takes on the role, they must be a lawyer, according to the Legal Services Act 2007. The act says conducting a case in court is a ‘reserved activity’ that only a qualified lawyer can undertake.
The judge found in favour of Kassam.
However, he decided the possession order should stand but pointed out the court papers filed by Remove A Tenant were defective and removed some grounds for eviction and that the couple might have problems enforcing the order.
The case leaves doubts hanging over eviction services that are often cheaper than hiring a lawyer.
Many are run by letting agents or debt collectors, so fail the reserved activity test.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is also like to come down hard on non-lawyers trying to act as lawyers.
“It may appear that these type of unregulated specialists are keenly priced and so a good deal,” said David Smith, of property law firm Anthony Gold.
“But the costs of their mistakes and the fact that they are not actually permitted to offer legal services leaves landlords at risk of far greater legal fees further down the line.
“To make matters worse their unregulated status means that there is little comeback for landlords if things go wrong.
“In the increasingly complex world of residential landlord and tenant law it is perhaps better to rely on a skilled firm of solicitors rather than an “eviction specialist” who is anything but.”
To be safe, only lawyers listed by the regulator should carry out legal work for landlords.