West Midlands tenants worst for crime

Tenants in the West Midlands are the 'riskiest' in the country - committing more crimes in rented properties than anywhere else, according to one of the UK's largest insurers.

Sixteen per cent of tenants in the region break the law, compared with the national average of eight per cent, a survey by Axa found.

Sixty per cent of tenants admit to breaking the terms of their rental agreements, and a third have broken the law in relation to their tenancy.

West Midlands tenants also came out worst on the rate of noise complaints at 23 per cent compared with 15 per cent nationally, 13 per cent have sub-let without the landlord's permission, compared with eight per cent across the UK.

Twenty per cent admit smoking in the property, compared with 14 per cent nationally, the study of 2,000 people carried out online in June found.

AXA said that the 'riskiest' tenants in the UK would be West Midlands men aged between 18 and 24 and paying between £700 and £1,500 a month in rent.

It is warning landlords that they are leaving themselves exposed to the country's worst tenants by failing to carry out basic checks.

AXA Business Insurance managing director Darrell Sansom said: "During the recession, we saw a significant increase in the number of accidental landlords – people who never expected to rent out their property, but couldn’t sell a former home or needed the additional income. With a booming rental market, they aren’t going anywhere.

“When you first start renting out property, you may not realise all the legal implications and duties involved. Last year, for instance, we found that a third of these landlords are, often inadvertently, breaking laws on safety checks, and a quarter have the wrong or no insurance.

“In addition, landlords are under more scrutiny and subject to heavier legal penalties than ever before. HMRC launched a crackdown on landlords whose tax affairs aren’t in order this March, and May’s Immigration Bill introduced fines for landlords who fail to check a tenant’s right to be in the country.

“While legislation toughens, we need to make sure that enough is being done to inform and educate landlords too. Certainly, our experience is that many new landlords aren’t wilfully failing in their duties, they simply aren’t aware of all their obligations and commitments.”

Tenants in the West Midlands emerged as the most pet-loving in the country. They were more likely to have pets on the property despite breaking their rental agreement at 27 per cent, compared to a national average of 18 per cent.

They came out just above average for doing a moonlight flit – 11 per cent compared to 10 per cent nationally and for late rent payment at 26 per cent were dead on the national average.

Landlords carry a legal responsibility to ensure that their premises are not used for criminal purposes and under the Misuse of Drugs Act can face prosecution if a tenant is found to be producing cannabis or banned substances on their property.

In October, the new Immigration Bill is also set to come into force, placing greater responsibilities on landlords to vet their tenants. Under the new law, landlords who fail to check a tenant’s right to be in the country will face a fine of up to £3,000 if the slip-up means they have someone on their property who is in the country illegally.

The research found that 38 per cent of landlords carry out no checks on prospective tenants, and only five per cent carry out a criminal record check. Meanwhile, a third of landlords never visit their property during a rental.

Just under a third of landlords carry out a credit check (31 per cent), ask for employer references (27 per cent), or ask for references from previous landlords (29 per cent).

See also: Tipton couple in £21,000 benefit fraud are jailed.