A student at Glasgow University has signed a tenancy agreement to a flat that is already inhabited, and is now unable to reclaim his deposit and first month’s rent, totalling £850, from the landlord.
Waqar Sadaat, an international student who is completing his masters in research in Electronics and Electrical Engineering, was in desperate need of accommodation when he arrived in Glasgow. Having found Douglas Swan, a Glasgow landlord, on Gumtree.com he arranged for a look around his prospective flat.
He told Guardian: “I didn’t have any accommodation in Glasgow, I was in London but I talked to the landlord on the phone.
“I told him that I was coming on Saturday, so would it be fine to take the flat at the same time? He told me ‘that’s fine.’ So then I went to the flat on Saturday and I met him, it was very good so I decided I would stay there. He told me: ‘OK, it’s your flat now.’”
At this stage the Swan produced a Short Assured Tenancy Agreement, complete with an inventory list, and asked Sadaat to pay a £425 deposit and £425 for the first months rent. Having completed the transaction, Swan promised the student that he could move in after two days.
Sadaat explained: “So I’m signing the tenants agreement, and he told me he has to do some work for the flat, some decoration. If I sign it I can live anywhere else in Glasgow for two days, and on Monday I can have the flat.”
“He told me that I should pay £425 for a deposit and £425 rent. So I paid £850 and signed the agreement and he gave me a receipt for the money. I called him on Sunday night, and he told me I should meet him at the flat on Monday morning.”
When Swan failed to turn up on Monday morning, Sadaat waited in good faith for four hours. It was only when he met the tenant who was already living in the flat that he began to suspect he had been conned.
“I went to the flat on Monday at 11am, and I waited there for four hours, and then I thought that maybe there’s been a misunderstanding – maybe he’s in a hospital or something. So I went to eat, and then I came back, and again I waited for an hour. Then I went to the flat and I saw another tenant leaving.”
It transpired that the tenant already living there had signed a similar agreement with Douglas Swan and had moved in that very day.
“I knocked at the door, and the tenant showed me his agreement, then he told me he also paid £850 and he got the keys today – he paid the same person. I was shocked. I’m becoming angry now, but I was just shocked at the time”
After that point Sadaat was unable to contact Swan, so he eventually went to the police. However the police were unable to help.
“He wasn’t picking up the phone, so I sent him a voicemail to say that I know there’s another person living there, so please phone me back, otherwise I’ll go the police. He didn’t call me back and I went to the police – they told me that it’s not a criminal offence, so they couldn’t do anything.”
Soon after Sadaat briefly got back in touch with the landlord, but without successfully recovering his deposit.
He said “The next day Mr Swan picked up the phone, and he told me that he will transfer the money to me through internet banking.
“After this, I waited for two days; I didn’t get any money. I then called him again, and he told me that he is going to meet me and give me cash, but he didn’t. He then told me he would forward a cheque, but I didn’t receive anything, and now he’s not picking up again.”
Sadaat said his next port of call would be the SRC Advice Centre, however they have forewarned him that they cannot guarantee they can recover his deposit.
Helen Speirs, Senior Advice Policy and Training Officer of the Advice Centre, helped explain the pitfalls of short tenancy agreements in Scotland.
She said: “Because there is no tenancy deposit protection scheme in Scotland, tenants here are all the more vulnerable to landlords making off with their deposits for no good reason.”