Tracing landlords

Chris Bird, of specialist tracing agents Heligan Investigations Limited, warns: "Most landlords will face periods of time when their properties are empty and this will now be one of their worst nightmares. Not only does the empty property represent an under-utilised asset but now it will also be a drain on costs as the rates will need to be met. Naturally some landlords are not going to accept the new rating regime lying down and will attempt to avoid paying rates at all costs.

"Some landlords may simply ignore rates demands. Ignorance is often bliss and ‘I haven’t received a letter’ or ‘I don’t know what this is for’ may become common excuses. Such responses are, however, short-term measures and may be merely a delaying tactic, often until a new tenant can be found.

"But what if a landlord has property vacant on a long term basis? A common ruse for non-corporate landlords involves family members being used as shields. Returned mail and unanswered telephone messages may be used to throw local authorities off the scent. Some will even claim that the landlord is deceased, abroad, or has moved out of the area with no forwarding address.

"Local authorities must not delay in tracing errant landlords because, with a small degree of forethought, they can easily vanish and become extremely difficult to find."