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  • Buy-to-Let

    Debts issue of old tenant

    Hello Tribe

    I have a new tenant moved. But the old tenant had thousand of pounds of debt and debt collectors been visiting regularly to claim the debt.

    New tenants are afraid that they may loose their stuff to debt collectors. I have advised them to show their ID and new  signed AST to prove its not them..

    If you had similar experience, I will intrested to know your experience and how to dealt with it.




    Yes you have done right  - They  have to prove its not them who is subject of the debt

    Also a signed generic letter from you perhaps to confirm all goods in the house are yours and any attempt to remove them will be regarded as theft and be reported to the police

    Give your contact number and a copy of the title deeds  perhaps to prove ownership

    The tenants should not let them cross the threshold

    If you also tell the head office address and also the client  that employed them to stop future actions

    Most will desist and stop sending letters and stop calling  or it becomes  harassment

    Some are a bit rogue though and have persistent bullying and rude staff who don`t take no for an answer.


    Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com

    Before it gets to the point of people knocking on the door though there should be a pile of letters addressed to the previous tenants warning of this action. 

    Debt collection agents often print their number on the back of the envelope so you (the landlord) can call them in advance to let them know they no longer live there.  If you are pro-active you may be able to help your present tenants.


    Tell the tenants to open the post and if it is debt collectors call the company and tell them they have moved.

    Have a copy of the council tax demand to hand to show anybody that calls that the previous tenants are no longer at the address.


    ``Tell the tenants to open the post``

    I believe this is an illegal  act


    Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com

    Possibly, but so is putting it in the bin as that could still be argued as delaying or interfering with the post.

    Having had my details and separately my address used fraudulently I now lean towards opening wrongly addressed post to prevent that fraud being continued or I receiving an adverse credit record.

    Writing moved on the envelope and putting it back in the post doesn’t appear to stop further letters from the same organisation.



    I suppose it depends if the intention to prevent fraud is a reasonable excuse for opening mail.


    You may wish to take the law into your own hands and that`s a choice you make

    But I don`t think you should incite others to do it and put them at risk of prosecution

    These letters should be marked   `return to sender` .

    The Royal Mail who are the authorised body will then deal

    Debt collectors have a legitimate and legal role to perform

    But if they overstep certain guidelines they can become liable for harassment

    It wont stop the letters automatically because they may get sent back without good cause

    Many debtors  mark up their own debt letters and return to sender to try to deflect attention and buy time

    So a debt collector may still call round legitimately if they suspect they have been given false information


    Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com

    Yes the correct course of action is to write moved on the envelope and put it back in the post but as you say many debtors will also do this so it doesn’t stop the letters or the bailiffs calling.

    Is it taking the law into my own hands?  The legislation says ....

    1)A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, he—

    (a)intentionally delays or opens a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post, or .....

    I would argue that a reasonable excuse is to prevent the address being used for fraud. I think it could also be argued that the letter is no longer in the course of its transmission having being delivered to the address on the envelope.


    Yes for fraud it may be deemed a reasonable excuse  - depending on the circumstances

    But we are not really talking about fraud here we are talking about debt collector letters

    I dont see a reasonable excuse here for opening those types of letters

    The relevant section is not the one you quoted in my view but this one below

    (3)A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.

    The detriment aspect is the named person would most likely not want you to know about their debt 

    Having people call at the door  is a pain yes -  but likewise its just part of life

    So I would let nature take its course

    Personally I wouldn't want to take up time  and potential worry in  opening it if I knew it was an offence 

    As you then have to spend more  time and worry trying to create  a reasonable excuse defence for your actions  .

    Far easier to just not  get involved really .

    Better just not to open it  and return to sender and save all that angst 


    Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com

    A new tenant is unlikely to know the name of a previous tenant and therefore will only know multiple letters are arriving for a named individual that they don’t know, even returning those letters does not stop repeat letters being received - recognised as envelopes are the same.  They will only know the nature of the letter by opening them.

    Return addresses on envelopes are frequently a marketing company that manages databases who can be slow in correcting inaccurate information.

    “Intending to act to a person’s detriment” - trying to establish why letters keep arriving is not intending to act to a person’s detriment, what you intend to do with the information in the letter determines if the intention is detrimental.

    Yes, having people calling at the door is a pain, when those people rarely believe that you are not the person they are looking for and wish to enter the property to look around to establish that you are telling the truth is a course action most people will wish to avoid, particularly if it happens repeatedly.

    In my view any individual has a right to take reasonable action to prevent their address being linked to adverse credit, to prevent bailiffs calling or to reduce the risk of the address being used for a fraudulent activity.  Opening an envelope that is believed to be correctly delivered with the intention to contact the sender to ask them to correct their database is in my view reasonable.

    Companies have a legal obligation to keep their details up to date, contacting them to advise a person doesn’t live at the address assists them to fulfill that obligation.

    A link has been provided to the relevant legislation and therefore the OP can read it and make their own judgement on what action to take.


    I understand your view . Life isn`t perfect and yes the current system isnt perfect

    But like so many other laws and procedures they exist for a reason

    There are  standard procedures in place to remove addresses from a database

    This has been strengthen recently with GDPR

    You can appeal if you feel you are discriminated against and apply to change credit records etc

    And yes its a long winded and a lot of time and hassle but the legal processes are there

    What you are doing is trying to alter  long standing recognised procedures backed by law

    You are wanting to short cut that system as you dont like it .

    I totally understand that as its frustrating for many reasons

    I think you are doing that though now more to justify your  original contention

    The Royal Mail though is the authorised body to open letters delivered incorrectly -   not you

    You or the tenant are as a rule not allowed to interfere with the Queens Mail

    Your defence has some merit but I dont think its nearly enough and would be dismissed in court

    A rather dangerous precedent would be set if a court accepted your defence

    100 of 1000`s people would take that as a reason now to just open other people letters

    They would just say in defence

    Oh I thought it might be a debt collectors letter and that is my reasonable excuse

    And they would then refer  to EssexLL v The Crown  2018 as their case law defence

    That is simply not going to happen in my view

    The recipient of the letter would surely say what you did , yes did act to their detriment

    I would if you opened my mail. I would say its none of your business and I am offended that you did and now you know all about my personal debts which is embarrassing to me . Please never do that again just return it to the Royal Mail . I seek £9.99 compensation me lud for the upset and hurt

    1000`s of people do open other peoples mail  I know and 99.9% will not get prosecuted

    But that doesn`t make the practice right or legal even if it is practical and common sense in your view

    If you want to change the law you should campaign for that maybe

    It would be a worthwhile campaign which I may well support for the reasons you state

    But in the meantime as the law stands  I think your defence is on thin ground


    Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com