Ripped off

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 December, 1997, 12:00am

My recent experience in buying a flat has compelled me to conclude it may not be altogether a far-fetched claim to say that some real estate agents act unscrupulously to swindle the innocent.

I believe agents play a vital role in property transactions. An agent, as a middleman in the transaction, is required to tell his clients as much detail as possible about the property and provide accurate information.

Unfortunately, I was deprived of correct information when I signed up in May to buy a flat through an estate agent The flat was sold with a tenancy lease which was due to expire in September of this year.

Persuading me to strike the deal, representatives of the agent reassured me that the tenant would have to go when the lease expired. However, as I found out later, the tenant has rights to stay under local rules.

The more annoying thing was that the tenant had already owed the original flat owner several months of rent. This was not revealed to me until after I signed up the purchase.

In fact, the tenant refused to go and refused to pay rent. This has derailed my original plan to sell my existing flat and move into this flat.

After such a painful experience, I have serious doubts about the ethics of some property agents.

I would also like to call into question the grossly unfair practice of landlords having to spend so long in the process of evicting a tenant even if the latter is financially sound but deliberately refuses to pay rent.

The tenant in my flat has not paid a single dollar in rent since I became owner of the the property. To date, about $60,000 of rent is outstanding.

Yet, the tenant is staying comfortably in my unit, paying nothing at all. The family do not even bother to talk with me, on the phone or face-to-face. I have to turn to lawyers for help. My lawyer told me: 'People don't pay their rent, then move out and are impossible to trace.' Tenants who know their way around the local laws can make a considerable nuisance of themselves and yet remain within their rights. Is it fair? While tenants' interests should be protected, landlords' interests should also be taken care of.

Can I trust the Consumer Council, or better still, the Government to comment? NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED