David & Goliath
In this article Pedro Caetano, Communications Manager at Vesuvio Labs discusses with Ajay Jagota, founder of Veriwise Ltd., how technology may support tenants who find themselves alone in clashes with their landlords and feel like David versus Goliath.
Renting accommodation has become the option of choice for more and more people. Flexibility is one key advantage, but there certainly can be expensive downsides, for tenants, as well!
Pedro started by asking Ajay to explain the impact of disputes with landlords and why he founded Veriwise.
Ajay explained, “There are around eight and a half million tenants with unresolved housing repair issues in the UK! Many of these properties fall below the accepted “decent standard”, and lots of which fail the “fit for human habitation” legal benchmark. These and other types of dispute, cause great stress and anxiety for tenants often leading to their serious illness. Tenants are often unaware of their legal rights, fearful of the costs of challenging their landlord, or to whom they can turn for advice”.
How does Veriwise fit in and help here?
We are here to help tenants in the private rented and social housing sectors. We use technology to provide them with affordable, accessible, justice. Veriwise machine learning intelligently identifies where landlords might have breached their legal responsibilities. It then “kicks off” a pre action procedure, established by the Ministry of Justice, which is designed to resolve issues and pursue fair compensation. Ajay went on to add, “We expect to sort out up to 50% of tenants problems by this point but if not, one of the panel of Veriwise selected solicitors will be appointed to act on the tenant’s behalf”.
“It really is Veriwise coming to “David’s” rescue then”, said Pedro, “but is it complicated or expensive?” Ajay explained, “no, far from it, the tenant simply goes on-line to us and is guided by a straightforward process that provides us with the essential details we need.
There are no heavy “up front” fees, because technology saves traditional labour costs, and this means that we can pay for the service by deducting commission and insurance fees from the compensation we receive on behalf of the tenant”.
Pedro then turned the discussion to the effects of CV19 and whether he felt that disputes with landlords might have exacerbated the stress felt by tenants during lockdown.
The damaging impact of the lockdown has been two-fold for those who rent their accommodation. First, those unfortunate enough to be living in housing with disrepair had to spend longer than normal in their homes making the effects of the disrepair on both their physical and mental health worse and second, any pending court cases have been suspended or seriously delayed.
The government has banned any evictions until the end of March which means eviction notices which could have started on the 22nd of February cannot now be served for another six weeks. But I then foresee a surge of evictions post-lockdown because many of us have fallen into rent arrears due to reduced incomes or jobs lost due to the pandemic.
Ajay emphasised, tenants ought to be aware of their rights as a renter and Veriwise will be assisting any tenant who has been served a notice of eviction. We will ensure that the correct legal procedure has been followed and help the tenant identify any areas that the landlord may have breached during the tenancy, either of which could halt the eviction process.
Pedro then looked forward to more normal times enquiring, “people talk about challenger banks and challenger insurers Ajay. Do you see Veriwise as a legal services challenger?” “Yes, I certainly do”, said Ajay. “Many tenants feel frustrated by a legal system that fails to fairly represent the interests of tenants and I believe this is nowhere more evident than in claims for housing disrepair.
Veriwise will disrupt this cosy arrangement for landlords and deliver access to justice by offering access to a simple to use platform, putting the control of the claim in the hands of the claimant. Veriwise smooths the progress of the claim and provides the financial and insurance products which tenants require to enable, if need be, their cases to reach the courts”.
Finally, Pedro asked about the people at Veriwise itself and about their career background. Ajay was enthusiastic in his reply.
“This an exciting new company, with a ground-breaking original product. But its people are experienced professionals having a variety of relevant skills. For example, the use of leading-edge technology to steer the business to offer an efficient and effective customer facing system. What binds us all is a shared culture of honesty and integrity; our people are empowered to get results. We are proud to feel that we are helping “David” in the struggle against “Goliath” and that is a tremendous inspiration to all of us here at Veriwise”.
The interview concluded when Pedro thanked Ajay for his time and openness during this most enjoyable discussion and wished Veriwise great future success.
Ajay has been involved in the property market for 25 years, creating new, exciting products and services within the private rental sector.
Examples amongst many, are an innovative homeowner guarantor process; he was the first to introduce the tenancy deposit insurance scheme, instrumental in removing the financial barrier and which enables tenants to enter or move within the private rented sector.
Ajay was part of the senior management team of one of the largest personal claim management companies handling over 10,000 claims a month.
His experience of both the private rented sector, insurance and claims management coupled with the know-how to create new products and services, led to the birth of Veriwise which will help provide access to justice for all tenants.
Vesuvio Labs is a Venture builder based in London for the Insurance and Finance sector, helping entrepreneurs by accelerating the process of turning their ideas into scalable products through our flexible, low-code software architecture.
In addition, we can connect entrepreneurs with investors, tax & legal advisors and to the wider tech ecosystem.
We would like to thank adviser Graham Ripley for his important contribution to this article.