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zimnix
04-03-2010, 19:18 PM
Hi - I apologise if this is long winded but we really need some advice from someone who is on the side of the LL. The background is we live abroad (Africa to be exact) and rent out our house in UK using a reputable agent. T has had a 6 month contract & renewed for a further 12 months - has 7 months left but rent has been late (supposed to have a Stop Order) for 8 out of the 11 months they have been in our house! Agent insisted from the start that we didn't need a Letter of Guarantee as T known to them from a previous let! So we took their advice! (never again!) Agent always seems to be on their side and doesn't want to rock the boat with this difficult T.
We have a leak between house and garage (shuttering) which isn't causing any problems to their living conditions - other than a back door from kitchen to the garage which is a little stiff (leak above this door- garage side) - and we have obviously had quotes and agreed that we will spend the £2,000 getting the whole garage roof fixed to stop future leaking however not prepared to do this till weather is dryer/warmer. We asked for 3 quotes and they harrassed every single person who came to quote - so much so that 2 of them wouldn't give proper written quotes! When I asked my neighbour (who we have been friends with since we bought house) and who has had a similar problem in an identical house, T confronted him and was so rude to him for interferring that he asked us not to ask him to help again! So - the question is:-
1. T holding us to ransom regarding the leak when Agent phones to find out where rent is and getting very abusive with Agent because we won't give a fixed date other than April when we hope weather dryer/warmer - but we fear bigger picture is to detract attention from them not paying rent as per the Lease because of cash flow problems (T is self employed). T claims the bank is the problem - that they have the money in the account but Bank doesn't pay the Stop Order (this has been used as an excuse every single time rent late) - so we not buying this anymore. :mad: What can we do about this T as we would prefer that they were no longer in our house and we fear getting to a stage where no rent is forthcoming but we don't want to put ourselves in the position where the T ends up being the winner and us the loser and I'm afraid our Agent is a 'mouse':-

- Can we insist on a Guarantee retrospectively?
- Can we get some kind of assurance - signed acknowledgement of their debt - that they will pay the rent if we cannot get a Guarantee restrospectively? (Obviously they don't seem to think the Lease binds them to paying rent on time)
- Are we entitled to give them notice mid contract ? If so when and how much notice. (They have just started the 5th month of their 12 month lease)
- Agent suspects that they are likely to be a case where if they do go, final months rent will come out of their deposit - is there any way of avoiding this as Agent fears we will need the deposit to right damage in the house?
- Could they use the fact that the leak is awaiting repair against us? - from our point of view in what appears to have been a particularly wet and 'wintry' winter, we felt it not wise to have the roof of the garage off and timbers replaced and roof re-felted - never mind having to spend so much money on something we aren't able to inspect or see for ourselves and we have to rely on people with a vested interest (businesses quoting to repair) and an Agent who will do anything to keep T happy!!

There are other things too - but the above is the main issue.
Thank you in advance for any advice. We really do feel 'far' away in this circumstance - added to which we are 'first timers' !!
Zimnix

mind the gap
04-03-2010, 20:02 PM
What follows assumes that your T has an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and that the property is in England or Wales.

First, your agent should be working for you, not your T. He should be serving notice to the T on your behalf as soon as the rent owed exceeds two months' worth. Is that the case now?

If you have made arrangements to get the garage roof fixed in April, that seems reasonable and T cannot use this as a reason for withholding rent.

No, you cannot get a rent guarantee, or a Guarantor (not quite the same thing) at this stage. If you T owes you rent and you need the deposit to deal with damage he has caused, then you will just have to sue him for what he owes you using a moneyclaimonline. I doubt very much whether the agent will be terribly interested in helping you do this. You can issue the claim online but there will be a hearing which you may have to attend. Likewise, if your T refuses to move out when served a section 8 notice (requiring possession), you will have to apply for a court order and that will involve a court hearing too.

zimnix
07-03-2010, 16:40 PM
Mind The Gap - Thanks for your clarification and advice. Appreciate u taking time to respond. Yes house is in the Uk - IOW to be exact. And they have an AST so everything u say applies. We'll certainly never take Agents advice and wIll insist on any future tenant having someone Guarantee to pay the rent if T doesn't! Huge learning curve!

westminster
07-03-2010, 20:14 PM
Can we insist on a Guarantee retrospectively?
No.


Can we get some kind of assurance - signed acknowledgement of their debt - that they will pay the rent if we cannot get a Guarantee restrospectively? (Obviously they don't seem to think the Lease binds them to paying rent on time)
The contract already binds them to paying the rent. Doesn't matter whether T believes it or not. So you do not need any 'signed acknowledgment' of this fact.


Are we entitled to give them notice mid contract ? If so when and how much notice. (They have just started the 5th month of their 12 month lease)
You can't just tell the tenant he has to go mid fixed term. You have 3 options:
1. agree a surrender with T and sign a Deed of Surrender. This will end the tenancy. It must be drafted by a solicitor.
2. serve s.21 notice (which cannot expire sooner than the end of the fixed term - also the deposit must be protected in order for the s.21 notice to be valid).
3. assuming T pays rent monthly, and at least two months rent is owing and unpaid, serve a s.8 notice the day after the second month's rent is due and unpaid.

After either notice has expired, you can then commence possession proceedings.

See this thread which contains further links and information on s.21/s.8 etc.
http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=26660

You'll probably need to get a solicitor to do this for you, because you're out of the country, and you need proof of service (and it sounds like you can't rely on the agent). Ensure the firm is specialist in landlord & tenant law.


Agent suspects that they are likely to be a case where if they do go, final months rent will come out of their deposit - is there any way of avoiding this as Agent fears we will need the deposit to right damage in the house?
No, you cannot avoid T deciding not to pay final month's rent.


Could they use the fact that the leak is awaiting repair against us?

T could potentially claim against you for disrepair, but you have a strong and reasonable defence, so it would be highly unlikely to succeed.

Preston
07-03-2010, 20:55 PM
T could potentially claim against you for disrepair, but you have a strong and reasonable defence, so it would be highly unlikely to succeed.

I'm a bit less relaxed than Westminster and MTG on this one. If you have acknowledged that the disrepair is your responsibility then you must rectify it within a reasonable period of time. Whether or not it is reasonable to wait until April will depend upon the nature of the defect and the degree of inconvenience that it is causing for your tenants. My caution arises because water and dampness related problems can be very distressing for tenants and so can lead to signficant awards in the courts if not dealt with in a timely fashion.

You say that the only inconvenience for your tenants is that the back door sticks? Presumably this means that the door and/or frame are damp and have swollen? Playing devils advocate for a moment, this could be quite a problem for the tenants. It would also be unusual if this were to happen without any associated dampness elsewhere, such as the walls around the frame.

Unfortunately it will not be a defence for you to say that your agents are no good or that you do not trust them. I think a court would expect you to find someone that you do trust.

So, regrettably, the details you have provided so far set off some alarm bells for me I am afraid. I would be inclined to proceed with the repair as soon as you reasonably can.

westminster
07-03-2010, 23:16 PM
I'm a bit less relaxed than Westminster and MTG on this one. If you have acknowledged that the disrepair is your responsibility then you must rectify it within a reasonable period of time. Whether or not it is reasonable to wait until April will depend upon the nature of the defect and the degree of inconvenience that it is causing for your tenants.
Well, it's only the garage roof which is leaking, so I doubt it can be causing great hardship or inconvenience. Also OP says

We asked for 3 quotes and they harrassed every single person who came to quote - so much so that 2 of them wouldn't give proper written quotes!
so T appears to be obstructing LL's attempts to take the steps necessary to get the work done.

Preston
08-03-2010, 08:55 AM
Well, it's only the garage roof which is leaking, so I doubt it can be causing great hardship or inconvenience. Also OP says

so T appears to be obstructing LL's attempts to take the steps necessary to get the work done.

I take your point and I could be wrong. Really the only person who can judge is the OP. Its just that I have dealt with many disrepair claims over the years and as a result I'm just a bit cautious about a landlord saying that they will wait for better weather before carrying out a repair. If the tenant did get their act together and initiate a claim (or more likely, a counter claim to arrears) there is a risk that a court would not look too favourably on this explanation.

On a point of detail, if I understand the OP correctly, the disrepair is affecting the rear kitchen door, not just the garage.

So, in answer to the OP's specific question "Could they use the fact that the leak is awaiting repair against us?", I am afraid that my response would be possibly, yes, unless you have had the repair carried out as soon as you reasonably could.