PDA

View Full Version : Tenants Sueing Landlord



BTB
24-03-2010, 18:50 PM
Hi

This is my first post and I came across the forum after googling so I hope I can get a bit of help from those of you who have encountered this problem.

I will try to keep things brief to start with and just give a summary but, if you need any further info just say.

We (a partnership) let one of our properties in 2004 to a couple in their early 60's who seemed fine.

Everything was fine until a routine visit to the property and it was discovered that the property stank - they had at least 8 cats, 6 dogs and 2 rabbits literally running loose. Excrement everywhere, fleas the lot.

Anyway, the property had deteriorated to such an extent that we allowed them to stay there (we did not have the funds to refurbish the property if they left and we were recieving regular housing benefit).

They started asking for repairs to be done and because of the smell, animals, mould etc we could not get workmen to enter the property so very little was done.

Jumping on a couple of years and they are now claiming through the county court (on legal aid - with a specialist claims solicitor) for major health problems including asthma, pneumonia and various others.

Their solicitors have commissioned loads of medical and structural reports no doubt costing thousands and we are now due in court in May to defend the claim.

We can't afford to get deep into legal fees but it looks like should we lose or end up with a % verdict we are going to be in big trouble.

That is the abbreviated version (very much abbreviated), and I would just like to hear from anyone who has been in the same position and can offer any advice on defending the claim and anything else relevant.

By the way, they are still residing in the property at the present time.

Many thanks for any help

BTB

Snorkerz
24-03-2010, 19:26 PM
Was an inventory taken at the start of the tenancy showing the condition of the property?

Have you drawn the condition of the property to the tenants attention in the intervening years - in writing?

Has the tenancy agreement been renewed since 6/4/2007?

For each item of disrepair that is being claimed, do you have a written notification from the tenant, and proof that workmen refused to access the property due to their own H&S or other concerns?

Does this mean you haven't had CP12 gas safety certificates done every 12 months?

BTB
24-03-2010, 19:46 PM
No inventory at the start of the tenancy - The property had been vacated by the previous tenant only a few days before and we were due to carry out the usual minor repairs when the new tenant turned up and asked to move in the same day, saying that they were homeless. We explained that some repairs were necessary and they still wanted to take the property there and then.

The condition of the property and the issues with the pets etc has been confirmed in writing on several occassions. (tenancy agreement states no pets or lodgers - there are 4 adults at the property - only 2 names on the tenancy - which is currently on a monthly basis).

Yes, the tenancy has been renewed since 2007

We have letters from at least 3 different workmen stating their reasons for refusing to enter the premises - even the surveyor commissioned by the tennants solicitors has mentioned the pets and smeels in his report.

The gas central heating was cut off over 12 months ago - 3 tradesmen refused to work on it. We installed/provided electric heaters and water storage which is not preferable but we thought would serve a purpose.

Like I said previously, I could write page after page about this because it has gone on for a while.

We recently found out that these tenants had made a similar claim against a previous landlord and won £15,000 in compensation.

The house has been absolutely destroyed (you would need to see it to believe it) with ceilings partially collapsed due to leaking pipes, mould everywhere, wrotten floors etc.

It sounds like we have neglected our duties I know but we have more than 20 properties and everyone was refurbished to a high standard and we are always more than amiable with our tenants.

It really makes you want to get rid of the lot

Anyway thanks for the quick reply and I hope the above answers your questions

BTB

Snorkerz
24-03-2010, 20:27 PM
No inventory at the start of the tenancy - The property had been vacated by the previous tenant only a few days before and we were due to carry out the usual minor repairs when the new tenant turned up and asked to move in the same day, saying that they were homeless. We explained that some repairs were necessary and they still wanted to take the property there and then.

The condition of the property and the issues with the pets etc has been confirmed in writing on several occassions. (tenancy agreement states no pets or lodgers - there are 4 adults at the property - only 2 names on the tenancy - which is currently on a monthly basis).No inventory means you'd have difficulty getting compensation from the tenants for the damage they have caused - but I guess that isn't the issue here. The number of occupiers isn't really an enforceable clause in the agreement, and as the pets have been there with your knowledge for so long, I feel they would be regarded as being there with your permission.
Yes, the tenancy has been renewed since 2007If tenants have ever paid you a deposit, is it protected?
We have letters from at least 3 different workmen stating their reasons for refusing to enter the premises - even the surveyor commissioned by the tennants solicitors has mentioned the pets and smeels in his report.

The gas central heating was cut off over 12 months ago - 3 tradesmen refused to work on it. We installed/provided electric heaters and water storage which is not preferable but we thought would serve a purpose.
Personally, I feel that this would show to the court that you have done (everything in your power?) to try to effect the repairs, the provision of the electric heaters also shows that you are mindful of your tenants rights.

There are people on here with far more legal knowledge than I, but I would suggest that you reply to your tenants solicitor stating that you have always been willing to make the repairs that you are liable for and that you are still willing to do so. Remind them of their clients responsibility to keep the property in a good condition (it will be in their AST somewhere - or there is an implied term that says they must act in a 'tenant-like manner) and that they must do so to enable workmen to perform these repairs in a safe and reasonable environment.

If you do this, and it still goes to court, the judge will see that you have made the effort and that the tenants/solicitor have decided to take it to court not because they need to but in order to boost he solicitors CLS payment!

I would also commence s21 proceedings against your tenants - you don't need a reason - irrespective of the condition of the property, I would want it's future back in my hands so that a programme of works could be planned.

jrsteeve
24-03-2010, 20:35 PM
They've breached the contract by having pets and lodgers. There is also the issue of causation - their health problems could also have been caused/exacerbated by the pets and not keeping the property in a suitable condition.

I'm not a solicitor (am learning contract and tort law at the moment) but i'd say you are in a good position as you have made attempts to make repairs but the tenants haven't helped the situation at all.

Good luck!

BTB
24-03-2010, 20:39 PM
Very helpful and much appreciated

Thanks

BTB

BTB
24-03-2010, 20:44 PM
They've breached the contract by having pets and lodgers. There is also the issue of causation - their health problems could also have been caused/exacerbated by the pets and not keeping the property in a suitable condition.

I'm not a solicitor (am learning contract and tort law at the moment) but i'd say you are in a good position as you have made attempts to make repairs but the tenants haven't helped the situation at all.

Good luck!

Yes, the medical reports they have submitted do say that their lifestyle must be taken into account and 1 report suggests 50/50 between lifestyle and conditions in the property.

The problem is we have been told to expect the worse because the judge is more likely to side with the tenants (they are legally represented and we are not) and because the claim has been entered as between £5,000 and £50,000 with legal fees, surveyor, medical experts etc all presumably on top.

We are not in a position at the moment to pay any award and it would cause us serious problems (properties are all mortgaged to varying degrees).

Thanks again to all

jrsteeve
24-03-2010, 22:15 PM
I'd find out what their previous case was brought about for as i'm sure the court won't look favourably on 'professional tenants'. I'd say now's the time to have a solicitor work for you as you'd stand a better chance, especially given the claim amount.

If the court rule in favour of the tenants you have no immediate obligation to pay though, they'd have to take you to court again to do so (as far as i know).

What is the actual claim for? It's certainly a weird one!

BTB
25-03-2010, 06:05 AM
The claim is made up of various parts including illness, lost furniture (due to damp and mould), lost housing benefit (which is irrelevant because they have never paid it to us), and damages.

Their solicitors have commissioned at least 3 structural surveys and several medical reports all saying that the damp and mould have contributed (but not necessarily caused) their ailments.

BTB

westminster
25-03-2010, 12:27 PM
Yes, the medical reports they have submitted do say that their lifestyle must be taken into account and 1 report suggests 50/50 between lifestyle and conditions in the property.

The problem is we have been told to expect the worse because the judge is more likely to side with the tenants (they are legally represented and we are not) and because the claim has been entered as between £5,000 and £50,000 with legal fees, surveyor, medical experts etc all presumably on top.

We are not in a position at the moment to pay any award and it would cause us serious problems (properties are all mortgaged to varying degrees).

It is essential for you to get professional legal advice. Notwithstanding your evidence, you are likely to lose if you don't because you simply do not have the legal knowledge necessary to argue your case. Ask the solicitor to find the best counsel/barrister for this type of claim, then take your case directly to him/her.

jrsteeve
25-03-2010, 16:03 PM
It is essential for you to get professional legal advice. Notwithstanding your evidence, you are likely to lose if you don't because you simply do not have the legal knowledge necessary to argue your case. Ask the solicitor to find the best counsel/barrister for this type of claim, then take your case directly to him/her.

My thoughts exactly. For the sake of an extra few hundred i'd have someone do the legal work for you as they'll know exactly what to say and how to handle the case, and hopefully win it in your favour. I'd suggest a counter claim but as there's no water tight inventory it wouldn't get anywhere.

BTB
25-03-2010, 16:10 PM
Any recommendations - Manchester Area, specifically Rochdale?

Paul Gibbs
25-03-2010, 16:54 PM
Do you have buildings insurance?

If so see if you have legal expenses insurance. You need to do this quickly as there is a time limit on reporting claims.

Normally they will want to appoint one of their panel solicitors. You can ask to appoint a local solicitor, however, this may be refused.

If you have funding then they will defend the claim, and hopefully protect you from any costs or compensation orders.

BTB
25-03-2010, 17:44 PM
Do you have buildings insurance?

If so see if you have legal expenses insurance. You need to do this quickly as there is a time limit on reporting claims.

Normally they will want to appoint one of their panel solicitors. You can ask to appoint a local solicitor, however, this may be refused.

If you have funding then they will defend the claim, and hopefully protect you from any costs or compensation orders.

Unfortunately not.

This claim was initiated whilst our old insurance was in place which did not carry cover.

Our new insurers do cover this but will not help because of when the dispute started (understandable).

Thanks

vegasgo
25-03-2010, 18:20 PM
And I though I had problem tenants...

Good luck with the case.