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kazles
10-12-2011, 20:52 PM
Need advice being sued by tenants! Currently rent out flat which I lived in myself for 10 years, with no damp/condensation problems other than a very small amount of mould in the one corner of bedroom. The flat is one bedroom , ground floor built mid 80’s originally owned by the Council, now Housing Association. Before letting the property 3 years ago, fitted new double glazing with trickle vents and new air brick in bedroom where previous mould had been experienced. The flat does have access to a garden and washing line. There is gch.

Tenants are starting court action against us for damages to furniture, toys and clothes from mould, mainly in bedroom but throughout the flat. Tenants moved in March 2011 and reported mould on exterior and party wall in May, visited the property with agent and arranged for mould to be cleaned off walls whilst the tenants were abroad. Mid Sept lease was renewed by tenants, our agent inspected the flat, no problems were reported. Later in month they discovered mould on furniture etc, and demanded replacement of all furniture. Myself and agent visited the property the next working day (Monday), were shown the furniture with varying degrees of mould from negligible to severe including a baby’s cot and also where the mould was on the external and adjoining property walls – we spoke to the adjoining neighbour and they do not have a problem with damp/mould. We offered to replace the baby’s cot and subsequently their mattress, without prejudice. We arranged for a full damp survey to be done asap to find the root cause. We asked a builder to do an initial inspection, he could see no issues with the structure but he did say that the tenants were cooking at the time and the place was filled with steam and no windows were open, plus there was a lot of furniture/possessions in the rooms restricting air circulation. The survey was done within two weeks by a specialist independent damp surveyor, whose report a week later found no issues with the structure of the building and no ingress of damp, he concluded that the problem was condensation and the ventilation in the property was insufficient to cope with the tenants lifestyle. He recommended installing de-humidistat vents in the kitchen and bathroom which we have commissioned the builder to install plus we have asked for the bedroom vent to be changed to a passyfier vent to help alleviate the problem. The surveyor also recommended that the furniture could be cleaned adequately with a specialist product, we have instructed a cleaning company for a quotation.

The tenants have never taken up our offer of replacement cot/mattress.
They refuse to allow the furniture to be cleaned, insisting on money to replace it instead

The tenants have now given notice to quit to the agents and we received court action papers today.

Can anybody advise on our legal standing please?

If the condensation is created by their lifestyle to what extent does the ventilation in the flat have to cope with that?

Could somebody also please confirm that if there is insufficient ventilation in the flat to cope with their lifestyle then this would be a design flaw in the flat and would we be liable under the statutory repairing covenants?

Can anybody recommend a good solicitor for this issue?

We are considering contesting the case, but are concerned that if we do lose the tenants may come back with a health claim.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Snorkerz
10-12-2011, 21:05 PM
I don't think you have too much to worry about - you have plenty of evidence that the mould problem is the tenants fault and that you have done everything possible to deal with the problem.

Tenant may think they are dealing with a relatively 'low risk' small claim - if they are suing for over £1k it will be allocated to the fast track or multi track where costs are considerably higher and they could be ordered to pay your solicitors fees too. You could be made to pay their solicitors fee if you lose, but I really don't think that is likely.

There is a prescribed method of handling such claims called the 'disrepair protocol', if your tenants haven't followed the disrepair protocol then that will not help their claim either.

http://www.letlink.co.uk/news/disrepair/pre-action-protocol-for-housing-disrepair-cases.html

mind the gap
10-12-2011, 21:35 PM
I agree with Snorkerz (as ever!)

Plus,the fact that neither you nor the neighbours had/have any problems with condensation/mould would suggest it is their lifestyle that's causing it- and no,you cannot be expected to allow for that! There is only so much water vapour the average house can take!

Most common causes:

Ts cooking without using extractor fan or opening window
Ts using bath or shower without fan or window open
Ts taking silly numbers of showers daily
Ts drying clothes over radiators/bannisters, etc
Ts not opening windows for weeks on end (to save on heating)
Ts using gas heaters

JK0
10-12-2011, 21:45 PM
I confiscate the trickle vent shutters. I suggest you do the same.

midlandslandlord
10-12-2011, 22:05 PM
I'm installing one of these in a property in the new year - a fixed dehumidifier plumbed in.

The advantage is that it doesn't need PAT testing once wired in.

The cost is around £150 plus install.

The space taken up on the wall is around 55x30 cm.

http://www.dimplex.co.uk/products/air_treatment/dehumidifiers/dxdh10t/index.htm

ML

kazles
10-12-2011, 22:07 PM
Thanks for your replies.

They are claiming £1000

Does condensation constitute disrepair, if there is no faults with the property, no leaks etc and the condition of the property is good?

Snorkerz
10-12-2011, 22:13 PM
Condensation could be a disrepair repair issue if, say it was caused by moisture entering the property as a result of a property defect - ie landlords issue.

If tenant is claiming the things were damaged because the property was faulty then they are 'claiming' disrepair, they can claim what they want, doesn't mean a judge would agree.

mariner
11-12-2011, 01:03 AM
If no defect in building fabric, condensation is usually attributed to T lifestyle and not acting in T-like manner (inadequate ventilation)
Boiling 1 pan of chips or 1 adult breathing when asleep provides suficient water vapour to cause condensation in certain climatic conditions. Often LLs are advised to fit fancy extractor fans, if the room window can be opened a crack by T why bother?
If T refuses to remove mould from their clothes/furniture, they are contributing to the problem as spores will circulate and grow in still, humid areas behind wardrobes etc.
If Ts experienced mould during first T, why did they renew? Interesting their damage claim is £1 below the riskier multi track limit.
Let them sue, but have your ducks (evidence) organised for hearing.

kazles
11-12-2011, 09:03 AM
Thanks, what we are really concerned about is opening the door for a claim for affecting their health, other wise we would have cut our losses and paid.

The damp surveyor did recommended additional ventilation but the flat does have 7 opening windows 5 of which are approximately a meter square and all can be locked open a jar, so when is a window not a vent?

We have offered to replace the soft furnishing and have the items like a bed, coffee table, desk cupboard etc professionally cleaned using materials recommended by the Damp expert and recommended by the furniture manufacturer. Some items have a few spot of mould the size of a pin head over an area the size of a stamp.

I may be wrong but if someone bumped into my car it would be repaired, I would not have the right to ask for a new car.

The Ts are foreign nationals and seem reluctant to proceed with the replacement of the soft furnishings since we asked receipts for our accounts, I suspect they are returning to their country of origin and no intention of returning with or replacing the furniture.

lavy
11-12-2011, 09:07 AM
I would point out to the tenant and perhaps show them a copy of your report that says the problem is caused by condensation and the tenants lifestyle and point out that they should vetilate the property when showering cooking drying clothes etc. I once had a tenant using an unventilated tumble dryer blowing all the damp air into the kitchen caused damp on every cold surface and mold to form. State you have not had problems before and that if they continue with the claim you will be putting in a counter claim for cleaning off mould and re decorating costs . You might find that does the trick as you have evidence that there is no fault ,damp isue with the property

Lingy
11-12-2011, 11:44 AM
Sounds like there trying there luck
Have you had court papers served?

kazles
11-12-2011, 21:00 PM
Thanks, they have had a copy of the report and the letting agents have written to them asking them to ensure windows are opened after showering, when cooking etc.

kazles
11-12-2011, 21:00 PM
Yes, we received court papers at the weekend.