The new ITV daytime show Judge Rinder handled its second landlord-tenant case Tuesday, involving a tenant (Joanne the claimant) and property owner landlord (James the defendant) with a dispute over damage to the tenant’s property due to mould and damp.
Robert Rinder, not a judge but a barrister in real life, studied politics & modern history at the University of Manchester, and is the presenter of this new ITV court case series which airs every week-day at 2pm.
Rinder is witty, decidedly camp and his theatrical performances, with big sighs and his despairing looks and hand wringing, often have the public gallery in stitches.
No doubt this case will be one of many property related ones; the case illustrates the lack of preparation on forethought claimants and defendants are often guilty of when representing themselves in a court or tribunal. Not that they shouldn’t represent themselves, but they should come well prepared.
The claim from the tenant Joanne amounted to over £3,000 in damages for mildew and mould on clothes and her possessions, but the landlord James in turn was counter claiming in the region of £300 for work done in making the property fit for re-letting.
The case has some important points for any landlord / tenant finding themselves in this situation.
As usual with Judge Rinder, much amusement was caused in the “court” when he noticed at the start of the “trial” that Joanne was wearing a black T shirt with some large letters in white depicting the slogan: “Stamp out Slum Land Lords and Agents” (sic).
Inviting Joanne to tell her side of the story, Judge Rinder proceeded to ask her a series of questions which established that she had complained to the agent about the extreme cold in the apartment in October, without result, claiming the heating was defective and she subsequently brought in two LPG portable gas heaters.
Did she have the tenancy agreement? No it was in her other file, a letter of complaint? No she had complained verbally but had a witness. Was the witness available? No she could not come today. (Doing her hair, then says Judge Rinder?) Did she have photographs? No they “did not come out of the camera”. The landlord then provided a copy of the agreement.
Turning to the landlord, and an adjoining property landlord he had brought along as a witness, the Judge asked how long he had been letting this property and had he had any previous complaints of dampness? The replies were in the negative and the adjoining property landlord confirmed she had been letting an exact same adjoining unit for many more years than James without complaints of dampness.
In his defence, the landlord produced a letter from a current tenant who said there were no problems with damp or cold and that he intended to stay indefinitely. He assured the judge that no changes to the heating system had been made.
The judge asked James the landlord for details of his counter-claim which involved paints and work done by him to reinstate the accommodation ready for re-letting. Did he have estimates, invoices? No, he had done all the work himself.
In summing up Judge Rinder dismissed both money claims, and proceeded to chastise both sides for their claims, saying that he found Joanne’s assertion, that every item in her possession could be ruined by mildew, as just incredible, which he said is judge speak for “I don’t believe you”.
Turning to the landlord, he admonished him for his lack of evidence to support his claim for work done and materials used.
Some important points raised by this case:
1 – In real life it is not impossible to represent yourself successfully at, for example a small claims court, but forward planning is essential: a concise and clear statement of claim, good witness statements with live witnesses if possible. The judge in this case praised the landlord’s witness. You must have good and organised documentary evidence for everything – in the heat of the moment in court it is easy to mislay vital evidence in your file if you have not clearly referenced it.
2 – Cases of damp, mould and condensation are notoriously difficult to prove one way or another, but evidence from previous tenancies and similar adjoining properties over many years is a God send.
3 – Using LPG gas heaters is a form of heating which tenants often find is cheap, because the heat produced is radiated and localised, but it produces excess water in the building. Water produced in a cold atmosphere invariably causes condensation, mould and mildew: an LPG gas heater produces 1.6 litres of water to 1 kg of gas.
4 – All alternative forms of heating introduced by tenants can cause fire risks and can invalidate the landlord’s insurance. Common forms introduced include LPG gas and paraffin heaters.
5 – In general, landlords’ claims for work they do themselves will not be accepted by a court, tribunal or in arbitration. Landlords who wish to claim damages following evidence shown on ingoing and outgoing inventories need more than one estimate and invoices to show work done and paid for. In cases of damage a tradesman’s brief written opinion and report can be very useful in court.
Article: Damp, Mould and Condensation
Tom Entwistle, LandlordZONE®
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) September 3, 2014