£4,000 Legal Claim for Damages – Advice Please

£4,000 Legal Claim for Damages – Advice Please

10:09 AM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago 27

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I have received a Solicitor’s Letter (No Claim No Fee Solicitors) sent on behalf of my ex-tenants claiming £4,000 in compensation, although the letter doesn’t say what the compensation is for. Although over the last year of the tenancy they were continually complaining that the property was in a state of disrepair.

The letter states that ‘a global compensation of £7,600.00 will conclude this action’.

I have plenty of evidence of my attempts to access the property to carry out repairs but was given continual excuse after excuse. Plus they had three feral children and many times the tradespeople refused to go in because the children were out of control. The male tenant was often aggressive and threatening to me and the tradespeople, making it almost impossible to gain access.

I’ve been working closely with the council to gain access, but even the council recommended I don’t go into the property while they’re there because of the chaotic environment and aggression.

Also, the costs for me to repair the property after they left are in excess of £10,000.00. They left all of their furniture and belongings, the children ripped a radiator off the wall, one garden fence panel was completely missing, and they actually nailed two safety gates to the doors to keep their kids locked in!! And they took my washing machine/tumble drier without my permission. They also left owing £850 in rent arrears.

The post that is arriving for them seems to be a string of debt collection agencies chasing them for money.

The tenants are currently living in a council-run hostel while they wait for the council to put them in a three-bed house.

You get the picture.

Does anybody have any experience of dealing with claims of this type? Obviously, I don’t want to run up a load of solicitors costs if this is just them chancing their arm, but I’m obviously going to fight it if necessary.

Any guidance or shared experience would be greatly appreciated.

Pam



Comments

by Tony taylor

11:57 AM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

If it is under £10K, it is a small claims court matter so, provided that T isn't seeking an injunction, it will v v v probably be allocated to the small claims track provided that (a) a trial will not last more than a day and (b) your counterclaim does not exceed £10K. If the T has the money and you are sure of your case, I would counterclaim over £10K. If the tenant is made of straw, I would tell the solicitor for T that as T's claim is worth less than £10K, so whatever happens he isn't getting costs of the solicitor from you.

by land law

12:06 PM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

Just some tactical advice. Reference to “feral children” is not going to help you. Especially as many claimant’s solicitors read these blogs

by Chris @ Possession Friend

14:53 PM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

Yes Pam, we've helped Landlords many times with this kind of action. Unfortunately its becoming more prevalent.

by Jennifer Aniston

15:23 PM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

The solicitor wrote to me initially in August saying that the house was in an unacceptable state of repair with a long list of work that needed doing - some of which I agreed with and some I didn't, e.g outside render. Most of the work that needed doing was because of their abuse of the property (I have lots of photographs and video evidence to show what state it was in).

I wrote back to the solicitor and explained that I was more than happy to do (almost) everything on the list and didn't have a problem with repairing properties. I sent over a mountain of evidence of me trying to arrange for tradespeople to attend the property and messages from tradespeople stating that they'd been turned away. Either the tenant made an excuse, said it wasn't convenient or that her husband didn't want me or the tradespeople in the house when he was there and I had to give written notice to gain access (he was extremely aggressive and threatening towards me). I had letters from tradespeople confirming that they had tried to access the property (with a pre-agreed appointment times) but had been denied access by the tenants or they had been given access and were refusing to go back in because the children were out of control and it was dangerous or the male tenant was aggressive and threatening.

One of her major issues for them was that there was an unacceptable level of damp and mould in the house. The previous tenant confirmed this wasn't a problem but I had the bathroom refurbished and bought a washer/tumbler (which disappeared when they moved out) to reduce moisture but she still wasn't happy. The Enviromental Health Officer that attended the property wrote to me and said that he didn't think there was an issue with damp or mould. He said that there were only three small things that I needed to do to bring things up to standard and they were done as quickly as the tenant allowed.

The letter from the previous tenant confirming the state of the house, the numerous letters from tradespeople trying to gain access, the mountain of text messages from me trying to find a way to persuade them to let people in and glowing references from my other tenants stating that I am a responsible landlady who keeps on top of all repairs were all sent to this solicitor. I thought that was the end of it to be honest. But, in one text message I did say 'this has clearly been mismanaged' (I was referring to the one of the builders who had previously done a shoddy job) and this is the text message that they attached to the letter yesterday and seems to be the basis on which they're claiming damages.

I've emailed them back and said I'm not paying compensation and that I'm counterclaiming for damages to the property in the region of £10k - which is about how much it's cost me to get the property back up to standard.

I spoke to the chap that does my conveyancing this morning and he says that I should just sit and wait to hear from the small claims court now. That I should defend myself because the courts hate when people turn up with solicitors for a small claim and, if I'm confident that I'm not in the wrong, then represent myself.

Never been in this position before and am finding it terribly stressful and a bit scary if I'm honest. But hey ho, if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger eh?

Thanks for all your comments. Every bit of insight helps.

by Jennifer Aniston

16:33 PM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by land law at 23/12/2021 - 12:06
Indeed, of course I wouldn't refer to them as feral to a court! But it was a word the female tenant regularly used to describe their behaviour.

They really were three of the most out of control children I have ever met. They actually nailed two safety gates to the door frame of their bedroom to keep them locked up at night!!!

by Smiffy

16:44 PM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

Hi Pam

Although I've followed 118 for a while, it is this post that finally got me to join!

Don't panic! This is just an attempt to get you to pay, to stay out of court, it is unlikely they will proceed.

Do not enter into further discussion with them, if they contact you again just inform them that you dispute their claim and await a Small Claims Court summons. It will either get rid of them or force their hand into starting proceedings without them wasting your time.

If they do proceed, again, don't panic. Prepare a counterclaim that you can prove and justify to the Judge.

The annoying thing is, you have to pay court fees to defend yourself, (not huge) although you should be able to recover them. When the Judge awards in your favour, you needs to immediately ask him for costs as well.

Don't panic, you are the defendant in this, you only have to disprove their claim, you don't actually have to prove anything!

by Jennifer Aniston

18:46 PM, 23rd December 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Smiffy at 23/12/2021 - 16:44
Well I for one am glad you joined. Your post has been very reassuring.

I'm a complete scaredy cat when it comes to authority and am easily intimidated. Probably not a wise choice to become a landlord!

But I'm prepared for the fight. Thanks so much for your useful post. It is very much appreciated.

Merry Christmas.

by Anthony Hawes

9:44 AM, 24th December 2021, About a month ago

I had almost exactly this a few years ago when evicted tenants threatened to sue me for stealing some of their belongings. I replied with a denial obviously along with details of the damage they had done to the property (a fair amount of it whilst I waited outside with bailiffs for them to clear the place) and promising to make a counterclaim if I heard from them again. I didn't.

They are chancers to be treated with the contempt they deserve.

by Dennis Leverett

10:23 AM, 24th December 2021, About a month ago

Hi Pam
Horrible situation and it will stress you out. I had a small claims against me, not a tenant, a few years ago from a very arrogant chancer. My solicitor told me to pay, it was just under a £1000, and not waste my time. No way. If I'm wrong here someone please correct me, but I was told then that I could apply to the Judge before the case to get my costs considered if I won and I did. Might not apply now. I spent a lot of time getting my response thorough and watertight and had many sleepless nights thinking about it. Absolutely vital to follow Court protocol such as Mediation, he refused. To cut a long story short, on the day the claimant was so arrogant and rude with loads of contradictions and stupid comments that it was over in minutes. I hardly had to say anything and the Judge having read my paperwork commended me on my preparation and went in my favour awarding all my costs and chastised the Claimant for wasting the Courts time. Was it worth it, only for the self satisfaction but otherwise no. I had a great judge though which probably helped as I was very nervous about it all.

by Jennifer Aniston

10:11 AM, 27th December 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Anthony Hawes at 24/12/2021 - 09:44
Thanks Anthony

I hope you're right. The penny is now beginning to drop that they really are not very nice people who are trying to play the system to maximise their earning potential. Awful people.


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