Can tenant claim disrepair when they have got kitchen in this state?

Can tenant claim disrepair when they have got kitchen in this state?

14:21 PM, 6th June 2022, About 2 months ago 11

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An elderly (aged 80), long standing tenant told me on Thursday that she needs work done in her kitchen and I said I would get my builder to see what could be done.

Then I looked in the kitchen – there were dirty dishes stacked around and in the sink. The drawers are totally smashed. I opened the under-sink cupboard – the back is completely broken. And there are loads of mouse droppings. I didn’t look any further. I said this is not acceptable and I am not calling anyone in until and unless she cleans the kitchen. I don’t expect anyone to work in those conditions.

I called in on Friday and said my builder would be up later in the morning (he was in the area) and asked if she had cleaned up.

She hadn’t – and she absolutely lost it with me. Shouting and making all sorts of accusations. Told me what a dreadful landlord I am – said she is going to the Council to get another house.

She has been with me since 1994 (moved into current house in 2017) and I have looked after her in many ways. The kitchen units were not new (installed in 2012) but were in good condition (I have photos). (They were originally flat-pack from Wickes). I have kitchen units (also flat-pack) in my home which are much older and they are still fine.

I deal with issues from all my tenants – including this one – very quickly, but her behaviour this time has really crossed the line.

The kitchen is small, but I can’t do anything about that. She said she wants the worktops shallower, but you can’t get a shallower cooker (one side) or a shallower sink unit (the other side). And why on earth should I keep spending money when she doesn’t look after things? (New bath 2018 – split by 2021. How on earth do you split a bath?) (I have now installed a nice shower at her request.)

I am tempted to issue a S21. Can she claim disrepair?

If she does go to the Council, I’m pretty sure they will do all they can to keep her in that house – I doubt they have anywhere to offer her.

Who deals with disrepair claims?

Is it the Council?

Smithy



Comments

Lucy Fryer

12:44 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Hi Smithy, here are some thoughts:
Split bath - unless the bath was faulty, this is certainly tenant damage. You should have invoiced her for the replacement, but I suspect from your letter that you didn't. Unfortunately, that sets a precedent in her mind about who is responsible for what.

Kitchen - take LOTS of photos of it in its current state. Have you been carrying out regular inspections/taking photos since 2017? And if you have, did you put in writing requests for her to deal with mouse infestations and damage to cupboard doors? You can't do anything about the dirty dishes - you can't dictate how someone lives, but the AST contract will state that the tenant is required to keep the property in a good state of repair.

If, you have NOT been carrying out regular inspections, and if you have NOT put written requests in writing to improve the state of the property then you need to take remedial action immediately. I suggest you carry out a full inspection and inventory, ideally performed by an independent clerk, NOT by you yourself. Then get a formal Schedule of Works drawn up, again ideally not by you, perhaps by one of the builders. Then get 3 builder's quotes to carry out the works. Also get a Shedule of Dilapidation done, to set out your fair wear and tear cost. (ie if the cost of the hob was £140 and its expected lifetime was 10 years, then you can reasonably expect to incur a £14/pa fair wear and tear cost. Then present her with the Schedule of Works and the Quotes and the Schedule of Dilapidations. Ask her to pay for her share. If/when she refuses you can then reasonably negotiate with her along the lines of: "okay, so you can't/won't pay £xxx. I could pursue you and we can have a nasty time for a long time arguing over this, which I imagine neither of us really want. Instead I suggest that you agree to pay a notional amount of £yyyy , and you agree to surrender your tenancy and leave quietly because I'm not prepared to be the landlord of any property in this condition."

If, as may be the case, she actively wishes to be evicted so that she can claim homelessness (and a council house), then you can discuss that with her. "If you prefer, I can help you with a formal eviction notice which will allow you to claim housing help from the council.." etc.

Either way, it seems to me that you need to get her out (why would you wish to hang onto a tenant of that nature) and that you will incur some refurbishment costs to do so, which strictly speaking she should have paid for.

But get to understand what she REALLY wants - there will be a reason why she is raising this matter now - and it will probably be because she wants to claim homelessness. Then agree to work WITH her to get her what she wants. By doing that, you should hopefully avoid getting into a longwinded row with either her or the council over the question of evictions and disrepair.
Good luck!

Simon F

12:45 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Sounds like she might need and be eligible for home help. Maybe try get Social Services involved.

Gail W View Profile

12:55 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

I will be interested to see what comments are made here as I have similar issues. No demands from tenant as yet but house not kept to very good standards. I also manage my own properties.

Adrian Jones

13:15 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Out of interest when was the last time you visited the property?

Paul Maguire

14:26 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Cheap bath, second-hand [and cheaply made] kitchen. I'm amazed the kitchen lasted a further 10 years after being ripped out of one property, transported to another and re-installed there. Does no-one think fair wear and tear applies? I wouldn't dare take this to Court. Great example for Shelter propaganda however.

Simon F

14:46 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

On cheap plastic bath: these are designed for use by someone of circa 100kg when properly installed. If this is a larger lady then very easily broken. The kitchen space request and damage also seems to indicate this might be a larger lady struggling physically, and the strong response to the cleaning request perhaps a good indication she just doesn't want to admit to herself or you that she's not coping. It's not a Landlord's role to provide social support, but best to do everything you can to increase the level of support she has from family, social services, and neighbours. There are grants available if adaptations are needed to the property. If you want her out then still best to engage her family and social services to figure out what her needs are.

Jacks View Profile

15:00 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Lucy Fryer at 07/06/2022 - 12:44
Thank you for that reply, Lucy.
We are in a similar situation with a tenant, and I and following this thread with great interest.

Jacks View Profile

15:21 PM, 7th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gail W at 07/06/2022 - 12:55
Following

DSR

8:01 AM, 8th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Issue a S21 first (to cover your back and get in first before she can officially 'log' disrepair with Council?) but immediately try some of the ideas above as a point of mediation?

Lucy Fryer

11:15 AM, 8th June 2022, About 2 months ago

Ref Paul Maguire's comment - Fair point about the kitchen wear and tear. If it is ten years old at that property and was both inexpensive and not new when installed, then I think it could reasonably be termed as "end-of-life". Also I missed the fact that she is both 80 and long-standing. Both factors would indicate that she doesn't want to move and isn't trying to be difficult. Regarding dirty dishes, perhaps she's starting to struggle to cope? Regarding shallower units, that may be possible if the sink and hob are on the same or adjacent surfaces. Then the surface opposite, on the other side of the gallery, could be 30-40cm deep, using wall cabinets as floor cabinets. We used that trick in our own home...

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