Council threaten after uncorroborated nuisance complaint?

by Readers Question

8:55 AM, 29th April 2019
About 2 years ago

Council threaten after uncorroborated nuisance complaint?

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Council threaten after uncorroborated nuisance complaint?

Last year I let a property to a young lady and her boyfriend. He was recently arrested for assaulting her and is on remand. The old lady next door who lives in a council property has complained to the council about loud music and shouting.

The council passed these complaints on to me urging I take action, or else. I spoke to my tenant who denied the complaints and told me the old ladies dogs are out all hours barking and keeping her children awake. I passed her comments on to the council and they said barking dogs do not constitute a nuisance. I told them I believed this matter was more about people not getting on and without evidence that my tenant was making undue noise, I couldn’t take action against her and also as her boyfriend was no longer on the scene, things might quieten down.

Mediation was organised, but the tenant didn’t attend. She goes to university, works and has 2 children and said she hasn’t the time to respond to false allegations.

I received a letter this morning from the council stating the house was originally bought under the councils right to buy (not by me) and I’m still obliged to follow its covenants namely not to cause or allow nuisance or inconvenience to neighbours. Also they say they will inform my mortgage company, that as the landlord I am neglecting to follow the covenants and I have three weeks to take steps or it will be passed onto the councils legal department.

The threatening tone of the council irritates me and wonder why they seem reluctant to investigate the noise complaints which seem to occur mainly at weekends. I’m tempted to do nothing and short of eviction I’m not sure what action I can take?

Sheridan

 

Comments

Richard Peeters

10:07 AM, 30th April 2019
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Lindsay Keith at 30/04/2019 - 09:17
Thanks, but my question is more general: assuming most RTB contracts were written from the same template, there must be many thousands with similar covenants

It's not stated on the ones I've seen, so that would indicate that the covenants last forever ("in perpetuity"), unless otherwise stated.

Is there any escape?

Mike

10:58 AM, 30th April 2019
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Hamish McBloggs at 29/04/2019 - 15:32
Well done hamish for kicking out your irresponsible tenant, what an arse he or she must have been, thick head, and expected society to support him or her a living!

I have one such an arse, who is currently undergoing an eviction that has cost me 8 months rent so far and there is probably still another 2 months when I might start seeing some daylight at the end of a tunnel, or see the face of the bailiffs attending, the Court had given me an immediate possession order to evict him on the 28th March 2019, my solicitor applied to the court for a warrant of possession on 6th April 2019, it is now almost coming to a month so far I have not even received a letter from the bailiffs confirming the date of eviction, I rang them last week to find out what is going on as I have not received any acknowledgement of request for a warrant of eviction, they then claimed that they have not received Bailiff Risk Assessment form, I pointed out to them are they not suppose to send one to me to fill up, and they replied No my solicitor should have filled one up and submitted one, form filling seems to never end, so I got back to my solicitor who is relatively new to housing law, most likely did not know that he had to do this, or like me he was also expecting the bailiffs to send us the form to be filled in, so he then downloaded a form and submitted one for me, I supplied all the necessary information regarding the risk, only now the PCOL site has been updated that they have received our RAF.

So now I hope in due course they will write to me when they will be able to evict him, which they said can take between 4 to 6 weeks. The whole thing is in such a dreadful state and taking such a long process it is highly insulting to landlords. The Law gives them full support so that they can continue to take our advantage and continue to live for free by stealing our rental income, it is a bloody theft! .Courts are aiding and abetting them to commit crime by stealing our income. Thats' the law Sir and we must bend backwards and respect this Law! 🚆

Hamish McBloggs

14:42 PM, 30th April 2019
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 30/04/2019 - 10:58
Sadly, there are no winners.

No matter how I tried to help ... and I really tried to help and continued to try and help when owed rent ...

I find there are only 2 types that get access to the legal system. Those with nothing and those that live in Monaco.

The rest of us have to pay with no hope of getting anything back.

The whole sorry episode was painful and expensive and my reasonableness irrelevant.

Hamish

Hamish McBloggs

14:47 PM, 30th April 2019
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Richard Peeters at 30/04/2019 - 10:07
My understanding is that restrictive covenants are 'attached to the land'. Thus transferred from owner to owner.

I also understand them to be enforceable by the courts.

I further believe that they are difficult/expensive to modify/remove unless they are no longer relevant or the law has changed to make them, for example, discriminatory. They have to be enforceable.

Covenants benefit some individual/group somewhere or are there to maintain some standard(s) or other or there would be no point. Terms in the leases for flats will have similar regarding noise.

Changes/removal will mean the appropriate greasing of palms via legal people.

I've mentioned somewhere here before that a friend of ours is not permitted to moor an airship, one of our properties must have a fruit tree in the garden, our family pile must not have an aerial on the roof, must have brown window frames but new builds are sold with white windows and aerials on the roof. We must cut the grass once a week ... regardless of time of year or weather. We are allowed to park a caravan but our neighbours cannot and in the past officials have attempted to 'purge' the village of these eyesores but the inconsistency has made them look stupid. One person moved the caravan to their back garden; the covenant stated 'front garden'.

Our very first house should not be converted to a pub or toll gate. The latter clearly being a very modern problem.

A local pub is being sold with a covenant which states that a percentage of the increase in value of the property must be given to the original sellers when sold again in the future.

There are cases where the local church calls on one to stump up for their entire roof refurb because it states in your deeds that they can or that the local manor retains mineral rights over your back garden.

The world seems daft.

Hamish

Hamish McBloggs

20:17 PM, 30th April 2019
About 2 years ago

As others mentioned here, you must act now and get a copy of your deeds.

I dislike being in judgement of others but I cannot abide unreasonable positioning. Also, whether my tenant or the neighbour, I assume that neither are right or wrong until I get tangible info. My criticisms and apologies flow accordingly.

I would never apologise for keeping an open mind until sufficient evidence has been gathered to make the correct decision.

My ramblings on a variety of practical things I have done at various times in the past ...

Don't just go the 'full Shawshank'; go the 'Full Belligerent Shawshank'

Write a letter a day asking for the evidence. This kind of badgering does work and will result in a phone call.

Get a recording app on your phone and tell them that for quality and training purposes all calls are recorded.

Get the name/email/direct number of the 'case officer'.
Now you can send simultaneous letters and emails and letters attached to emails every day.

If the council are unfortunate and cc some of their own in then make sure their inbox is also regularly topped up.

Working on the basis that it is unreasonable the council do not provide evidence to back up their position, I would complain loudly (no pun intended) that the council cannot act without evidence.

They cannot be permitted to simply point at a covenant and say 'fix it'. That would seem like the council seeking to take the cheapest and easiest route (for them).

The noise must be measured. Diaries kept. Evidence gathered.

The council representative cannot act as a barrack room lawyer; a minimum threshold of evidence must be available. Would a court throw the case out?

Ask for a copy of the council's processes for this. They should be written and available. When you get it, study it and use it against them by making them comply with their own rules. (I use this method on HMRC).

Councils have complaints processes. Use them. They will usually whip themselves to meet their complaints SLA's so you are more likely to get a timely response if you use this process and it may extend the 3 weeks.

Complain in a letter/email about each transgression of their rules.

In the past I have promised to take out a full page image of my complaint in the local paper to get things going quicker. I have put this promise in the formal complaint submitted online on a Sunday evening and got a phone call Monday morning (copy for the paper being Monday pm)

You are going to have to roll your sleeves up and do your own mediation.

I have in the past spoken to the tenant, written down their responses there and then and ask them to sign it. Left a copy.

If possible do this with the neighbour as well. An accusation that the dog barks all the time has been made. Presumably the neighbour/council is also subject to the same restrictive covenant; ask for confirmation of this from the council. One can get a reasonable measure of the neighbour by meeting face to face and it pains me to say it, but if the mutt is of the variety that might rip your face off, that tends to be a negative indicator.

Keep all information gathered to yourself.

A refusal to co-operate should be recorded. Request co-operation many times. Record all refusals.

Not attending mediation is a massive negative indicator though. Record the reasons for the non-attendance and ask the tenant to sign it.

I would also stand outside and listen for the dog and your tenant; do some empirical information gathering. Get a friend to do some shifts with you. After initial empirical info gathering I would write/email/phone the council, tell them that you have initial conclusions (not what these are) and invite them to join you.

If they decline, record it. Make an offer to collaborate every day by phone, email, letter. The more they decline the better.

Ask the council for the list of all the times they have visited the property and for their resulting detailed report. If they refuse to share then tell them you won't share your information until compelled to present it in a court.

Going the friction free route is an option of course. You could simply ask your tenant to leave. But if you feel that on balance it is not your tenant or it is 6 and half a dozen, I would write to/email the council beforehand explaining your conclusions and that they are forcing you to evict which may mean your ex tenant, a battered single mother of two who is attempting to better her life by study, being housed by the council. cc the MP. If the MP does not respond then leave the letter, by accident, on the photocopier at the local paper.

Of course, you may conclude that your tenant is the miscreant. Being judge and jury is not a great position to be in. However you can invite the council to meet and provide their formal sanitised response to share that burden of responsibility somewhat in the true spirit of co-operation; getting the correct conclusion.

If the same happens with a new tenant then complain to the council that the problem seems to lie with them and ask them to formally respond.

Collate all information and tell the council you are doing this without giving them any details or hinting at any conclusion. Ask for a meeting to openly compare notes. Repeatedly request a formal acknowledgement of your requests. This shows that you are proactive and are dealing with it as far as your powers permit. Point out that your tenant could make a counter claim which would not help anyone and that you want to work in co-operation with the council to bring this situation to a rapid and correct conclusion.

I would ask the council whether the neighbour (the council's tenant) has a history of abrasiveness; a history that may not exonerate your tenant but may help you and the council together to approach matters with a different balance.
Not all councils can measure things. You can ask them why they cannot or won't.

I would tell tenant, neighbour and council that you are hiring measuring equipment and that the results will be independently gathered and that you may provide conclusions when appropriate.

Every communication must be reasonable, logical and seeking their co-operation, support, seeking 'teamwork'. Avoid adversarial positioning. I am clear about my information I have and that they need to meet somewhere in the middle in co-operation in order that both sides reach the correct conclusion and not an expedient one.

Yes I know that the above seems adversarial but it is not. It is making continuous requests for co-operation in the short timescale, being clear about what you are doing and that you expect timely dialogue around tangible evidence and not diktat.

Make every question and request another letter. Be a complete pain in the rear but be nice about it.

I involved the MP directly in an argument I had with London Borough of Hounslow some while back. It worked.

But remain polite, reasonable and balanced. Always challenge your own views. If you meet with the council use complete silence after asking questions as a weapon; people hate silences and if they don't respond then consider them non-cooperative. If they ask questions in response request yours be answered first.

etc.

Hamish

Richard Peeters

8:00 AM, 1st May 2019
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Hamish McBloggs at 30/04/2019 - 20:17
Wow, great advice Hamish! I aspire to follow similar lines, although one problem is that we always miss the first chapter or two of the drama: it is only when a "normal" situation has already escalated that we realise we should have taken similar steps and recorded conversations etc. It's hard to be so diligent 24/7! 🙂

sheridan whiteside

15:39 PM, 4th May 2019
About 2 years ago

first of all,thank you for the helpful advice.I emailed a response to the council saying both sides appear to have grounds for complaint and I want a solution which is fair to both sides. If following investigation my tenant is shown to be at fault,i will take action,but im not comfortable evicting her without it,I also said I had cautioned the tenant,which involved making her aware of the complaints and suggesting mediation..I forward all the emails from the council to the tenant and also my replies.Today I received a written response from the council.They say that the fact I issued a caution and acknowledge there is a problem is proof I accept my tenant is at fault and neeed to take steps and the letter concludes by repeating the previous threats.In conversation with the council woman previously when I mentioned the neighbours dogs she said its her job to act for council tenants and dogs barking don't constitute a nuisance. when I questioned whether there may be some exaggeration over the complaints,one complaint was that my tenant noisily got out of a taxi,she said council tenants don't tell lies.I feel their actions is designed to bully me to evict the tenant and save them the need to prove the allegations.This particular house is difficult to let.it overlooks a notorious council estate,whenever its empty it gets broken into and the last tenant moved because her children were bullied constantly by the local thugs.This tenant likes the house,keeps it spotless and pays her rent.unfortunately shes doesn't fit in,having said that I will evict her if shes making life difficult for others,but I must have the evidence

terry sullivan

16:12 PM, 4th May 2019
About 2 years ago

make a formal complaint to council

James Nelson

21:04 PM, 4th May 2019
About 2 years ago

My BTLs are exclusively in ex LA blocks. I have long since been resigned to the fact that it is very much one rule for council tenants and a very different rule for private tenants.

Mike

0:58 AM, 5th May 2019
About 2 years ago

@Sheridan, personally I would call on to your neighbour (old lady council tenant) and introduce yourself as the landlord from next door and that it has come to your notice regarding noise complaint, and you are trying to get to the bottom of it because without any evidence you cannot evict your tenant, so ask her exactly what has been going on, hear from her, there may be more to it than just the noise allegations.
Also explain to her your situation , that if you evicted your tenant then your property may not get occupied straight away and that squatters may move in and cause more problems for her and you, other drug pushers may start using the house for drug abuse, tell her because as you said This particular house is difficult to let. It overlooks a notorious council estate, whenever its empty it gets broken into and the last tenant moved out because her children were being bullied constantly by the local thugs. as they had broken your windows when your house was empty. So tell her that you will not be able to find another tenant for quite a while, so you much rather they both compromise and reach a compromise, no one is perfect, tell her that your tenant has also complained about her dogs and your tenant thinks that she (old lady) should move out instead and has also complained to the council about her dogs, but you don't want this unhappy situation as it is not doing anyone a favour, also tell her that now that her partner is in jail as he had assaulted her, and he won't be coming back to make any more nuisance or noise, what had occurred in the past was due to him, and tell her your tenant has agreed to stay quiet and you therefore hope she will also withdraw her complaint and I hope both of you can continue to enjoy living here for a very long time, and say you are sorry that this happened and you can promise it won't happen again as you have already spoken to your tenant, but if she does it again then you are prepared to take action and evict her, but it will not be easy as she won't go easily without court action and bailiffs and it may take several months before she can be evicted legally, usually around 4 to 6 months and you will also have to serve her a two months notice before you can take any court action, and courts are very busy and earleis eviction hearing may not be heard for 6 weeks and your tenant may deny any wrong doing as this would require evidence, as this is not a rent arrears case but a case of anti-social behaviour and courts require hard evidence not corroborated evidence. You can do this mediation yourself and then go back and speak to your tenant and give her the ultimatum, that unless her behaviour changes towards the old lady, irrespective of her dogs barkings, as they are animals you cannot always control animals, so she should compromise and respect the old lady and try and live a normal life and enjoy her home. This may have some impact on both, and though once relations falter they are hard to mend. But you have nothing to lose, worst come to worst if the council is forcing you to tale action, then file the possession order under section 8 on Discretionary ground only, where a Judge may not grant an outright eviction and may allow her continue to live on the property under good behaviour and conduct, so you done your duty to full fill Council's requirement and the court decides whether she needs to be evicted or ordered something else, and remember since you do not have any evidence, as you have not been given any by the council, so a court will not order her eviction. Liaise this with your tenant and tell her she needs not worry as you will not be asking the court for an outright eviction but for a suspended order which means she will be on her good behaviour, nothing the council can do then.
Also tell your tenant to file her defence form and deny the allegation you will put against her such as making loud noises.
Job done, no need to involve solicitors. You continue to rent to your tenant. Court's decision is final. If the council came back show them the papers that you have started proceedings. and finally show them the outcome decision of the court.

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