Fear of harrasment/ threatening behaviour claim?

Fear of harrasment/ threatening behaviour claim?

10:41 AM, 20th February 2023, About 10 months ago 4

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Hi everyone, it had to happen. I have got my hands on some troublesome tenants. My fear is the chance of a harassment/threatening behaviour claim by them and thus a possible rent repayment order.

It is a HMO (licenced a bit over a year ago and a half ago) student property and has valid gas cert/electrical safety cert: house has smoke detectors in each room (more than required) EPC rating C for 8 years now.

The background: They moved in on July 1 last year immediately followed by the previous tenants and started complaining about day 1 of moving in about how untidy it was. So I agreed to get a professional to clean up within a week. Then 2 months later-ish, a tenant complaint about various things including maybe slight damp patch of a wall when exposed to a camera flash and perhaps a mould patch size of 1/4 of a penny and all dealt with soon after.

Then in November The tenants repeatedly phoned the managing agents about another alleged mould issue, mainly to do with as same location as before. So the managing agent gets various quotes – one involved removing and redoing the entire section of a wall of the room in question as that was the main complaint.

All the while some guarantors now were shouting at the letting agency staff managing. I was also by way of the agents told they were also threatening legal action now also. So after that I went round and asked if I could look at the problem and was told I could have a look and was allowed in. No unpleasant words or threats were exchanged whatsoever. I guess a frank exchange of opinions. Then I got an email the following day complaining about the lack of notice.

Then as I set about getting quotes for some of the works to be done that were necessary as the earlier quotes some work was unnecessary. Around this time a fridge stopped working and from being informed of that to a new one being installed was 9 days. They keep complaining about the original complaint – so the managing agents and I with the tenants’ agreement agree to a day where they can say and show what they say is wrong in its entirety.

Which is almost everything allegedly. Letting agent however finds nothing particularly wrong except perhaps slight peeling wallpaper here and there other than the works I agreed to do. The tenant claims alleged damp/mould according to their dad is due to the chimney – only problem is there is in fact no chimney for decades. Then things quiet down as I get those works done. Then mid-Jan their cooker is said to have stopped working (only part of it had) and they it fixed ”asap”’ – so I arranged with a workman to go around on the same day and have a look at if to see it can be fixed or needs replaced. Again was allowed in but the following morning get an email from the managing agents saying they have complained about the lack of notice. Again nothing bad was exchanged.

It does appear malicious behaviour on their part as the new fridge was doodled on within days of being installed. In December, the main tenant complaining even had a ‘What to do this week notice board’ which stated phoning the letting agent one day to complain and another was to send a passive aggressive email to the agent again.

Another day was hoping I didn’t pop round (I have only gone round when they have had a issue not once). Moreover in total less than 5 times. This tenant also moved the desk from her room and replaced it with the desk in the spare unused room without even asking.

Back in November the most complaining tenant claimed the alleged damp in the house caused her to be ill then this changed to be very ill and a doctor agrees with. This then changed to the doctor saying the damp ‘does not help’. No proof of what the doctor is said to have said has been provided or an offer of talking to the doctor in question. All the while they said at the meeting with the agent they have taken lots of photos of the problems. Again none provided. She also seems to be a member of a drama group at the Uni. She also ‘liked’ a story about some students getting a rent repayment order from their unlicensed HMO property. Also worth noting for all the threats, they not once so far called in environmental health nor has the council’s HMO department been called in.

So I guess need I to worry about a housing act 2016 rent repayment order claim on the basis of harassment/threatening behaviour or any other ground due to the lack of notice?

I mainly fear a fictitious made up account of my alleged behaviour being the basis of a rent repayment claim.

Thank you,

Sam


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Comments

Blodwyn

11:48 AM, 20th February 2023, About 10 months ago

If it comes to legal blows, remember: EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE.

No judge will want to listen to 'he said she said'.

Photos, bodycam (assuming that's not a variant of harassment?), obviously a carefully kept and FULL file of letters, emails etc.? Legal 'Disclosure' involves producing ALL the docs, even those that may be against you. By which time you will be talking to m'learned friends?
Questions:
1. you mentioned guarantors shouting, are they worth powder and shot if you go to court and win and the tenants do a runner?
2. have you tried simply ignoring them? Is this just a silly game that they played on previous landlords - did you take up references?

Marlena Topple

11:50 AM, 20th February 2023, About 10 months ago

I can't see any grounds for a rent repayment order. However I can see how you might approach things differently to avoid some of these tensions. I too am a student landlord and have licensed student HMOs. I have noticed over time that good beginnings are critical to assisting tenants bond with their new home and settle and also reassure parents. That would include making sure the property is clean and in good decorative order and all appliances, furniture are working, stain free and free from damage prior to move in. I paint all walls white and patch paint if whole rooms don't need redoing. I would either repaint or spray with damp seal any small patches of damp. I use H20 to remove mould cause by lifestyle issues. If there are serious damp issues then yes I would get damp work done but this would be prior to tenants moving in. Particularly during the first weeks I jump on any issues that are reported to give tenants and parents reassurance that I am responsive. I employ an agent and try my hardest not to get directly involved with any communications with tenants. If I need to visit I always give 24 hours notice. I try to repair/replace appliances within 24 hours. 9 days without a fridge is unacceptable in my view. I usually find by mid October things settle down as students become distracted by University life.

Anne Nixon

14:00 PM, 20th February 2023, About 10 months ago

It does indeed sound as though they have heard of RROs, like the sound of it and are hoping to move the situation towards that, but by the sound of it in reality it seems unlikely that the situation warrants it.
I would say just remain polite, businesslike and responsive without giving any impression that you are worried.
Hopefully in a few weeks time they will be working hard revising for the May exams then Summer will be round the corner and they will be moving out.

Judith Wordsworth

16:51 PM, 20th February 2023, About 10 months ago

There should be a heat/smoke alarm in each bedroom plus others in the communal areas and hallways which must be tested as per the requirements in the Fire Regulations - I presume your agent is doing this and keeping a record.

Did you not do a thorough clean before the new tenants moved in? Why on earth not. If it was dirty I would have been complaining lol.

For communal areas you have right of access for you and/or tradesmen for emergencies. I would give 24 hours notice for any other reason - which on some occasions you have not done.
I would give 48 hours notice if you or your agent/tradesmen need to enter an HMO bedroom, unless an emergency.
You did not do this and it could be seen as a breach of tenants right to quiet enjoyment of the property.

"There is in fact no chimney for decades" has the chimney been capped off and the fire breast vented? If not then you might get water ingress and damp.

The smoke/fire alarm needs to be tested weekly and your agent can state an inspection of the communal areas will also be carried out at this time.

Hope your agent took photos of this "‘What to do this week notice board’ which stated phoning the letting agent one day to complain and another was to send a passive aggressive email to the agent again."

How did you know "This tenant also moved the desk from her room and replaced it with the desk in the spare unused room without even asking." Was 48 hours notice given to do a room inspection? If not you are again breaching a tenant's right to quiet enjoyment of the property.

The students dont need to produce the evidential photos until it coming to moving out and not getting their deposits back. Doodling on the fridge, if it doesn't clean off, could be seen as wear and tear, or just make a small "reasonable" deduction from every students deposit when applying to the DPS (or whoever you have protected the deposits with).

"the chance of a harassment/threatening behaviour claim by them and thus a possible rent repayment order." Have you ever threatened the students? If you haven't given the correct notice, and not only is this legislated but should be a written clause in the tenancy agreements stating the amount of notice that should be given, you have opened yourself up to a possible claim should it ever proceed to a judicial hearing. Always abide by the clauses in the tenancy agreements and legislation even if you think you are being helpful as you can be seen to be denying your tenants the right to quiet enjoyment of the property.

Always have a week turnaround between academic lets to do repairs and maintenance and to thoroughly clean. Most student properties are in need of a thorough deep clean and maintenance at the end of the academic year!

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