I am being threatened by solicitor using the housing disrepair protocol?Make Text Bigger
I have an issue with a tenant who has lived my property for around 4 years. She has instructed a solicitor who has contacted me quoting the ‘housing disrepair protocol ‘.
The solicitors letter basically says that the property suffers from damp issues, and that the tenant notified me “18 months to 2 years ago by text message”. They are saying that the issues have gone unrepaired, that it has caused issues to her and her sons health, and they are looking for the repairs to be done and for compensation for the tenant.
The solicitor is one of these no-win no-fee types who specialise in housing claims. The claim that I was told 18 months to 2 years ago is a complete lie, the issues were brought to my attention by way of a hand written note passed to a contractor I use who then passed it on to me in November 2016. I confirmed receipt of the letter by text.
The solicitor’s letter is dated in December, so a very short time after the complaints were raised. I have inspected the property and provided a schedule of works, but the solicitor is being very difficult and questioning the competency and qualifications of the builders I prepared the schedule with. They want to send in their own ‘impartial’ surveyor to assess the property (which I have refused at this stage) who of course I would have to pay for if I lost in court.
I have saved on my phone every text message from the tenant from the day she moved in, which proves the initial claim was a lie. I provided copies of these messages to the solicitors. Their response was that ‘in their experience most tenants report the issues by phone’. Can this hold up in court? I never speak to this tenant on the phone, only by text, but surely the very fact they are changing their story after I supplied evidence to dispute their claim should go in my favour?
The texts throughout the tenancy mention various problems, all of which were resolved very quickly, and none mention the damp related issues in the solicitor’s letter. Surely if these issues were apparent 2 years ago they would have been mentioned in text messages with other issues. I am not a rogue landlord, in fact the reason I had builders in in November is because we were finishing installing a £5,000 kitchen! I also have dozens of other receipts for maintenance works for her home.
Does anybody have any experience of this kind of matter? I don’t think the solicitor has even shown the schedule of works to the tenant, which I am planning on questioning in my next response. The solicitors only objective is the compensation so they can get paid, whereas I just want to fix the property.
I have outright refused compensation at this stage as the way I understand the claims process is that they have to prove she notified me ’18 months to 2 years ago’ and that I did nothing about it, but I have proved this claim to be false already by providing text messages which led to them changing their story to a phone call which could never be proved either way.
I was planning for my next reply to suggest they hadn’t shown the tenant the schedule, to ask them to prove that they had and to provide a direct response from the tenant (not them) either authorising the works to go ahead or refusing them. I think the tenant is being badly advised, as after knowing her for many years I think she just wants to have the works done ASAP, not to prolong the issue like the solicitors seem to want to do.
I was going finish the response with something along the lines of “if you wish to take this matter further then please issue legal proceedings” as I feel the back and forth letters can go no further, and the works are still waiting to be done, which as all my replies have shown we are keen and willing to do.
Is this the right thing to do? If this ended up in court I don’t see how I could allow the tenant to remain? The solicitor’s letter claimed the tenancy was miserable because of the property condition which is rubbish, if it was she could have moved out or reported it at any time.
What would be the best/quickest way to evict if it came to it without it being viewed as a revenge eviction?
Thank you for reading and for any advice or help that anyone may be able to give advance!
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