Retaliatory eviction – possibility of civil litigation?

by Roy and Tania

15:55 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Retaliatory eviction – possibility of civil litigation?

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Retaliatory eviction – possibility of civil litigation?

We’re a professional couple with a limited company which provides a technology solution to the NHS. It suits our circumstances to rent at this moment in time. Retaliatory eviction

We had a 4-year rental of a lovely apartment until last Summer, when the owner decided to downsize and move back into the property. It was a good relationship, we had treated the property as if it had been our own investment and we parted as friends – with our deposit paid back in full.

After much searching we found a 3-bed town house which appeared to offer us everything we needed. The letting agent was a member of NAEA/ARLA and appeared to be respectable. There were some agreed remedial works to be dealt with and we were given assurances that these would be attended to in due course. We moved into the property in late August 2012.

Sadly, by the beginning of November, it was apparent that the property had some significant problems. There was extensive water penetration upstairs and a rising damp problem to the ground floor. The letting agent was informed immediately, with photographic evidence and a request for urgent assistance. We moved our furniture from the 3rd bedroom.

A ‘trades-person’ appeared in due course, with a notepad and pencil but with no damp meter. A report was promised, but was not forthcoming. The letting agent promised to send another contractor. This one only worked weekends and couldn’t agree a time to call; that visit never took place.

I called the landlords contractor to arrange the remedial work to be completed – missing doors, exposed wires, etc. He visited early November, measured up, made notes, promised to return – but failed.

We spent the most horrendous Christmas and New Year in the house. There was serious damp penetration, black mould which was constantly being removed. Slugs were climbing the walls. The house was very cold and the more that we heated it – the worse the damp became. We telephoned, wrote, sent photographs, yet the letting agent did nothing; there were plenty of replies – unbelievably stating that they were attempting to do everything as quickly as possible. We initially resigned ourselves to getting out of the house at the end of our AST.

In early-February, I wrote the strongest letter to letting agent with photos. A survey was made by Peter Cox, a pretty damning report which agreed with our complaint – serious damp and rain penetration. I wrote again, asking for compensation and a reduction in rent. This was refused. The letting agent had said that the landlord was absent; it transpired this wasn’t the case.

We tracked the landlord down and demanded a meeting. The landlord appeared, agreed with us in full and said that it was the first he knew of the problem. He agreed that we should be compensated and that this was the letting agents responsibility. Our landlord sat in our home, apologising and promised us both that this would be resolved. He remarked how clean we kept the property. The next day he had changed his mind and said that our grievance was with the letting agent. The following day – the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) inspected. That week, the missing doors and exposed electrics were attended to. We sent 2 requests to the letting agent, for the landlords address – these were refused.

A week later we received a section 21 notice to quit. The landlords address was given as c/o a family member in the South – presumably to thwart a legal action by us.

It turned out that the landlord had known of the problems. He’d applied for a grant for roof insulation, in my name – without my knowledge – and prior to our first meeting. It transpired that the letting agents were not members of ARLA or NAEA and we contacted both organisations and Rightmove to get these false affiliations removed. The letting agent claimed an oversight.

We spoke with our MP who has written to the CEO of the local authority, in order to push the EHO. The EHO wrote to the letting agent and the landlord but there was no response. We then began to receive threats from the letting agent to enter the property to inspect and allow viewings; we made a formal complaint to the Police and this is logged with a fast-track number in the event that they continue. We threatened to change the locks and the letting agent replied that this was not necessary.

We defended the section 21 notice on the grounds of incorrect dates and continued to pay the rent. We were not going to be forced out and subjected to costs or inconvenience due to their incompetence. The weather had improved and the house was drying out for the summer and we would tough it out now – having gone through the worst. We have since redecorated all damp affected walls as it is unnecessary to be reminded every day.

Our MP has pushed for resolution; this has mustered a stronger letter from the EHO. There has been no response other than a second section 21 notice. The dates are once again incorrect. The letting agent has put our deposit into a DPS but did not provide the Deposit Protection Certificate or prescribed information until we requested it after five months of tenancy. The prescribed information appears to be incomplete. I doubt that any s21 is valid until deposit is returned and the landlord might be liable for 3x under the Localism Act? Our claim should also be for a reduction in rent back-dated to 11/2012 and should provide compensation for immense stress and upset – particularly to my wife – for the repeated inconvenience, small damage, etc.

We’ve spoken with experts in Landlord/Tenant issues, they’ve seen our file which is very complete and have passed it onto Barristers to evaluate. We have a strong case apparently, but would incur costs of circa £7k to seek compensation/enforcement of duty to repair; we’ve been told that there is little likelihood of being awarded costs – if successful. That’s an expensive ‘point of principle’ for us.

It seems a dreadful situation. We actually like the house and the worst of the problems could be so easily resolved. We must now consider vacating the property before the bad weather sets in again – to remain longer would weaken any case against the landlord and the letting agent. The landlord is inexperienced and his conduct and concern for our welfare has been quite despicable. The promises that he made to my wife and I were instantly forgotten and we would like to do whatever might be done, so that he is taught the lesson.

Please accept our apologies for the long post, is there anything that we could do, other than what the landlord and letting agent expects – that being to vacate and walk away? I feel that someone needs to make a stand here, to create some solid case law if necessary – to protect others faced with similar problems in the future.

Thanks in advance

Roy and Tania



Comments

Mark Alexander

16:03 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Has anybody ever told you that you are the spitting image of Kevin Whateley, AKA Lewis out of Morse and Neville out of Auf Wiedersehen Pet?

I'm not qualified to advise you on these circumstances but I do feel you have very strong grounds to win significant compensation as a result of a Civil Prosecution. Ideally, you want somebody like Ben Reeve Lewis to represent you on a 'no win no fee' basis. I've asked Ben to comment on this thread.
.

16:12 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Have you considered that you have a life to get on with.
Had I been you I would have vacated the property citing all the problems.
A breach of contract had occurred on the basis that you were not provided with what you paid for.
I'm sure you could have sourced another property of a better standard.
Morally and legally you are correct; but do you really want to bother with this idiot LL.
Vacate and leave the LL trying to rent the property out.
By the sounds of it extensive works need carrying out to put the property in a lettable condition.
Just leave and leave him all the problems.

Mark Alexander

16:17 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Paul Barrett" at "12/08/2013 - 16:12":

Paul, I've had a long chat with Roy offline. I would do exactly what he is hoping to do in the circumstances, i.e. teach this naive landlord and crooked Letting Agent a proper lesson. I'm gobsmacked that ARLA and NAEA haven't already issued proceeding against the letting agent for false representation.
.

16:38 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "12/08/2013 - 16:17":

Yeah I understand the justification for potentially taking action; it is just that will they consider it worth all the time and hassle when they could be thinking and doing other things.
We know ARLA etc are pretty useless and taking legal action will just be a right pain for them
Lesson teaching; yes in an ideal world i agree; but sometimes these situations can poison one's own domestic situation; the mere fact that they are having to think about it would be detrimental.
That is why I suggested just leaving and giving the LL the problem of finding some mug tenant to take over the property.
Clearly the righteousness of the situation is correct, but can these tenants really be bothered!!?
I'm sure they could just put it down to experience and move on to a better LL.
After all they don't appear to have lost much apart from living a short period in crap conditions.
Not acceptable I know but....................................is it worth for them all the hassle!!?

Ben Reeve-Lewis

16:57 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

HI Anon, what a pickle.

This is the kind of stuff I deal with day in day and I wonder if I have anything to add that you probably havent heard already from you legal bods.

Forget the agents for now, they just sound like a bunch of idiots.

Any disrepair concerning the structure of the building, walls, roof, windows, doors, boilers etc is the landlord's sole responsibility, no question. Section 11 Landlord and Tenant act 1985. There are no get outs and the landlord cant dump it on the agents. That leaves the landlord open for a disrepair claim which will include damages.

£7k sounds a lot of money but you could take him on what is called a Conditional Fee Arrangement (CFA) more commonly called 'No win, no fee'.

Damage claim for disrepair, called 'Damages in quantum', are quite a minefield to work out and involve all manner of calculations for loss of use but there are lawyers out there who do CFA on disrepair, most notably Giles Peaker at Anthony Gold Solicitors in Walworth Rd London. He is the main author of the 'Nearly Legal' blog and is the disrepair daddy.

If you want to give Mark your phone number I dont mind giving you a call

Mark Alexander

17:04 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

What a strange coincidence Ben, I was talking to David Smith at the same firm of solicitors about a completely different issue only this morning (Superstrike case law and solutions.
.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

17:11 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "12/08/2013 - 17:04":

Yeah David does training and presentations for Tessa and I. He is doing a workshop in September for us on HMO law in Norwich

17:13 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "12/08/2013 - 17:04":

With regards to solicitors and fields of expertise would it be possible for forum members to have a list of these recommendations of at least who are known to deal with specialist situations.
Most LL would just take a pin and stick it in the yellow pages; not very satisfactory
Your's; Ben's etc knowledge would be useful for other forum members; should legal action etc be needed or considered

Mark Alexander

17:16 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ben Reeve-Lewis" at "12/08/2013 - 17:11":

If I can make it I'm in. Please post a link with details.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

17:18 PM, 12th August 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Paul Barrett" at "12/08/2013 - 17:13":

Paul part of the reason my job is made so difficult is that few solicitors deal with landlord and tenant at all, let alone legal aid so I have few to refer to.

I have been asked to be a legal aid supervisor for a firm of solicitors in Greenwich Borough and there isnt a single solicitors firm in that borough that has a legal aid certificate for housing.

Giles and David at Anthony Gold's know what they are doing and I have recently made friends with Olu Ayodeji at Duncan Lewis Partnership in New Cross who is good. Thats it really. The only ones I know

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