Tenant claiming £10k damages?

by Readers Question

8:49 AM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Tenant claiming £10k damages?

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Tenant claiming £10k damages?

Hi everyone, I’d appreciate any input that the members might have with my predicament. I am currently the defendant in a case that one of my tenants has brought through the small claims court. The tenant is claiming in excess of 10k against me and has listed the following reasons.

– The tenant paid a deposit at the commencement of the tenancy which was not placed in tenancy deposit scheme ect ect ect.
– A long list of repairs needed to the house have caused grief and disruption to the tenant and his son.

In response to the first point, the tenant did NOT pay a deposit or any other kind of fee at any point. The tenancy agreement clearly states that no deposit is payable and the tenant signed every page acknowledging this.

The second reason is more involved. At no point has the tenant reported any repairs directly to myself throughout the tenancy. The first point I was made aware that there was issues with the house was when the council wrote to me after carrying out an inspection to the property.

Upon receiving the informal notice from the council. I engaged local tradesmen to rectify every single issue. Some of the works carried out include, replacement of combi boiler, new flat roof to the extension, pest control visit from the local authority, full electrical report passing the property of as safe, numerous visits from my joinery contractor. I have receipts for every one of these repairs which run to over five thousand pounds.

The tenant has refused mediation and has even made fictitious accusations against the council’a Health and Safety officer. I am having difficulty getting any response out of the council now and my emails and letters are being ignored. I suspect that the council want no further involvement with the case now which does not help me as I’d like to have it in writing from them that the works have been carried out.

Any advice, suggestions or observations would be greatly appreciated.

Trapped Landlord



Comments

Trapped Landlord

12:04 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by H Priory Homes at 18/02/2020 - 11:47
The tenant is still there yes. He works as a carer so I think there is no solicitor involved. The reciepts for the work carried out are substantial and he's acknowledged in writing no deposit was paid, so I'm not sure what more a solicitor could offer, other than more invoices to myself. Seems to me his heart has completely over ruled his head and he's willing to loose money in court fees plus his home. Ive never had a tenant take me to court before, but in my experience of possession cases, they tend to be one sided in favour of the tenant.

Rob Crawford

12:22 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Hi Trapped Ll. Make sure you are familiar with the Fit for Habitation Act process stated for tenant reports of faults etc. Unless the Council has been advised that you have received written notice from the tenant and you have not acted on it, they should not be conducting an inspection. Unless of course there is risk of significant danger etc. Have this process in front of you at the hearing and ask the tenant for "evidence" stage by stage on what he has provided.

Dennis Leverett

12:27 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

I had a small claims experience a few years ago which was only for just over £500.00 + costs. The claim was totally based on lies which could not be proven but my Solicitor advised to settle out of court and put it down to experience. No way!!! I prepared my own case very carefully and accurately, the paperwork and facts have to be squeaky clean. I also found out, not sure if it still applies, that you can apply to the court before case to claim your costs if it goes in your favour whereas normally the defendant can't claim?? One important point is that if the claimant refuses mediation it goes against them, my claimant refused and was an extremely arrogant threatening person and his costs claim was ridiculous. He lived in Wiltshire and me in Suffolk and the case had to be held locally to me. It came to court and was over in minutes, the judge commended me for my preparation and remarked that the claimant had wasted everyone's time and it should not have come to court, he even said he had never seen such arrogance. I was awarded full costs. After the case I did a bit of research and discovered that he had tried this before for £1,200.00 and finished up with costs against him of £69,000.00 yes that's correct and he still hasn't paid it. The Judge in that case also remarked on his arrogance and refusal of mediation. This started as a small claims then escalated. I would say that if your paperwork is squeaky clean and your sure he can't prove anything go for it, it can be stressful but so mentally rewarding if you win. Good luck.

David Lawrenson

12:33 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

I have been through the county court (small claims track) twice, though never against a tenant.

In both cases I had bought the case. I won one against an electrician and lost the other against a big insurance company.

I found the process to be very fair and designed for the layman acting without a solicitor. This did not stop Royal London from hiring a barrister in their defence against me, but that seemed to make little difference in court, apart from presumably costing them a lot of money. And though I lost that one, there were no costs for me.

I am not a solicitor, but I see two options here.

Option 1, which I prefer is to fight this one. As stated above, the process is designed to be done yourself without a solicitor. Fight it robustly - and I would not be surprised if this clown backs down, when he realises what he is up against.

Option 2, is to offer to pay him is he just goes. But I suggest you could do that along with option 1, as costs in county court are not high. (And I agree with a previous poster, do not agree to write a good reference so he can hurt another landlord). The reason option 2, together with option 1 is valid is that it sounds like he is the kind of clown who will withhold rent and remain in the property until bailiffs come - and even then they are likely to have to use police to remove him. My understanding is that this could cost 6 months' in lost rent right now, given the delays in the court processes (which is a scandal). So if you fight his claim with option 1 whilst also offering option 2, that may be the best option - i.e. you show you are not a sappy pushover, but you also offer him a way out for a smallish offer. Sop you are saying, "I will fight you hard" but "You have a way out". The implicit assumption for him to make here is that you are tough and you will fight him hard for money he owes you, in rent etc.

What I find odd here is that whilst you did everything else right - gassafe, EPC, How to Rent doc etc., you somehow, (as I understand it), failed to get a thorough inventory done. This means he could leave the place in a total mess and possibly thrash it - and without proof of condition at the start of tenancy, any claim that you might wish to make for damages will struggle to succeed, indeed may be impossible.

Maybe you were thinking - no deposit, no need for inventory? This is an error some folks make. Don't do it again. Always do an inventory. And ALWAYS do thorough reference and income / affordability checks.

Finally, it's horrible, but it will pass - and one day he will be gone and you WILL be able to move on.

Please keep us updated at this thread.

Good luck.

David Lawrenson
http://www.LettingFocus.com
Independent Advice for Landlords and author of books for landlords and tenants in the private rented sector

Ian Cognito

13:11 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

As far as I am aware, taking more than 1 month rent up front will be viewed as 1 month rent plus deposit. Therefore, deposit should have been protected. (This may not be the case if rent was taken in one payment for the full term).

However, a fine of 3 x deposit is only £1,260.

Trapped Landlord

13:46 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by David Lawrenson at 18/02/2020 - 12:33
Its encouraging that you found the court to be fair, I've probably become too pessimistic over the years in my dealings with the so called 'accelerated procedure '. I thinking now of tackling this on my own as I don't feel my solicitors costs would be covered should I win. Strangely enough, this guy is very clean and mild mannered so id be surprised if he left any vandalism. The rent has always been paid but he seems to have dreamt up some sort of vendetta against me and looks very determined.

Sue Twyford

14:47 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Trapped Landlord at 18/02/2020 - 13:46
Perhaps he's managed to secure some sort of 'legal aid' given he is a carer, so assume low income. So on what basis is he claiming £10,000? Surely not on lost income during the work? You've indicated you have paid all the repairs/maintenance, so where is he out of pocket to that value? He would have to prove that to a court - unless he is claiming for 'personal injury/damage to feelings' etc.

Trapped Landlord

15:36 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Cognito at 18/02/2020 - 13:11
https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/private_renting/rent_in_advance

I Think if our friends over at Shelter are ok with unlimited rent in advance, its good enough for me. Besides which , a tenant could choose to send any figure they like to their landlord through the bank.

David Lawrenson

16:44 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Sue makes a very good point re what basis is he trying to claims £10K. For what exactly and if that is for some form of lost income or loss of use of a room say, a court may ask why he did not notify you of this at the time.

It seems to me his case looks rather weak.

Ian Narbeth

18:15 PM, 18th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Trapped Landlord at 18/02/2020 - 10:20
"The monthly rent is 420 pcm, and the tenancy stated that 2 months is payable upon moving in the property". Did the tenant thereafter pay £420 per month monthly in advance? If so the extra looks like a disguised deposit. Alternatively was the £840 rent so that the next payment of rent was not due for two months? If you get this wrong you will be in trouble for not protecting the "deposit" and not serving a prescribed information form.

As others have said you need legal advice.

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