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

Chris @ Possession Friend

12:56 PM, 21st February 2020
About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 21/02/2020 - 10:35
Yes Ian, Tenant Fee Ban is the customary name for the 'Act' as it Bans all fees, so we're talking about the same thing.
So it is actually not the TFB ( or TFA ) that causes the issue, but contravention of the Deposit legislation.
As I've been saying, ( and I think you've made the point in previous posts about parts of it being open to interpretation ) the Act ( Ban on fees ) is not preventing Rent and its actually the Deposit legislation that Landlords risk falling foul of. But clarity in the AST and not overcomplicating the arrangement should be permissible.. and not contravene either Tenant Fee's or Deposit legislation.

Lindsay Keith

20:22 PM, 22nd February 2020
About 7 months ago

I am a retired litigation solicitor but not with L&T expertise.
1. You MUST see an expert L&T Solicitor. No doubt Property118 may recommend one in your area. To go into court and defend yourself is foolish. As has been said a squillion times before, the legal dice is loaded against you. That loading against you gets worse if you represent yourself without expert (not just passing) knowledge of the legal issues and their elephant traps.
2. Whilst talking with your Solicitor, cover the reference point. Unless the law has changed, I don't think you are under any obligation to pass comment in a reference. I believe it is sufficient to say, "T was a T in my property at 1 Brick Lane from aa/bb/cccc to xx/yy/zzzz." If you pass any comment, it MUST be accurate. If you sugar the reference (for example, to speed him away) and the next Landlord suffers loss, then you are at risk of being sued by the next Landlord for damages and costs for providing an inaccurate reference.
3. Sorry to be a disappointment but our duty as commentators is to be frank and honest. Good luck!

John Mac

15:20 PM, 24th February 2020
About 7 months ago

Join the NLA or RLA ( soon to joined as the NRLA) & use their legal helpline to see where you stand on the Deposit side. Defend the claim yourself, make sure you have all your paperwork in order fully ordered, labelled & referenced in your defense summary i.e see appendix 1a etc etc - I have been to the small claims court many times, mostly the hearings are fair & just. Unfortunately sometimes you get a Judge who has no idea what they are doing or will just take a dislike to you as a Landlord. I will add that I have never lost a housing case.

nim

21:58 PM, 24th February 2020
About 7 months ago

I am on your side but I think you have made an error.

Because your Tenancy Agreement seems to be silent on when the second month will be allocated you decide and the tenant did not agree to when it would be allocated. Being vague means the tenant is prejudiced and I think a Judge will pick up on what the tenancy agreement doesn’t say as opposed to what it does say.

The tenant might even have been a professional and known the error you made when they signed the agreement with the intention of doing this. We all know there are professional scammers as tenants out there and it looks like one has found you.

Others have said similar and Ian Cognito might be right when he said taking two months rent at a time but I agree I don’t think there is not a problem taking two months’ rent providing the tenancy agreement specifies when it will be allocated such as to pay for the second or twelfth month. Even saying something like the final month could prove difficult because when would the final month be? The last paid or unpaid month?

As much as you may want a judge who is knowledgeable about tenancy law this looks like it is as much about contract law. It’s unfortunate but I don’t see a cheap way out of this.

Penny DJ

10:05 AM, 5th March 2020
About 7 months ago

If this is small claims court, then it is decided on the balance of probability, so issues like how much money was paid will come down to comparing bank accounts - you and the tenants, and your contract. If your contract and bank account matches but your tenants doesn't with their account, then you will win on what has likely happened.
As for the repairs, you have your bills for the work and if not then you need to get them respectively from your contractors so it says "re-roofed flat roof at no 65 High St" etc.
If the council is not answering your letters/emails/calls - then go down there and see them. Yes, they should confirm the status of the complaint ie completed, signed off, further problems, ongoing. I also know that my council require proof that the tenant has told the landlord of problems at the property (a tenant of mine tried this and they wrote back to her saying that she had failed to provide any proof of this and they were closing her complaint) I saw the letter after she'd left and I had to empty out the house.
£10,000 seems like a lot for the tenant to claim. Do they have a full time job, has this required them to take time off work or move into alternate accommodation? I don't think the courts award much for pain and suffering, and of course anything they got should also be declared for tax and to offset benefits if they don't work.
I certainly would not buy them off. I also didn't think that legal aid paid for small claims courts. You could try to contact Shelter/legal aid to show them that all the work has been done and that no deposit was paid, that might result in the withdrawal of legal aid. But even legal aid has to be paid for if they win.
Have you consulted your landlord insurance, and does it cover you for legal expenses, most do, so I would contact them and seek their assistance.
Court is a really scary thought (been there twice and one resolved through mediation) but at the end of the day the other sides solicitor does not get to question or berate you, only present evidence and answers to the judge who goes through everything.

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