Tenant threatening to sue!! Help!

by Readers Question

8:08 AM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

Tenant threatening to sue!! Help!

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Tenant threatening to sue!! Help!

In 2015 I rented my property to a family friend who came to me this year explaining about damp and mould. I went to check and my Tenant was telling the truth it was had. It was a reoccurring issue in the property.

Due to personal financial problems I was unable to have all the work done at one time, but did begin to have the issues dealt with.

After some time I realised that realistically the property was going to be a constant financial drain and that selling it may be a better idea.

August 12 of this year I wrote a note to my Tenant asking her and her family to leave the property in 4 weeks so I could commence the repairs that needed doing. As her father (the joint Tenant) is a family friend I handed it to her get it signed and dated and explained that I wished to sell the property after repairing it.

Anyway yesterday the Tenant came to my property posting a letter, upon reading it I found out that she planned to sue me for an illegal eviction notice.

Apparently it has to be done on a section 21 form or section 8, that she planned to sue me for planning to illegally evict her. For breach of contract (the tenancy agreement) which states I must repair all damages to the structure if not caused by the Tenant, for renting a property that I knew had previous Damp problems, for the damages caused to her property as a direct result of the damp within the property, for stress and worry caused as a direct result of me asking them to move in 4 weeks.

She actually put at the bottom of the note that trying to illegally evict someone can actually carry a prison sentence of up to two years.

My Tenant must be kidding right?

Surely she has no case for any of this?

I agree there was a damp and black mould issue, but she repainted with an anti mould additive.

And she was a family friend!

Thank

Neel



Comments

Mark Alexander

8:23 AM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

Hello Neel

The good news is that you are both in the wrong. Nevertheless, you are in a precarious position and need to seek professional legal advice.

The notice you are served is not valid. However, you've not committed a crime, or it is extremely unlikely you have. I haven't seen what you wrote. The fact that your tenant is still in the property means that you haven't illegally evicted her though.

If you want to get her out then you will need to follow the proper procedures. See our legal section and then click on the "Evicting Tenants" link.

If your tenant seeks professional advice she will probably be told to report the matter to Environmental Health. If they get involved, chances are that they will serve an improvements notice on you and that will prevent you from evicting her for 12 months on the basis that she will claim retaliatory eviction. What I suggest you do to attempt to head this off is to have a specialist report prepared. It may well be the case, and more often then not is, that the mould is prevalent as a result of the tenants lifestyle. Inadequate ventilation is a common cause of condensation leading to mould and can often be resolved by changing habits such as opening windows or not drying clothes on radiators.

If it deemed that the mould problem is not due to your tenants lifestyle then she may well have a claim against you if her belongings have been damaged. However, this would need to be substantiated.

You are in the right place for guidance but that is no replacement for professional advice.

I hope that several other landlords will give you further tips but PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR and find yourself a good lawyer.

I suspect the situation can still be resolved here and that you are both in the posturing stage of combat. Before things escalate any further, try to negotiate. Talk to your tenant about your issues and listen to hers. There may be a deal you could strike up. I'm sure she doesn't want to live in a mouldy property any more than you want to own one. Perhaps you could agree to cut her into a deal when the property is sold? Again, use a lawyer to document this for you if you do agree anything, because otherwise you could hang yourself by your own words.

Paul Green

15:21 PM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

I always here the same old story when it comes to damp, ITS THE TENANTS LIFESTYLE. Now I can understand if the home is overcrowded and more people are unlawfully living there than on the AST. This is lifestyle and abuse, and bound to cause condensation & mould. But damp is completely different from condensation . As long as the tenant or tenants have been informed to open windows, use the extractor in the bathroom, kitchen and put lids on saucepans, as well as not leaving wet clothes on rads. Then I'm afraid to say it's the landlords responsibility to put it right and put it right as quickly as possible for the health & safety of the humans that inhabit the space. Oh and if you have a flat with know bathroom window then buy a washer dryer or separate tumble drying too, if they gave no outside space. I bought my tenants a large £200 compressor dehumidifier and portable fest top hydro meter, less than a tenner so they can mange the environment in the flat themselves , as well as asking them too leave the central heating on at the thermostat set to a minimum of 10 degrees C throughout the year. Lastly I had the bedroom and hall damp proofed, we have had no more problems of damp, condensation, mound on there clothes, walls, bed lining and have a good equal one too one relationship. I was horrified when they told me there clothes had mould growing on them, that's when I purchased the dehumidifier too control the environment, before getting to the real issue. So here's what you do. Have a good damp proof company do a full survey, these are normally fee of charge and then assess the situation. Obtain 3 quotes as they can differ widely. If it's an outside wall it could be the guttering running down the wall, possible broken or blocked, very easy too fix. It could be the sosk away blocked with leaves. have it fixed, if it's because the damp proof course (DPC) is non existent because it's an old building, let the damp proof company inject a chemical damp proof protection system into the wall, they only need to remove the plaster a skirting on the effected area and drill lots of holes to inject the wall, re plaster and wait 6 weeks for the plaster to dry out. Then apply a 50/50 water and emulsion first coat and then a normal 2nd coat of paint. Problem solved. Treat your tenants as you would like to be treated and you won't go far wrong. Lastly if it it's a big job and you can't financial afford to do it in one go explain too the tenant you will do one room at a time in phases, but start the first one ASAP say the bedroom as this is were they spend 8 hrs breathing in the toxins, so they know your not fobbing them of. It's not as expensive as it sounds, sure there are companies that will rip you off like all trades but that's why you get 3 or even 4 quotes. Pit them against each other. but don't necessarily go with the cheapest , go with the company you instinctively know you trust their advice & professionalism.. Come on let's all step up as landlords and DO THE RIGHT THING.....

Mark Alexander

15:47 PM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

Also, do a Google search for "Positive Input Ventilation".

That's saved me big expense loads of times.

ben whitley

16:52 PM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

Explain why you need to sell the house, apologise for giving them 4 weeks notice to move, youve pissed them off this is not enough time out of the blue.. ask them what time they would need. Be nice.. Maybe offer to give them some money towards a new deposit ..If they are a family friend there prob good people and may understand once things calm down.

Mark Alexander

17:00 PM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

Excellent advice!

Gary Dully

21:32 PM, 21st August 2017
About A year ago

Dear Neel,
I have been renting property out to various tenants for over 15 years.
The number of times that a damp issue has been structural has been......? NEVER!

No sorry, just once, it was a specific damp issue caused in one place by a leaking drain pipe.
But it didn't cause mould, it caused a big damp patch.

For every other single occasion it has been caused by the tenant.
The biggest cause is always excess humidity, lack of heating and a lack of ventilation.

If the complaint involves black spot mould, it is 99.9% caused by a poor ventilation of a room, lack of heating and excessive humidity.
Think about it!
How many structural faults has your property got?
One on each wall, turned them all black?- not a chance!

If it involves more than one wall, unless you have a property on the San Andreas fault and a daily Earth tremor, it is highly unlikely to be a structural issue.

As you are being threatened by a tenant for something that probably isn't your fault, you may as well get a grip of them with a few home truths.

To do so, you will need a condensing tumble dryer, a hygrometer meter that costs £4 and a mobile phone with a decent video camera on it.

If you have a condensing tumble dryer, prepare to be shocked!

Take out the top drawer and fill it with water.

Get a friend to then video you taking the drawer out and emptying it down the drain, (preferably their outside drain).

Then video yourself pouring the waste water down their outside drain.

Then show it to your tenant and say ...
This drawer is from my tumble dryer and this is how much water you are spraying on the walls each time you dry laundry without ventilation and I'm sick of telling tenants about it.

As you have now threatened me with legal action, I may as well act in kind.

What you did to me was rather unpleasant, but I'm big enough to be in this business and do well from it

So I am going to present this as my defence against your crass stupidity of outright vandalism of my property, which initially caused me to panic a bit and issue you the wrong type of eviction notice, for which I apologise, so I suppose I'd better get a real solicitor to do it for me.

I'll get one that's as cheap as possible to keep your bill down!

In regards to your complaints, I agree there are issues and I intend to resolve them.

One of us is wrong, and as I don't live here, it must be you!

After taking some advice , I have realised that I can now prove that there are insufficient structural faults that would cause such damage that you have been complaining about and I have sufficient video evidence to now blame you!

I have just rolled up in my limo and I notice that all your windows are clamped shut, so I have photographed them as such.

I have taken a reading of the relative humidity, ( that means damp in the air), in that building and it is so high, you have turned the house into a lizard tank, suitable for amphibious toads and crested newts, in fact it's so damp that my fags have gone soggy.

Here is a humidity meter https://thermometer.co.uk/humidity-meters/1176-dial-hygrometer-low-cost-easy-to-read.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5J-UlIHp1QIVASjTCh1iqQ0lEAQYASABEgJJHPD_BwE

I will be back in two weeks and if there isn't a marked improvement in the situation I will be suing you a few thousand pounds in damages for being a moron.

Please go down the ASDA or TESCO and get yourself some mould remover spray, breathing masks and rubber gloves.
I will cover the cost, in this instance to show I'm trying to help the situation.

Stop being an idiot and we might be able to move on and deal with the real issues, which are that you are ruining my house.

The laws of physics are simple, if you piss water, like I have just shown you, down the walls, you are going to get mould growth, curly wallpaper and a nasty cough with phlegm.

Open the windows,when cooking or washing and ventilate, that means let the house breathe.
If you don't I will be back with a proper piece of paper that claims your an idiot.

Look them in the eye and don't blink!

I will see you in two weeks.

(It will be sorted in days)
Word it how you want, but get a grip.

If they want to stick with the legal, that's fine, just let their solicitor know that you are a broken man or woman, have no money and will probably be evicted soon yourself anyway.
Their solicitor won't want to work for nothing and will ask them for funds.
*******************
Note for the future
*******************
You are running a business and you are no longer anybody's friend.
Treat your tenants firmly or else!
If their requests are genuine, treat them fairly at all times.
If they are idiots, try, at least once, to convert them, if that doesn't work it's time to get rid of them.

It takes a lot longer than 4 weeks, about 5 months usually does it.

Follow the procedures very carefully and stop being an amateur, you will then grow into a fully fledged landlord who doesn't bite their fingernails at night.
*****************
Laundry and it's evils
*****************

I have banned the drying and airing of clothes in all of my flats and HMO's and instead I have provided communal condensing tumble dryers in the communal areas of the buildings.

All kitchens and bathrooms have humidistat extractor fans and they work.

If I get black spot mould my tenants know that I will rip them another arsehole and my tenancy agreements are explicit!

E.g.
Upon the signing of this agreement, the tenant has agreed and the landlord has agreed that there will be no drying or airing of laundry in any undesignated areas, other than those provided by the landlord, which at the start of this agreement are as follows; rear back garden, upstairs bathroom, front garden and communal tumble dryer in the communal hallway areas.
(Powered from the landlords power supply).
Other parts of the building are currently unsuitable for use for any laundry drying area due to the architects original specification.

Upon the signing of this agreement the tenant agrees that any damage caused as a consequence of breaching this term, in particular black spot mould, will be the responsibility of the tenant to rectify at their own expense.
To enable the tenant to comply, the landlord agrees to provide a free, (up to 4 units), portable hygrometer to monitor the situation at the start of the tenancy and will form part of the property inventory.

The moral of any tenancy agreement is to, excuse the Shakespear, "cover your arse", so that when someone tries to be smart with you, you have most areas covered.

Now book a legionnaires risk assessment, (or some other reason to go), get down to the property and take a few readings with the hygrometer, (get yourself one as well).
Make sure it's a simple to use as possible and don't buy anything fancy.

Best of luck, you should have it all sorted in a couple of weeks.

Ps. Ask if all their neighbours have any damp issues, I would very much doubt it.

Chris Taylor

11:18 AM, 22nd August 2017
About A year ago

Firstly I am not here to plug my business but merely to give advice. I have been treating mould and damp problems for over 10 years without any reoccurrence after my company has treated a problem. I probably survey a 1000 properties a year,commercial and letting properties. In that time I have yet to see a rising damp problem associated with mould growth, that's not to say that there is not rising damp problems out there but from my experience they are few and far between. Most problems arising from mould growth are definitely associated with lifestyle issues of the tenant or property occupier. The parameters that are attributed to mould growth germination are not simply about opening windows. On the contrary opening Windows for long periods will cause mould problems. I will also add that in my opinion positive ventilation Systems are not a economical resolution especially due to the costings and unsightly ducting and trunking that needs to be installed. You are far better purchasing a quality dehumidifier with a hygrostat at approximately one fifth of the price of a positive ventilation system. And finally always place a clause in your tenancy agreement that you should be informed immediately of any mould growth germination problems that occur as this will stem the problem before you incur huge mould decontamination bills. You will be surprised how long a tenant is quite happy to leave a small mould problem that can spread through your property within 6 weeks. Hence why we have a quotation valid time limit of 30 days from the survey being conducted. I will refrain from ever giving my company details on this site but I can tell you that the majority of treatments that have been conducted previously to our treatment are not successful due to the products used that simply do not work. Finally never be tempted to apply bleach products i.e sodium hypochlorite or some fandangled product that you have bought from the shelf that contains sodium hypochlorite or other cleaning agents as you are just buying an expensive bottle of bleach as bleach does not kill mould it's simply masks the problem and fix the root structure of the plant.

Rob Crawford

15:55 PM, 22nd August 2017
About A year ago

Hi Neel, I can tell from reading you issue and from what you have already done that you are not up to speed with the legalities concerned. You have tenant that is going to challenge you all the way. Based on this I would strongly suggest you employ an experienced property solicitor. Don't try and do it yourself as mistakes will be easy to make and your tenant won't miss them! I hope you had the deposit protected & prescribed info issued and, if relevant, the gas safe cert is in date as these may effect the eviction.

Mark Alexander

16:10 PM, 22nd August 2017
About A year ago

As our Hon. Legal Counsel recently said "if you think professional fees are expensive, wait until you see what hiring an ametuer costs you in these situations!"

Gary Dully

9:13 AM, 23rd August 2017
About A year ago

Neel,

Hiring a solicitor at this stage may be prudent, but solicitors don't cure damp or mould growth.

They write nasty letters to each party and whoever bursts into tears first will pay both invoices.

At the end of the day your solicitor will need evidence to provide a defence.

What have you got so far?

Sweet fanny Adams!

I'm a practical sort of guy and my suggestions above were designed to put you back in charge of your tenants thought process.

If you sow a seed of doubt into your tenants mind, it will slow down the process, as any solicitor will want to collect the facts about what has occurred first.

What happens first is a procedure called CPR for disrepair.

What you have had is a letter claiming illegal eviction.

That hasn't happened, you have sent an invalid notice to quit and that is easily rescinded by issuing a letter or the correct form of notice.

What you might be accused of is harassment by not curing the mould problem etc.

You have already read on these responses that the vast majority of them have discounted the property as being at fault.

This is down to experience of those landlords that have had the same problems as you.

To prove you are right, you need a relative humidity reading of the inside of the property in different rooms or you will never have a defence, will you?

If you can go into a room and watch that hygrometer gauge needle go into the red zone, (it takes about 5 minutes), you can then gain control of the situation.

Those of us with this experience know that it's always excess humidity in the air, rooms full of junk, blocked vents and locked windows that cause black spot mould.

But the number one cause by far is from cooking, showers, laundry drying and airing in unventilated spaces.

Get yourself a couple of simple hygrometers and leave one with the tenant after you have obtained some readings.

As soon as your tenant sees that needle in the red zone, with the accompanying words of "just as I suspected, it's because the rooms are not being ventilated", " you have blocked the vents", "been drying laundry indoors" that's what it's been all along.

They will then be riddled with doubt and you can suggest a cure that doesn't involve an eviction.

I must have gone through this at least 20 times and I have never yet been wrong.

I even have tenants quoting me verbatim to new housemates in my HMO's on the evils of denim and damp towels on radiators.

This will escalate unless you get a grip of the situation quickly.

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