Carpet Beetles - Small Claims Court Claim

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    Carpet Beetles - Small Claims Court Claim

    Hi
    I had a longstanding tenant in my property on an AST. He has resided in the property for coming up to 6 years, with his girlfriend and (now) 2 children.

    Over the course of the last few months there have been problems with carpet beetles, mainly in 1 room of the house, and I have had a pest controller visit on 3 occasions so far.

    During the process of this, the tenant claimed that some of their property in the bedroom had been damaged and asked if I would be prepared to contribute towards the replacement of these items.

    I reviewed the AST for my legal liability and as I suspected I had none:

    'The Landlord shall not be required to... keep in repair or maintain anything which the Tenant is entitled to remove from the property.'

    Nonetheless, after giving it some consideration and in light of the goodwill in the long-standing tenancy arrangement I said that I would be willing to contribute towards the costs subject to seeing photographic and inventory evidence of their damaged property. I was clear that this was not due to a contractual obligation and was purely a goodwill offer.

    After a few weeks, the tenant's girlfriend sent me a series of photos and a list of items that had been damaged in the bedroom. Upon reviewing the list of items I felt that the amount that had apparently been damaged was, by both value and volume, significantly in excess of what you would expect there to be kept in 1 small double bedroom. I followed up with an offer back of 1 month rent free in the property, subject to signing a new AST which would tie them in for 6 months again (they would otherwise have been on a 1 month rolling basis). Again, it was noted in my offer that it was based on goodwill only.

    The tenant took great offence at this offer, which amounted to around £300 less than they had wanted from me and it became clear through a series of emails that they did not intend to sign up to a new AST and were therefore unwilling to accept the offer. I suspected at this point that they had plans to take my money and run, which had backfired on them when I made it a conditional offer. Their behaviour became more and more difficult during this time and on 6th November they handed in their notice.

    Good news, I thought, owing to their difficult behaviour. But then today I have received a Small Claims Court Claim Form from the Tenant's girlfriend detailing the above in their own terms and asking for the full value of their property, around £2,000.

    I absolutely intend to fully defend this but have a few options on how I choose to defend which I could do with some advice on:

    1) The claim has come through in the name of the tenant's girlfriend who is not a named party on the AST. Can/should I base my whole defense on this and just say that I have no legal obligaton toward the claimant, having no contractual relationship with her?
    2) The AST (to me) is quite clear that I have no responsibility for the contents of the tenants - should I base my whole defense on that without going into the whole goodwill offer, offer not taken up etc etc?
    3) Should I provide the whole ins and outs of the above, including (1) and (2) as the initial points but then providing all the emails as evidence of the chain of events as they transpired etc etc? This would not show the tenant in a good light as he and his girlfriend were verbally abusive on several occasions whilst I bit my tongue and remained professional.

    And what I would really like to do is put in a counterclaim - cost of pest control visits due to their storing an excessively large amount of soft furnishings inappropriately in a small room??

    Would really appreciate some advice as I absolutely cannot end up with a CCJ against me - please help!

    #2
    I'd forget about counter claiming against gf. Just defend as per your ideas, and issue tenant with section 21 notice.

    BTW, carpet beetles are due to dirty carpets, and not something you should be remedying in my view.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks JK0 do you have any thoughts on whether I use (1), (2) or (3) as my defense, or all 3? Do you think I'm likely to win? To me it seems fairly clean cut as I have no legal obligation in the tenancy agreement, but does the goodwill offer I made which was refused cloud that issue at all? Just really worried that I'll end up with a CCJ against me for no good reason.

      Comment


        #4
        Yeah, I would use everything I could.

        Comment


          #5
          On the basis that T has been there for 6 years and beetles have only recently been found, it is extremely unlikely that they were there at the start of the tenancy.
          Therefore I believe this makes it T's responsibility.

          Comment


            #6
            There are two bases on which there can be a claim. Contract and Tort. The tenant’s girlfriend isn’t a party to the contract and can’t sue on that basis. So your first defence is that.

            Secondly, anyone can sue in Tort, if they are owed a duty of care by someone, that duty is breached and there is a loss as a result. You probably do owe the girlfriend some duty of care as you knew she was resident.

            However, the carpet beetles are not your responsibility, and despite your attempts to resolve the tenant’s issues, you do not accept any responsibility for the tenant’s beetle infestation.

            Carpet beetles live for between 9 months and 3 years, so it’s unlikely that the beetle infestation is anything to do with you at all.

            As it happens, by being helpful you have weakened your own case, but that can be overcome.

            You would only end up with a CCJ if you lose the case, which is unlikely and then fail to pay what was awarded to the tenant (and they decided to proceed to enforce the award).
            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

            Comment


              #7
              jpkeates,

              That's helpful, thanks. Any thoughts on how I can help to overcome the weakness I introduced by trying to be helpful/a nice landlord?

              Comment


                #8
                Just make sure you refer to it as an attempt to assist the tenants with their problem or in order to generate some goodwill.

                I would also make the point that, until you have regained possession, you do not know the extent of any damage caused by the tenant's infestation of your property and may need to counter claim if there is damage.
                When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                Comment

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