Asking tenants to leave ‘damp’ house

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    Asking tenants to leave ‘damp’ house

    Hello all, thankyou for having me on your forum.

    I’m want you might call a reluctant landlord in that I inherited two houses when my dad died a few years ago. I’m a full time farmer, working my farm 7 days a week and I have a wife and a young family that I aspire to spend more time with. The two houses are ~100 years old they are both sides of a semi-detached and they have 2ft thick masonry/rubble walls with a slate damp proof course.

    Here are the particulars:
    I’m in England
    The house is jointly let to a (retired) couple
    AST started on 19/4/14
    Initial 6 month term
    Rent due monthly
    No particular damage deposit, only the usual tenancy deposit.

    The background isn’t that I lived in the house in question for over a decade. Due to its construction as described (and modern additions such as full double glazing), the property can tend to grow mould if not managed appropriately through ventilation. Myself and my wife were able to manage humidity well through ventilation and using a dehumidifier if the weather was poor and we were generating lots of steam, eg drying clothes indoors.

    A few years ago my dad died and myself and my family moved into the farmhouse. The house in question was vacant over the winter and seemed really quite dry.

    We got tenants through a letting agent. While in some respects these tenants are ‘good’ (they pay the rent, they keep the garden tidy), in other respects they are not so good. They have a very abrasive, officious manner and have an unerring knack of getting everyone’s back up. I and my family now have minimal interaction with them (preferring to sort any issues out through the letting agent). Their neighbours (also our tenants) have little to do with them and at times I’ve found it difficult to get tradesmen to make return visits to the property because of the manner of the tenants.

    These tenants have ongoing problems with damp. We’ve gone around several cycles now of the letting agent reporting mould patches on inspection. I point out that they do not appear to ventilate the property and the agent goes back and tells them to ventilate/gives them a booklet explaining ventilation. They do not ventilate the property and mould is again evident at the following inspection. I drive past the property most days and generally check the windows when the weather’s fine. I can honestly say I’ve only seen one window open (just a crack) this year, during the hot part of the summer.

    A couple of years ago, when these tenants were having evident mould problems I provided them with two dehumidifiers (they don’t use them) and I also unilaterally reduced the rent by £50pcm. I gave no explicit reason for doing this, but the implication was that they could heat/ventilate/dehumidify the property without being out of pocket (I also reduced the rent for the nice neighbours because... I’m nice!)

    The neighbours (also our tenants) live in the mirror image of that house (same construction) and do not appear to suffer from damp.

    During this tenancy I have made damp-related repairs as necessary (re-rendering a wall that had water penetration, fixing leaky gutters and so on).

    I’m not aware of any focus of damp penetration (damp wall bases etc). I think that the vast majority of the damp issue is down to the tenants not ventilating the house. I cannot rule out the possibility of damp penetrating somehow but I really suspect that works to rectify any such matters (eg chemical damp proof course) could only realistically be undertaken when the property was vacant.

    My preferred course of action would be to eject the tenants (obviously in the least painful way possible) then leave the property vacant but aired for a few months to generally dry the fabric of the building out, before looking at getting an independent damp assessment and taking whatever measures deemed necessary. Looking at the EPC, the property’s only F/34, so would need a bit of work before re-letting anyway.

    Two things really worry me about this situation.
    Firstly I worry that the damp is not doing the health of this retired couple any good. One or other may end up in hospital at some point with a respiratory illness linked to living in damp conditions and if that came back to bite me, I might find myself in a position where I was required to make the situation ‘better’, but to do that I would have to make the house uninhabitable by ripping out the kitchen and bathroom for damp proofing, ripping off plaster etc.
    Secondly, although I’ve not really looked into it I’m aware of the media reporting about the removal of no-fault evictions (S21?), which I suppose would put me in a more difficult position

    So my question is ‘what should I do?’ I’ve probably been a bit complacent letting things drag on so long, letting the agent ‘handle it’ and collect their fee but the time has perhaps come to act. Is Section 21 the way to go? (Given that I’d ideally not bring the damp issue into things as it may open a can of worms). If so, how do I best serve a section 21? (Go through letting agents or get solicitors, or just do it myself?)

    Thoughts please!

    #2
    You can't let the property after 1st April next year with an EPC rating of below E, so you will have to evict them (or persuade them to leave) before then anyway.

    To let the property after that date, you either need to get it to E or above or spend up to £3,500 making improvements and getting an exemption certificate.

    If the damp is a problem and the tenants complain to the council who agree with them that it's not a lifestyle issue, you could find yourself with an improvement notice and no ability to evict them.

    I'd suggest you get some professional help, as it's easy to get a s21 eviction wrong and you don't really have that much time, because it can take quite a long time.
    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


      #3
      jpkeates Thankyou for your reply. Where would I go to for professional help with a S21?

      Comment


        #4
        You could find a solicitor who specialises in landlord/tenant legislation but the last time I looked into this the solicitor wanted to charge me £400 per hour. You could investigate how to do the S21 yourself. I wouldn't go to the CAB as they've given several of my tenants incorrect advice.

        Comment


          #5
          There are companies that advertise on this site in the Directory area.
          I can't recommend anyone specific, though.

          If you're in a rural area, there's often one local solicitor who does everything for everyone who might be an option.
          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


            #6
            Don't be a "reluctant" landlord. Either do it the proper way or sell up. No offence but the term does irritate me.

            Comment


              #7
              John Duff Thankyou for your reply. To explain slightly further, the two properties I let are fully on my farm, as opposed to on the boundary or outside the boundary of the farm. Selling them is not an option. Farmers very commonly run into difficulties when farming in the vicinity of houses (eg ‘bad’ smells, residents expecting farming operations only to take place during office hours etc etc). I will never sell the houses voluntarily (if the current opposition ever end up in charge, I may be weighing up my options). The ‘nuclear’ option remains a possibility; I would demolish the houses before I sell them but that would seem a little drastic as yet!
              I hope that helps to explain my position.

              Comment


                #8
                Fair enough. Apologies if I sounded cynical. Hope your situation improves!

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Slackjawedyokel View Post
                  Secondly, although I’ve not really looked into it I’m aware of the media reporting about the removal of no-fault evictions (S21?), which I suppose would put me in a more difficult position
                  It is likely (but not definite) that S21 will remain for existing tenancies.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    There is supposed to be penetrating damp in one of our dwellings which we believe to be condensation caused by lifestyle.
                    It is slightly older than yours with same type of wall. My research has found that water cannot penetrate more than 9 inches. If this is conclusive there will be no penetrating damp. Hope this helps.

                    Comment

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