Serious situation! Do we settle or go to court?

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    Serious situation! Do we settle or go to court?

    I am joint landlord with my husband dealing with an anti-social tenant who we tried to evict with section 8 in May through Legal For Landlords. He refused to leave so we went forward with a court hearing that took place 3rd Sept. But because his solicitors were not ready, my advocate and I had to adjourn! He then came forward with a defense statement trying to sue us for damages to his possessions and property. I had phoned the police when we discovered one of the doors smashed open! He also had police involved when he assaulted another tenant and she reported it on 26th Jan. We have a police incident number and private messages that night on Facebook between me and herself proving this incident took place! Not long after though she left and wanted nothing more to do with it. She wouldn't even let us access the report for fear of being dragged into court!

    We provided our defense statement through our local solicitor. Also have two people willing to stand up in court- another female tenant who has witnessed this man's behaviour, plus my husband's brother who saw the mess the property was in before they renovated the place and turned it into a HMO (which this tenant agreed to verbally - Although he does also mention this in his statement.) NB: In 2003 my mother was the landlord. When she passed in 2015 my husband and I took over, and later transformed the place into a HMO (but didn't require a licence as we were under the 5 people limit.)

    This tenant gets Legal Aid and his solicitors (Derby Law Centre) have now come forward saying they will offer a settlement. My solicitor told them we don't have much money (which is true as it's been spent on trying to evict him and take him to court.) I am disabled and only on PIP allowance - my husband works when he can and is not earning a full wage. The only other money is from a commercial tenant who isn't keeping up with regular payments and owes us £700 - this is barely covering our monthly bills. Then the tenant's rent is £320 (£104 0f which goes on Council Tax as it's classed as HMO, which we have been paying for about 2 years now!) HIS solicitors are asking us to pay their fees so far of £4.700 and £4000 compensation for HIM! My solicitor told them we would consider a settlement after they came forward and offered this solution, before we knew what price they would be asking for. This seems so unfair to me and I need advice. IF we refuse and go ahead with the court hearing we are confident we'll win, but we have been told we will receive no compensation because he is getting Legal Aid.

    Firstly do we HAVE to cover the costs of his Legal Aid so far? I thought that only applied if you lose? Secondly we have replied to our solicitor saying we will suggest £800 - £1000 to cover deposit and one months rent for a new place. Also we would like £550 taken aside to cover costs of any damages, refurbishments and clearing up general mess! Otherwise we'll go ahead with next court hearing.

    All we want is to sell our property. But we can't with him in as a seller wants an up to date tenancy agreement, which he has refused to sign since we transformed the place to HMO standards. We only have my mother's old one (which he's also clearly breached! His solicitor admitted that to the judge at the first hearing! This tenant also claimed in two letters (which I have) that he is not AST, yet in his defense statement he says he is AST! He also said the police were involved, then further down his statement he says they were not?

    Rent arrears is not the case here as he is paying.

    So, do we agree to a settlement or continue with court hearing in Jan? His defense statement is all hearsay whereas I have written proof and photos

    #2
    You can always make a counteroffer that you consider more reasonable.

    Did you serve the tenant formal written notice that you had taken over as landlords in 2015?
    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
      Originally posted by PEvans View Post
      IThis tenant also claimed in two letters (which I have) that he is not AST, yet in his defense statement he says he is AST! He also said the police were involved, then further down his statement he says they were not?

      Did the tenant say what type of tenancy he has, do you know the date the tenant 1st moved in ?
      Thunderbirds are go

      Comment


        #4
        It's not so much that judges have "bleeding hearts", but that they only want to make people homeless as a very last resort.
        It has such a significant impact on someone's life, it's hard for the judgement to be proportional with what the tenant has done.

        If you consider the majority of s8 cases, the tenant owes the landlord money (often quite a lot) and is made homeless as well as being told to pay what they owe.
        Which isn't the same outcome as if you owed (say) a credit card company the same amount and they sued you for it.

        So the courts bend over backwards to be reasonable, which, if you're the landlord, isn't usually what you want.

        I'd talk to Legal for Landlords, there's nothing to stop you going ahead, turning down the offer and asking for a better one or making a counter offer.
        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


          #5
          Did notice also comply with S3? If not possible fines & criminal record.

          Why not evicting with s21 please?

          How long was fixed term please?
          I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

          Comment


            #6
            Am I missing something here?

            How did/could you 'change it to an HMO' if he was already a sitting tenant?

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by nukecad View Post
              How did/could you 'change it to an HMO' if he was already a sitting tenant?
              I suspect that's why Derby Law Centre are claiming "compensation" rather than trying to defend the notice.

              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


                #8
                It's possible that could be classed as an illegal eviction.
                If he was previously renting the whole property and you effectively took (most of) it off him by parceling it up as an HMO.

                It could well explain the claim for compensation.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Do you have that agreement in writing?
                  Preferably a signed surrender of tenancy and a new tenancy agreement in the HMO.

                  I suspect not from what you have said - and that puts you in a very awkward situation legally.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Fine but all that says is that he agreed it was a good idea.

                    It was your responsibility as LL to get all the legal aspects sorted out. (Which you don't seem to have done or at least not fully).

                    And it's those legal aspects that his solicitors are now relying on.

                    I still think that you are on a sticky wicket here and may have to accept that you got things wrong.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      No - he agreed that it was a good idea, that's all he agreed to.

                      As for the other point - Lawyers like to make money.

                      BTW - Conflating two comments from two different posts and trying to make them look like one quote is probably not a good idea.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I am not clear whether you are saying that this HMO should have a licence and currently doesnt? If that's the case then the tenants could get a Rent Repayment Order against you and claim back all the rent for the period where that has been the case.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by PEvans
                          He agreed to it and actually claims in his defense statement it was a good idea to alter our town house (three floors) to separate bed sits, as it would be a good way to turn the Property into a living space that was fit for habitation! The place was an absolute mess before my husband renovated it making it more livable for tenants (including this one, who had in fact caused the damage while he'd been in the property on his own!) What he accuses us of is taking his personal belongings and not replacing them. My husband gave him a month before he cleared out the items which were covered in animal feces and other disgusting filth! We paid a LOT of money to transfer the property and left him with a cleaner environment.
                          Every new post makes this worse - how can you "clear out" items belonging to a current tenant? You can't dispose of things that don't belong to you, covered in sh!t or not.

                          I'd take some proper legal advice, but my personal (unqualified) opinion is that the deal you have been offered is actually quite reasonable.

                          A tenant is in no position to agree or not agree with a landlord about the conversion to an HMO - the balance of power is entirely mismatched. So I think you have probably illegally evicted the tenant, which is a criminal offence.

                          It's not entirely black and white - you would have a reasonable defence if you can show that the tenant really thought it was a good idea, but I'd hate to rely on it - particularly as, as far as I can see, it would actually be a defence to a non-mandatory ground section 8 possession claim.
                          But the time to find that a judge thinks you've committed a criminal offence is not while you're sitting in their court.

                          I usually try and keep my personal opinions out of the forum, because it isn't helpful, but in this case, your behaviour sounds outrageous and I think that you should be ashamed of yourselves.
                          Your tenant is not responsible for your other commercial tenancy problems, your husband's inability to find work, your personal situation or the fact that you are liable for council tax for the property
                          Your tenant rented a property from your mother and you have taken it away from them, divided it into bedsits and tried to pretend that it was a reasonable thing to do.
                          You've taken their personal things and "disposed" of them.
                          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


                            #14
                            Originally posted by PEvans
                            Can you still tell me this tenant is being fair?
                            It isn't a question of fairness.

                            Agreed that the tenants behaviour sounds unreasonable. (So you take legal action to evict them).

                            However what you don't seem to accept is that from what you have told us your actions in converting the property he was already renting to a HMO, and thus restricting his access to it, was not done in a correct manner and was thus illegal.

                            It's not the conversion to an HMO that was illegal in itself, - it was the fact that you broke LL/tenant law by changing the terms of his existing tenancy without following the correct legal procedure. (That is de-facto illegal eviction, even though he was still living in one room).

                            Disposing of his property without following the corrrect procedure was also illegal. (Technically theft).

                            He is asking, through his lawyers, for compensation for your illegal actions.
                            His behaviour does not excuse the fact that you (twice) seem to have acted illegally.
                            Whether his living conditions were improved or not by the conversion does not excuse the fact that you (twice) seem to have acted illegally.

                            You came asking for advice and that is it - You seem to have broken the law twice and so must accept the consequences for doing so.
                            Sorry if you don't like that advice, but it is what it is.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by PEvans
                              No, we gave him a month to put aside anything he wanted and we would remove whatever was left! How was my husband to know he wanted his filthy stuff back? Plus he never asked for his possessions back UNTIL we tried to evict him on a section 8 for being an anti-social tenant. We also provided brand new amenities in the kitchen and his original bathroom and built more showers etc, for any other tenants moving in.
                              You can't tell a tenant to get rid of their possessions.
                              You're a landlord, you have no special powers or rights.

                              According to my solicitor we did not illegally evict the tenant in any shape or form.
                              I don't agree (but I am not a solicitor myself).
                              You might have a defence that the tenant consented to losing their property, but I don't think it's a good one.
                              The fact that the tenant declined a new tenancy agreement for the HMO isn't helpful to your case.

                              The reason for the section 8 was because this tenant attacked another female tenant causing harm, has constantly annoyed the others (to the point all have left!) and caused damages to the property. I also have witnesses to his behaviour who would be willing to testify in court, and I had police involvement!
                              That's good grounds for an eviction, but it isn't a mandatory ground.

                              I must state that also in the tenancy agreement from 2003 my mother said that he had a tenancy for one year before it then became periodic, unless he breached the contract (which he clearly DID!).
                              That's completely academic, the periodic tenancy arose as a matter of law and there's nothing in a tenancy agreement that can stop it happening.

                              Even my council agree it is under HMO rules and we are the ones paying council tax.
                              The definition of an HMO for council tax and property regulation are different. You have an HMO for council tax purposes because the property is let to more than one household on more than one tenancy agreement and you don't live there.

                              Out of that we pay council tax, and he pays £30 towards the electric meter. Only I know for a fact other tenants in the past had to cover this as he was failing to keep up his payments. Even my husband covered the price as we couldn't leave tenants without heat and light.
                              You have to pay the council tax because that's the law (and it can hardly have been a surprise). You'd be better off charging with utilities included with a fair use limit for all of the tenants - you can't expect to have a group of strangers sharing meters.

                              Can you still tell me this tenant is being fair?
                              I don't really know the tenant and can't comment on them.
                              You're the one with a compensation claim against you, and I'd suggest a tough court hearing ahead.

                              You should have evicted the tenant before the conversion to an HMO and, having failed to do that, I think you're in a bit of a mess.
                              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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