Ex Tenant’s Legal Aid backed Compensation Claim

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    Ex Tenant’s Legal Aid backed Compensation Claim

    I am assisting my father with a problem regarding tenants who have recently vacated the property after a possession order was obtained; I won’t go into the history too much, the tenant’s took the property in February 2002 and were mildly problematic during the whole tenancy but refused to pay a rent increase, which was advised to them in February 2008, resulting in a possession order earlier this year.

    The problem now is that the Tenant’s, who are on state benefits, since leaving the property have made a compensation claim, which they appear to have been preparing for several years, many of their points of claim are grossly exaggerated and fictitious, however, they have sought legal advice and obtained legal aid funding. They are putting forward all the usual arguments and accusations, asking for surveys, reports, evidence and documentation from us; and citing that they fully advised the landlord and served the appropriate notices etc. on their part verbally.

    Therefore, we are facing a legal action, which at best case scenario will cost in excess of £10,000 in legal fees to defend, and even if we win we cannot claim our costs; at worst case may cost the £10,000 legal fees, £15,000 compensation and £10,000 claimants legal fees. This is totally unjust and unreasonable.

    Basically the tenant’s know that it is going to cost in excess of £10,000 to defend with no likelihood of recovering legal costs, and with the open cheque book backing of legal aid there is no incentive for them to compromise at all and they have nothing to lose and couldn’t pay anything anyway. Hence, we feel that they are basically using their situation to their own benefit and after a substantial amount of money.

    This scenario must have happened many times in the past, however, it has been mentioned to us that there has been a previous test case in which judgement was awarded and apparently dismissed this type of exploitation of the system and their position.

    Has anyone any information, experience or advice in this respect?????????

    thanks for any replies!

    #2
    They are claiming £15,000 compensation? Compensation for what, exactly?

    Has there been ANY correspondence in the past - during their tenancy - relating to ANY of the issues they are now raising?

    Comment


      #3
      bear in mind Legal Aid will only usually get granted if the solicitors believe T has a good case.

      It might be the case that once you provide further evidence or disclosure that the solicitors reconsider the case and funding might cease.

      Additionally if an offer is made by LL to T then the solicitors need to report it to the LSC, and advise whether it is suitable. If it is and T refuses it then funding could cease.

      If you are successful in defending and get a costs order against a legally aided person then you may be able to make a claim against the Legal Aid fund to pay some or all of your costs.

      As westminster said we need much more information regarding what their claim is for, and how it is calculated.
      PAUL GIBBS, solicitor, Jacobs & Reeves. My comments on this forum are correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. No responsibility or liability is accepted by reason of reliance upon such comments. This disclaimer would not apply to direct clients of Jacobs & Reeves where there is a valid retainer in place and I would be happy to confirm any advice if formally instructed. . Jacobs & Reeves now offer a fixed fee possession service.

      Comment


        #4
        they have actually quoted £25,000, for what we don't know exactly, they have issued a list of schedule of disrepair and schedule of loss with a lot of the items quantum "to be assessed"

        they basically know it's going to cost to defend their legal aid backed action and want us to pay it to them rather than the solicitor!

        correspondence . . . minimal . . . just to give you a flovour, they are claiming £5,025 for draughty windows at £15 per week since March 2002, but have never mentioned this in the past . . . . but now say they advised the LL by telephone!!!! . . . and the LL failed to do anything about it etc. etc.

        it's not the first time I have been involved in this type of scenario, my brother-in-law had a similar situation, tenant on benefits, started paying £200 less rent . . . . possession order . . . . legal aid supported compensation claim . . . . again similar spurious arguments . . . . he eventually paid £5,000 in legal fees and compensation to stop the action . . . . tennant selection is of paramount importance and often not given due concern until you witness something like this!

        surely there has to be some logic in this situation . . . . our taxes are being used by the legal services commission to initiate legal action by tenants on benefits against LL who find themselves in a "no win" situation!

        anyone with similar experiences?

        Comment


          #5
          For £10K you could find somebody to make the claim (or rather claimant) go away.

          Comment


            #6
            we have made an offer; rent arrears of £2,500, damages by tenant of £3,000 and £3,000 cash settlement . . . but this has been dismissed . . . . if the legal aid consider all the exaggeration and lies of the tenants then it will appear that they have a good case

            we have submitted a schedule of damages which has been disputed in it's entirety as they allegedly advised LL of everything by telephone and do not accept anything! . . . we believe that a relative of the tenant is employed by the solicitors acting for them!

            there's lots and lots of spurious issues and it basically boils down to thier word against ours . . . .

            they're claiming for ill health, loss of clothing, additional washing of clothing due to damp in a bedroom . . . . but there's no obvious damp, no discolouration of the wall paper, no mould, no evidence; but the solicitors don't visit site, nor do the legal aid people . . . they just believe the tenant

            we are thinking of increasing the offer, but it just seems an injustice

            Comment


              #7
              worzel . . . you mean have a word with the boys ?

              Comment


                #8
                I'm not a lawyer, so take my advice at your peril.

                Have you considered WRITING to their solicitor, setting out your position, which I assume will be something along the lines of:

                Tenant rented premises from Date X to Date Y.
                Left owing arrears of £x with damage to property estimated at £Y (for which of course you have inventory opening and closing?)
                Tenant at no point raised concerns in their letter just received at any point during tenancy.
                You believe that tenant is misuing public funds (legal aid) in order to spite landlord/force landlord into unjustified settlement figure.

                Defend the action as a LIP. You may convince the judge of the merits of your case.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I certainly wouldn't make the claimant any offers without consulting a solicitor first and/or get hold of the relevant statute and read it. It sounds like they have little or no evidence to support their claim. £5K for drafty windows is just ludicrous - the whole thing sound like a scam/vexatious litigant, i.e. they are fully aware you can't threaten them back with costs as they have no assets.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I agree with westminster.

                    Firstly have you checfked any buildings insurance to see if you have legal expenses insurance? That may cover this claim.

                    It sounds as though the T has limited evidence in respect of their claim. The solicitor is entitled to assume that his client tells them the truth, however, I would expect they are being advised that as there is little or no documentary evidence then they may have problems.

                    If you believe that the Legal Services Commission are not being told the whole truth then I would suggest getting legal advice and arranging for your solicitor to write to the legal services commission, trying to get T's certificate reviewed / discharged. IMO it is worth instructing a solicitor for this (particularly one that does Legal Aid work as they know the rules and codes to refer to.
                    PAUL GIBBS, solicitor, Jacobs & Reeves. My comments on this forum are correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. No responsibility or liability is accepted by reason of reliance upon such comments. This disclaimer would not apply to direct clients of Jacobs & Reeves where there is a valid retainer in place and I would be happy to confirm any advice if formally instructed. . Jacobs & Reeves now offer a fixed fee possession service.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      thanks for your responses

                      we are going to see our solicitor and together assess the potential outcome of all the points of claim and counter claim etc. and then make them, what we feel is, a reasonable offer; we will also advise the Legal Services Commission about the offer as well as sending them the reasons why we feel it is a reasonable offer.

                      it just seems unfair that tenants on benefits can fabricate a case, say that they have given verbal notices, when they haven't, exaggerate any issues, get legal aid and then with the knowledge that it's going to cost the LL £000's to defend, with little likelihood of any costs being awarded, even if LL wins outright, they force the LL into a "commercial decision" and pocket a significant amount of money.

                      cheers

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Obviously its your case, but query whether you should try to get the certificate reviewed before making an offer.
                        PAUL GIBBS, solicitor, Jacobs & Reeves. My comments on this forum are correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. No responsibility or liability is accepted by reason of reliance upon such comments. This disclaimer would not apply to direct clients of Jacobs & Reeves where there is a valid retainer in place and I would be happy to confirm any advice if formally instructed. . Jacobs & Reeves now offer a fixed fee possession service.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Ozone View Post
                          thanks for your responses

                          we are going to see our solicitor and together assess the potential outcome of all the points of claim and counter claim etc. and then make them, what we feel is, a reasonable offer; we will also advise the Legal Services Commission about the offer as well as sending them the reasons why we feel it is a reasonable offer.

                          it just seems unfair that tenants on benefits can fabricate a case, say that they have given verbal notices, when they haven't, exaggerate any issues, get legal aid and then with the knowledge that it's going to cost the LL £000's to defend, with little likelihood of any costs being awarded, even if LL wins outright, they force the LL into a "commercial decision" and pocket a significant amount of money.

                          cheers
                          I'm still unsure as to why you are already contemplating making a further offer prior to even seeing a solicitor, unless the claim has some basis in truth. In your place, if I knew the claim was completely fabricated and there was no proof, I'd defend myself as a litigant-in-person rather than pay them off without a murmur.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I would completely agree with Westminster.

                            From your first post, you appear to state that the former tenant has no proof, yet you are considering:

                            1. Writing off all arrears
                            2. Making a settlement offer and now
                            3. Increasing that settlement offer

                            It is, as Paul Gibbs has said, your case to fight but either you haven't told us the whole truth and a lot of what the tenant has said is actually correct or you don't value money very much.

                            Defend yourself as a LIP. Do some research and present your case as best as possible. If you show willingness to stand up to your tenant, they may not bother actually progressing once they realise they might actually have to attend court. At the same time, you can bring a case for unpaid rent and damages.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              And I would be making the point very strongly indeed that if the tenant tells porkies on oath in court and it is discovered either then or at a later stage, they may get done for perjury as well as fraud and that you will certainly report to the police anything discovered along these lines.

                              Start asking for proofs - telephone records for example of the dates they are supposed to have phoned you to tell you xyz etc. Ask them to demonstrate their actual loss - the £15 per week for draughty windows for example - how do they quantify £15 per week - is that what they allege it cost them in extra fuel - if so, how have they arrived at that figure and have they got proof that when the windows were not draughty that their bills were £15 p.w. lower????

                              Fight fire with fire - don't make any offers - get it into a court hearing - make sure everything is disclosed from their side - look for inconsistencies and errors, and bring these to the attention of the court. If they have any supposed witnesses - you want written statements of what they will say in court.

                              And when you win your case - and you surely will if what you say is true - then expose the rotten tenants and their solicitors and also put a complaint about the solicitors into the solicitors complaints system.

                              I had a similar, though not as costly case some years ago where a tenant left without clearing arrears - on persual, they then claimed, through a solicitor* that they had to replace floorboards which they had allegedly reported to me as rotten - no invoice was ever produced for the wood - they just claimed an offset against the rent due. I had to pack in my persual because the tenants were legally aided and it would have dragged me into thesame mess as you are in if I continued. (* the solicitors concerned were reputed to be the most argumentative bunch of **holes in the city - well known for taking on legal aid cases to defend claims from landlords against tenants who were in breach of agreements or failed to pay rent.)

                              Finally, as previously advised, cause as much *hite as you possibly can over the granting of legal aid and submit an application yourself no matter what your means - somewhere someone will look at the case and if it is indeed found to be frivolous, the legal aid might be stopped.

                              Comment

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