Tenant will not respond - where do I stand legally?

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    Tenant will not respond - where do I stand legally?

    Happy new year all.

    I have had constant payment problems with my first and only tenant since the beginning of her 12 month ast. She has not paid on time since March and has been in arrears since August. I served a section 8 and 21 in October - but she cleared all but £100 of arrears so I did not proceed with the section 8. Her tenancy ends 31st of this month and she is aware it will not be extended. She is now 2 and a half months in arrears again. I issued a small claims case against her for the arrears last month after speaking to her and getting nowhere. She has not submitted a defence so I will be asking for a judgement by default on Monday. However she no longer responds to any communication from me. For example I went to see her at the beginning of December and during our conversation she said the bedroom was damp. I was very surprised as it was my home for 3 years and never had any damp problems. When I looked, the bedroom window which is a huge bay window was running with condensation and the damp was actually mould up against the back of a chest of drawers. I advised her it was just mould as the place was like a sauna - she actually had a large fishtank in the room next to the radiator which no doubt contributed to the water feature window. I contacted her the next day by email asking her to give me a date and I would go round and clean it off with mould killer and advised her how to minimise condensation. I also advised I would happily supply a dehumidifier - but as I was having to pay the mortgage on the flat with no rental income it would have to wait until she made some payments towards her arrears. I heard nothing back. I have also contacted her re the gas safety check due 14th January - and again she has not replied. I am just incredibly concerned that she will turn around at some point and attempt to claim disrepair due to the mould in the bedroom which looked awful - but she had made no attempt to clean. And what can I do about the gas safety check if she refuses to respond? I know she is pretty peeved with me over the ccj but I had reached the end of my tether with her and wanted her served at the flat as I don't believe she will give me a forwarding address. She is also angry I won't continue on with the tenancy (how unreasonable of me) and wants me to contact the council to advise them I am making her homeless! I have a horrible feeling this lack of communication is a cover for her beavering away in the background giving some sob story to the EHO or housing office. Is there something else I should be doing?

    #2
    If the mould is tenant-induced, then she can not hold you responsible for it.

    With regard to the gas safety check, so long as you make reasonable documented attempts to get the CP12 done, you souldn't have any problems.

    However, it sounds like she is hoping for a council house - and they will not re-house her until you physically thow her out - and you can't do that until you make your request for possession through the court, get the court order and ultimately get court bailiffs in to remove her.

    Incidentally, presuming you're in E&W and the rent is less than £25k pa, if she paid a deposit and you didn't protect it before you issued your s21 then it will be invalid.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by maxine View Post
      Is there something else I should be doing?
      At this point? For a start, ensure you are in back-covering mode; ie consider the worst scenario that the tenant could do if she chooses to lie through her teeth at some point in the future... eg, say, if she were to tell the EHO that you had refused to get a gas check done despite her begging you, until arrears were paid? Or that you turned up at her home unannounced, screaming at her about the damp problems and reduced her to tears? ...you get the idea?

      So make sure all communication is writing, copies retained, and sent with a proof of posting, and document everything in letters even if it's just to say 'as discussed by phone today...' etc. Probably best not to visit at all.

      Comment


        #4
        Totally agree with Eric. If you have clear evidence (copy letters & proof of postage) of attempts to gain access for the gas inspection, of advice given regarding properly ventilating the bedroom to reduce condensation, etc, this will protect you against any false allegations. It will also protect you from any action in respect of failing to provide a gas certificate - you simply need to show you have made reasonable attempts to which T has not responded.

        You should make at least two written attempts to gain access for the gas inspection, offering T an appointment time, and asking T to provide either written confirmation of the appointment, or to propose an alternative date, so that the ball is clearly in her court.

        Comment


          #5
          Thanks for the replies. The deposit is protected in DPS and she has the info. I have everything documented but have never posted anything - i just hand deliver them with a witness - although regarding the mould and the gas safety I do have emails. It has not occured to me to offer her a date - I will send her an email offering her a date for the check and ask her to confirm within 48 hours. Can she choose not to leave at the end of the month despite the tenancy term ending and her not actually bothering to pay the rent? How long would that take? is Housing Law written by tenants??

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by maxine View Post
            I have everything documented but have never posted anything - i just hand deliver them with a witness - although regarding the mould and the gas safety I do have emails.
            Using a witness as proof of delivery is much more of a palaver if it came to having to provide evidence. With emails, people can claim they didn't receive them (that is, if they don't reply). The easiest and best method is first class post with a free certificate of posting/keep copy letter.

            Can she choose not to leave at the end of the month despite the tenancy term ending and her not actually bothering to pay the rent? How long would that take?
            Yes, she can choose to ignore your s.21 notice. You'll then have to obtain a court order for possession. I've never had to do this so I don't know how long it takes, but I'm sure someone else will advise.

            I take it the tenant hasn't returned to work?

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by maxine View Post
              Regarding the mould and the gas safety I do have emails.
              "Emails? No, never received any..."
              Can she choose not to leave at the end of the month despite the tenancy term ending and her not actually bothering to pay the rent?
              Oh yes. And if she's trying to wangle a council house you can be sure she'll not be moving. On the day after she's supposed to have moved out, you'll need to submit the appropriate forms to the courts to start the ball rolling to obtain repossession I'm afraid, which is going to take many weeks even if everything goes your way. If she does stay, then whatever you do don't try to do anything else or you're likely to end up being sued for illegal eviction.

              (You'll need to decide whether to use the S8 or S21 route, about which there are many threads on this forum to help you.)

              Comment


                #8
                Westminster - yes she has returned to work. That is the only reason I bothered with the small claims route as I know if she was still claiming benefit I'd get zip for my efforts. However the last communication I had with her was the day I issued the court proceedings - I emailed her to advise her and she replied saying it isn't her fault that the housing benefit department hadn't issued the money and as far as she was concerned it wasn't her debt and there was nothing else she could do. The only good thing to come out of this is a steep learning curve. I now know all the signs I shouldn't have ignored and will not make the same mistakes again. Why on earth would the council rehome someone who has deliberately made herself homeless by not paying rent? I can only hope if she does force me to evict her, karma is swift and direct - preferably a grim council bedsit surrounded by drum n bass loving insomniacs. I take my hat off to landlords who have faced much much worse and have remained ulcer-less and sane.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by maxine View Post
                  and have remained ulcer-less and sane.
                  You'll find no one on here who is sane.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Someone taking ,y name in vain??
                    GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING: I am a woman and am therefore prone to episodes of PMT... if you don't like what I have to say you can jolly well put it in your pipe and SMOKE IT!!

                    Oh and on a serious note... I am NOT a Legal person and therefore anything I post could be complete and utter drivel... but its what I have learned in the University called Life!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Maxine,
                      I think you've probably learnt a lot here so tuck it away and remember it.
                      As soon as the contract finishes head for the county court and use the Accelerated Procedure. Worst case scenario is the judge gives extra time for the tenant to find somewhere if her defence mentions hardship.
                      Of course your biggest lesson here HAS to be issuing a 12 month contract to a new tenant. In future start with a 6 month one and don't be too keen to take the first person waving a bundle of cash. Check the tenants out fully before agreeing to let someone have your place, and don't forget the guarantor!!!!! Most important!!

                      I'm amazed at how LL's 'forget' previous disasters when someone is holding a wad of cash under their nose.
                      Every day I speak to Landlords who's drive is to 'fill the place' before erring on the side of caution or going with their gut reaction.
                      In the long run these are the Landlords who lose more money AND sleep than the one's who listen to my advice.
                      Ambition is Critical

                      I don't profess to be a knowledge in all areas, my advice is based on life experience.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by justaboutsane View Post
                        Someone taking ,y name in vain??
                        You claim to be sane with typing like that?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          J4L - I had no idea what I was doing when I got into this. I was assured it was an absolute doddle and was completely misled by my homebuilder who recommended a cowboy letting agent who misinformed me at every turn. He told me the tenant had been credit checked and was fine - she had 2 ccjs. He said I didn't need to protect the deposit - thankfully I ignored him. He told me 12 months was the norm and I could get her out in 4 weeks at any point. I'd laugh if it wasn't costing me money and peace of mind!! He did not do an inventory so I can't do a thing about the fact she is smoking rolling cigarettes in the property despite it being advertised as strictly non smoking. So I am waiting on tenterhooks hoping she doesn't ruin the place in spite before she goes.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by maxine View Post
                            J4L - I had no idea what I was doing when I got into this. I was assured it was an absolute doddle and was completely misled by my homebuilder who recommended a cowboy letting agent who misinformed me at every turn. He told me the tenant had been credit checked and was fine - she had 2 ccjs. He said I didn't need to protect the deposit - thankfully I ignored him. He told me 12 months was the norm and I could get her out in 4 weeks at any point. I'd laugh if it wasn't costing me money and peace of mind!! He did not do an inventory so I can't do a thing about the fact she is smoking rolling cigarettes in the property despite it being advertised as strictly non smoking. So I am waiting on tenterhooks hoping she doesn't ruin the place in spite before she goes.
                            Consider taking action against your Letting Agent for breach of contract, negligence, etc.
                            JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                            1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                            2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                            3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                            4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                            Comment


                              #15
                              I didn't actially sign anything with the letting agent. It was all done in such a rush - was told it was all in hand by the homebuilder in November and didn't hear again from the letting agent until I threatened to pull out of the sale of the new house in mid Jan. I telephoned him when it all went horribly wrong on the day I moved and let him know he wouldn't get a penny until he met up with me to discuss the absolute shambles - I heard nothing so I tried him again and he did the whole I'm going through a tunnel I'll call you back routine and then stopped answering. I know I was embarrassingly naive with absolutely everything and am in this position due to my own ignorance.

                              Comment

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