Nightmare landlord

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    Nightmare landlord

    My son had a nightmare landlord in his last year at university. He was renting a house with two other students.

    This is a quick summary of the problems encountered - in fact things were even worse than this.

    1) After a couple of months, the landlord continually pressured the students for a rent rise because he was 'losing money'. After a while the other two students caved in under the pressure, but thankfully my son held out. (I beleive that the rent cannot be increased in the first year)

    2) Continually entered the house uninvited and unwanted throughout the year to put pressure on for the rent rise. (I beleive that landlords are not allowed to enter without a proper cause)

    3) Did not put the deposits with a recognised deposit holder, and therefore also did not within 14 days of moving in provide written notice of where the deposits were held. He just held them in his own bank account.

    4) Halfway through the year, with no notice or permission, sent in a builder to alter the interior layout of the house. There was no notice of this - my son actually thought he was being burgled when the builder suddenly walked in his bedroom. This also happened during a critical time at his last year in university. This left them with smaller bedrooms and a worse situation.

    5) Showed round potential new occupants well before the 1 month allowed period at the end of a rental without permission, and in fact bullied the students into tidying the house each time. (that might not be a bad thing, haha)

    7) No other students rented the house, probably because my son and the other occupants made sure they knew exactly what this landlord was like. This then led to my son experiencing insults and slander from the landlord in a public place (the nearby takeaway) where he accused him amongst other things of being a drug dealer.

    6) Refused to refund the deposits at the end of the stay, without giving any written reasons, even on written and verbal request.

    7) Did not reply to any letters, registered or otherwise, sent to the address in the rental contract.

    So my question is, what can you actually do about such a bad landlord? I have tried contacting various official bodies, but noone wants to know.

    It's too late for my son, but this guy will just continue ripping off students year after year.

    #2
    Originally posted by alexgreen View Post
    So my question is, what can you actually do about such a bad landlord? I have tried contacting various official bodies, but noone wants to know.

    It's too late for my son, but this guy will just continue ripping off students year after year.
    You can take said landlord through the civil courts. You would undoubtedly have a strong case against LL for compensation.
    [I]The opinions I give are simply my opinions and interpretations of what I have learnt, in numerous years as a property professional, I would not rely upon them without consulting with a paid advisor and providing them with all the relevant facts[I]

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by alexgreen View Post
      My son had a nightmare landlord in his last year at university. He was renting a house with two other students.
      I am going to assume that all 3 had separate contracts (for a room each). If they had one joint contract, the following may not apply.

      1) After a couple of months, the landlord continually pressured the students for a rent rise because he was 'losing money'. After a while the other two students caved in under the pressure, but thankfully my son held out. (I beleive that the rent cannot be increased in the first year)
      Your son did the right thing presuming he was still within his contract period and the contract did not allow for increases. Your assumption about rent not being increased in the first year is wrong.

      2) Continually entered the house uninvited and unwanted throughout the year to put pressure on for the rent rise. (I beleive that landlords are not allowed to enter without a proper cause)
      The landlord may not enter the area that your son rented without his express permission - any 'communal' areas are fine, indeed the landlord has various obligations in those areas.

      3) Did not put the deposits with a recognised deposit holder, and therefore also did not within 14 days of moving in provide written notice of where the deposits were held. He just held them in his own bank account.
      Totally wrong, but now the tenancy is over, there is nothing you can do, and if doesn't materially affect your sons options. This will be changing soon but is unlikely to be retrospective.

      4) Halfway through the year, with no notice or permission, sent in a builder to alter the interior layout of the house. There was no notice of this - my son actually thought he was being burgled when the builder suddenly walked in his bedroom. This also happened during a critical time at his last year in university. This left them with smaller bedrooms and a worse situation.
      Again wrong. The if the area that your son rented changed, you should calculate the reduction in area and pro-rate for the relevant months. Whatever that figure comes to, there is room for a claim.

      5) Showed round potential new occupants well before the 1 month allowed period at the end of a rental without permission, and in fact bullied the students into tidying the house each time. (that might not be a bad thing, haha)
      Pefectly legit in communal areas - but only wih your sons permission (or a court order) in your sons room. There is no 'legally set' period during which such viewings are allowed.

      7) No other students rented the house, probably because my son and the other occupants made sure they knew exactly what this landlord was like. This then led to my son experiencing insults and slander from the landlord in a public place (the nearby takeaway) where he accused him amongst other things of being a drug dealer.
      And this is a police matter - but they are unlikely to take it seriosly unless it was reported immediately.

      6) Refused to refund the deposits at the end of the stay, without giving any written reasons, even on written and verbal request.
      Then he should sue for the deposit (and the change in room size as above).

      Such a claim would be held in the small claims track where fees are low and the process is designed to be DIYed. Presuming your son wins (and from what you have described, he will) the landlord will have to add to the amount he owes, the cost of the court claim.

      Your local library (or Amazon) will have books on the small claim process.

      Comment


        #4
        Thank you for the quick replies.

        In response to JohnnyB - are there any things not mentioned in Snorkerz reply we can claim for - such as the landlord entering without invitation, or is it only material things we can claim for?

        In reply to Snorkerz - the contract was for the whole house, and allowed the landlord to pursue any of the 3 students if the other two did not pay rent (and also myself, as I stood as guarantor). It was a shorthold tenancy for 9 months, and contained no provisions to increase the rent.

        Given that no new contract was issued, if we go to the small claims court, can we also claim back the rent overpayments made by the other two students? If so, would we need to find and track them down so they appear as claimants as well?

        "The landlord may not enter the area that your son rented without his express permission - any 'communal' areas are fine, indeed the landlord has various obligations in those areas."

        Given the whole house was rented, there was no permission to enter the house (and indeed, requests not to), can anything now be done about this, or is it too late now the house is vacated?

        "if the area that your son rented changed"

        I guess that as he rented the whole house, this will not apply. However, I would hope there should be some compensation for this - otherwise what is to stop any landlord doing this.

        "There is no 'legally set' period during which such viewings are allowed."

        Looking at the contract, this contained a clause to allow viewings in the last 28 days of the tenancy. (but not before). Presumably this would therefore be handled in the same way as his other uninvited visits anyway.

        "Such a claim would be held in the small claims track"

        I think I will do this, but I'm sure the Landlord will play the system to drag things out because he is that type of guy.

        Is there anybody else I can report the other breaches to, or is this one of those gray areas where laws exists, but no-one is responsible for enforcing them, and there are no penalties for breaking them?

        Thanks

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by alexgreen View Post
          Is there anybody else I can report the other breaches to, or is this one of those gray areas where laws exists, but no-one is responsible for enforcing them, and there are no penalties for breaking them?
          Your problem is that your son should have reported these breaches will he was still living in the property. Once the tenancy is over nobody is really interested.

          Your son could have threatened the landlord with the 3 times deposit penalty for not protecting his deposit when the tenancy was running. He could have reported his landlord to his local council's private tenancy relations (or some such title) department. He could also have reported him to his student union, who would probably have know exactly what to do. As he was renting the whole house, he could have changed the locks to prevent entry without his consent, but he would have to have replaced the old locks at the end of the tenancy. But it is all too late now.

          The landlord could have been liable for breaching the laws against harrassing tenants and "quiet enjoyment" of the property.

          The link below shows how my local council deals with private rental problems.

          http://www.stevenage.gov.uk/housing/...-advice/21331/

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by alexgreen View Post
            .....................

            Is there anybody else I can report the other breaches to, or is this one of those gray areas where laws exists, but no-one is responsible for enforcing them, and there are no penalties for breaking them?

            Thanks
            Would suggest talking to son's university "Accommodation Office" (or similar name). I rent our a house to students to part of London Uni & the place has a good accommodation office: Suspect they'd be very grateful to hear of a rogue such as this LL. They may also, of course, have other info about him that might help your case .. They may insist communication is done by students not parents..

            Best wishes
            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


              #7
              Unfortunately, although the other tenats had the right to refuse an increase in rent, they didn't. Therefore in a joint tenancy, their acceptance of the increase rent applies equally to all of the tenants - including your son. If the landlord realises this, you or your son could be facing a counterclaim for unpaid rent.

              You can only claim in court for 'financial loss'. If your son can prove that the landlord repeatedly entered the property wihout invitation and was specifically told not to, it may be harassment, it may even be possible to argue that 'the tenant' no longer had exclusive possession of the property (in which case the financial loss is the difference between what they did pay and what they should have paid without exclusive possession ???).

              The 3 different tenants form one legal entity in this contract, confusingly called 'The Tenant'. 'The Tenant' is the only one with any chance of suceeding with such a claim - the individuals have no right to, so they must all claim together.

              They should sue for the deposit, the rest of it would be much more difficult to deal with.

              Comment


                #8
                Do I need to be able to find the other 2 students, even if I only want to claim for my sons deposit?

                If so, I think the landlord will get away with this. I didn't want to confuse the story with extra detail but...

                ...the three students who signed the tanancy were not the 3 who lived there. One student decided he was giving up university before the 1st term started. The landlord found another student interested who moved in instead.

                There was never a new contract issued, so the first question is, is it the 3 initial signees who need to sue, or the 3 who lived there?

                If it's the 3 who lived there, I think the trail dies. The new student turned out after two terms to have been kicked out by the university the previous year. He was too scared to tell his mum and dad, so just basically pretented to be studying. Without a grant, he financed himself by pretending to pay all the household bills on behalf of the 3 students, but actually just pocketing their money. This all came to light after two terms when he could no longer hide the fact the bills were not paid, so he scarpered, leaving my son and the other student in the doo-doo. Luckily his rent was paid up for the year from post dated cheques from mum & dad. But the chances of a) finding him and b) him being cooperative are basically nil!

                Comment


                  #9
                  All 3 originals would have to sue jointly (unless the originals tenancy was 'assigned' to the new guy) because there is no such thing as "his share" of the deposit - your son just happened to pay a third of the tenancy deposit.

                  Find missing tenant by using a tracing agent (£50 no find no fee) and then sue him, if you can get some of the 'utility' money back it would help offset the landlord issue.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    The landlord has kindly written to us denying that the rent was ever increased. Since the 'extra' was paid in cash, I suspect this was because he accidentely forgot to declare it on his tax form, but in any case, I think the liklihood of him countersuing for unpaid rent is now zero.

                    Before we decide whether to go ahead and make a small claim, I have one more question about the tenancy agreement. The contact names three people but only two ever signed. The third person never signed and never lived there.

                    1) Does that mean that 'The Tenant' who needs to issue the claim are the two people who actually signed. If so, this would make it possible because both are happy to make a claim.

                    What would the status of the third person who lived there be? Essentially, he was bought in as a replacement by the landlord, and he was in residence before the other two (my son and his friend) moved in. I don't know whether he has even seen the contract, and he paid his rent direct to the landlord. He would (presumably, but no way to verify) have a contract signed for the house the landlord moved him from, but not for the house my son rented.

                    2) Is he technically the landlords client, or are my son and his friend technically the landlord for this 3rd person.

                    Oh, that was two questions. Complicated, isn't it ;-)

                    Comment


                      #11
                      1) Yes, everyone on the contract must sue together.

                      2) The 3rd persons status is unclear - but from what you say I think a judge would regard it as a separate contract.

                      2a) The 3rd person is therefore not relevant unless (say) he paid part of the deposit or took some other joint action with son and friend.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        My local court is closed until January and not answering the phone. I have to pay a fee to start all this off. Does anyone know who the cheque should be made out to?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by alexgreen View Post
                          My local court is closed until January and not answering the phone. I have to pay a fee to start all this off. Does anyone know who the cheque should be made out to?
                          Her Majestys Court Service

                          www.moneyclaim.gov.uk is cheaper and presumably will take payment by credit/debit card.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Thanks for everyone's advice. We thought you might like to know the outcome of this. We went silent while the process was ongoing, just in case the LL reads this forum too.

                            We submitted a county court claim for the deposit back, and for a reduction in rent after the building work. The landlord responded by making a counterclim for 3k for unpaid rent and damage to the building.

                            We viewed this as a scare tactic, since:
                            o The rent was paid by post-dated cheques for the whole year upfront
                            o All of the damages were made up, but some were obviously ludicrous, such as claiming for furniture that did not even exist
                            o If there really had been 3k worth of damage, he would have been in touch straight away, not after a long time had passed.

                            The counterclaim was obviously drafted by a lawyer; it was full of legal jargon, and a large part was devoted to get our claim struck out for various technicalities, none of which actually apply in the small claims court.

                            The next stage was that we both agreed to attempt telephone arbritration. This has both parties using a mediator as a contact point - there is not direct contact. After about an hour of each party setting out their point of view he made his first offer, which was for each side to cancel their claims and walk away. We pointed out that if he had registered the deposit and replied to our letters this could have all been avoided, so we made a counteroffer of dropping the rent reduction, and just getting our costs, plus the deposit back.

                            At this point, he started to argue that there was no deposit. The money was a 'retainer' for the summer period. We wished we were in court at that point. If he had tried to explain to the judge why he was the only landlord in the country who didn't take deposits from students, I think his credibility and case would have rapidly dissolved. However, sadly, things that happen during arbritration cannot be bought up in court, so there was no guarantee he would come up with that story again, having had time to reflect on it.

                            After some more to-ing and fro-ing, he came up with an offer to pay our costs, plus £20 of the deposit.

                            Given that the court case was ging to be largely a case of he-said/she-said, with neither parties having much in the way of physical evidence (no check-in/check-out documents or photos), that court costs would now grow steeply, and that if we lost, we might end up paying £3k, we decided to take the offer.

                            We were also mindful of the advice in the forum that there might well be difficulties due to the disparity between the people mentioned on the contract, the people who signed the contract and the people who actually lived in the house - so we might well have lost on a technicality.

                            So, the end result was: after a lot of form filling and nail chewing, we got £20 back.

                            However, the LL had to pay our costs and his costs (he filed a counterclaim for a large amount, so these were substantial).

                            He ended up paying over three times the amount we asked for in the first place just in costs.

                            We therefore viewed this as a moral win.

                            Even better, if he did involve a lawyer to draw up the counterclaim (and didn't just get a lawyer mate in to do it for free), then I can't imagine that was less than two hours frantic lawyering work involved, which would have doubled or trebled his costs.

                            We hope he didn't have any lawyering mates who owed him one!

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Good moral win! Shame you didn't get the £££.. in your shoes think I'd have done what you did...

                              Glad the little toe-rag didn;t get off scott-free: If you are reading this LL yes, you can quote me..
                              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...

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