Blackmailed by tenant

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    Blackmailed by tenant

    Hi, I am new to this forum so patience is much appreciated!

    This is my situation:

    I have been managing my mother's house. She is very elderly and cannot manage the house and lives with me. All the rooms have seperate tenancy agreements. It is a detached house with the ground floor, 1st floor & has 4 double bedrooms, kitchen, 2 bathrooms & currently 3 of the bedrooms are rented out. Two of the bedrooms are rented to two couples and one of the bedrooms to two female friends.

    The two female friends have started to give me problems. They are on a 3 month AST and signed the contract on the 01/08/11 The fixed term therefore as I undestand it ended on the 31/10/11 & then moved to a 1 month rolling contract. They pay rent monthly with rent due on the 1st of the month.

    On 24/01 they called me and asked to meet. I went to the house & they gave in their notice & we agreed they would leave on the 01/03 In their contract it is stipulated that they give 1 month's notice.

    On the 31/01 they sent a text saying that as it was not stipulated in the contract that they give notice on the 1st of the month they could give notice at anytime and they are therefore calculating 4 weeks from that day and will be leaving on the 22/02

    I texted back reluctantly agreeing. I had not yet advertized the room and this would leave me a lot less time to find a new tenant

    They texted back saying I insisted that they give notice on the 1st of the month and they were not aware of the legal situation which gave them the right to give notice at anytime.

    I texted back to say that we had agreed the 1st and if they would have said initally the 23rd I would have immediately advertized the property.

    On the 1st February my partner went to the house to pick up the rent as usual. When he knocked on their door he was confronted with a man he had never seen before. This man said in a thereating manner that we must stop harassing the girls (the only contact was in the texts as described), that we weren't compliant to council regulations, the house was a fire hazzard, that a bulb had a caught fire and the house probably needs rewiring, that the contract was a joke, he had taken it to his solicitor and his solictor laughed at the contract. He is a very busy man but if he wanted to find time he would get the fire brigrade round and call the council and they would shut as down immediately. Therefore as these girls don't have much money and quite frankly he doesn't trust us they don't want to pay the last month's rent but want it to be taken out of the deposit otherwise he will cause us a lot of trouble.

    My questions and comments are as follows:

    1. We never harrassed the girls. We simply replied to their texts and went to pick up the rent on the 1st of the month as usual. I don't think responding to a texts can be defined as harrassment! Also we have been really good to them, coming round within the hour if they called to say there was a problem in the house and fixing it immediately.

    2. What does he mean by compliant with council regulations? It is a normal 4 bed house that has been refurbished. I checked on the council website and it is an HMO but is not subject to licencing as it is not a 3 storey house. Does the council have anything to do with it and what could they do/object to? Is there any council requirements we have breached that we do not know of?

    3. I can't see how the house is a fire hazzard. There is just one exit (the front door) which is accessible and opens normally. The stairs are totally clear. All the windows open, all bedrooms have working fire alarms and so does the landing and hall. There is a fire extinghiser in the hall, one at the top of the stairs and and one in the kitchen and in the kitchen there is also a fire blanket. On this note we called the fire bagrade to do a fire risk assessment but they said that only people living in the house can ask them to do this. So we have now put a notice in hall downstairs saying that candles and smoking in the house are strictly prohibited and that all tenants need to take resonable precauctions to avoid a fire and the contact details and telphone number they can call if they want a free fire assesment. On this point I find it incredible that he said this as once I went to the house and entered the bathroom and there were lit candles left unattended in the bathroom shower tray. I asked around the house and the girls said they were theirs. I told them that they could not leave lit candles unattended as it was a fire hazzard and they said they had to because it was their religion! So in reality they are the fire hazzard!

    4. Regarding the rewiring issue. They never informed us that there was a problem so we were not aware of it. I believe it can sometimes happen that light bulbs catch fire. I also do not believe that it is a legal requirement to have an electrical saftey certificate. We have however now booked in an electrical check with a qualified electrician who will check all electrical points and issue us with a certificate (it is costing us £200.00)

    5. The contract is a contract that I drew up and I did not use a template (yes stupid I know) however I do not believe that this makes a difference. It is still legally binding. In fact as I understand it a written contract is not necessary a verbal one is sufficent (although not advisable). So how can the contract be a joke?

    6. We called the fire bigrade and the would not come as we do not live in the house so why would they come for him if he does not live there? Also ultimately what would they do? Is there anything we have done that breaks fire regulations? I do not believe that fire doors are complisory.

    7. What would the council do if they came round? Would they come round? Have we done anything wrong to for them to "close us down immediately".

    8. Ultimatley my partner was in shock and didn't know what to respond to the man so said he would convey his message to the owner of the house. We have taken time to find out all the legalities and would like to confont this man as we feel really uncomfortable not saying anything and just accepting it. Firstly because we do not like to be blackmailed and secondly because we feel this would make us look weak in the eyes of these two tenants. However we don't want to get into more of a mess than we already are. My questions are:

    a) based on this information how much damage can this man do to us?

    b) the tenants paid a deposit but we did not protect it (stupid I know). Can we protect it now or is it too late? I tried but it asks for a previous address of tenant and we don't have one (they are foreign)

    c) The only gas appliance is the boiler and we have had it serviced regulary however we thought that with the service the gas saftey certificate was included. However now having checked our records it was not (how stupid of us). We have now called the company out again and they have issued us with a gas safety certificate but could the council ask also for a previous one? (which we don't have)

    d) what problems could we face with the fire issues (no fire doors) but we feel we are compliant.

    e) what problems could we face with the eletrical issue. The house has been refurbished a new kitchen was put in, 2 new bathrooms but we did the work ourseleves and the house was not rewired. However is a electrical safety cerficate mandatory (I believe it is not)

    f)Furthermore as I understand it they are liable to pay rent till the 1st March as they needed to give notice at the end of the contract (1 month rolling contract which now expires on the last of each month). Is that correct? Can we take the rent that they owe us out of the deposit although this is not specified in the contract? In the contract it is only specified that the deposit will be used to compensate for damage or items missing.

    g) Is their initial notice valid as it was only verbal?

    h) We feel very uncomfortable in them staying there without the security of a deposit as we will not be covered for any damages of if they steal something (we installed a new 37" plasma tv in their room at the beginning of January) and they have no incentive to be careful. They broke a window. The window was jammed and they forced it and it broke. We replaced it. Can we charge them?

    i) At the beginning of November one of the other rooms became vacant upstairs and they asked if they could move from downstairs to upstairs and we agreed. However when we came to make sure everything was in order with their old room for the new tenants it was absolutely filthy and we had to call cleaners in to clean it. I don't think they had ever cleaned it. In the contract they signed it is stipulated that if the room is not left clean then £32.00 cleaning fee will be charged. Can we charge this although they had not finished their tenancy but were just changing rooms? We did inform them verbally at the time that they would be charged this and although they were annoyed they accepted it.

    j) Can we ban this man from our property? Do not really feel comfortable going to the property and having to say hello to someone who has blackmailed us!

    k) I was going to call him and say that they are in rent arrears and need to pay the rent. The deposit is not to be used for rent payment but is a gurantee on damages, breakages etc. If they do not want to pay rent they should leave immediately and we will refund deposit subject to inspection or he should sign a gurantoor form guarteeing for them if there are any items missing or damage.

    #2
    Originally posted by matesalka View Post
    The two female friends have started to give me problems. They are on a 3 month AST and signed the contract on the 01/08/11 The fixed term therefore as I undestand it ended on the 31/10/11 & then moved to a 1 month rolling contract. They pay rent monthly with rent due on the 1st of the month.

    On 24/01 they called me and asked to meet. I went to the house & they gave in their notice & we agreed they would leave on the 01/03 In their contract it is stipulated that they give 1 month's notice.

    On the 31/01 they sent a text saying that as it was not stipulated in the contract that they give notice on the 1st of the month they could give notice at anytime and they are therefore calculating 4 weeks from that day and will be leaving on the 22/02
    One thing at a time...

    If a T is in occupation at fixed term expiry, a statutory periodic [assured shorthold] tenancy (SPT) arises automatically, by law. The terms of the expired contract carry through except for any terms regarding notice. Common law rules apply to the T's notice to quit in a SPT.

    The T must give at least one month, (which can be given at any time), the notice must also expire at the end of a tenancy period (the notice may be expressed to expire on the 1st or last day of a period, - in this case that's the 1st or last day of the month). It should also be given in writing (and it is arguable as to whether a text message/verbal would suffice - it would depend on whether the LL accepted the defective notice).

    A T's notice to quit ends the tenancy at notice expiry. It cannot be withdrawn or varied after it is given.

    Can we take the rent that they owe us out of the deposit although this is not specified in the contract? In the contract it is only specified that the deposit will be used to compensate for damage or items missing.
    Therefore, you cannot use the deposit to set against unpaid rent.

    I was going to call him and say that they are in rent arrears and need to pay the rent. The deposit is not to be used for rent payment but is a gurantee on damages, breakages etc. If they do not want to pay rent they should leave immediately and we will refund deposit subject to inspection or he should sign a gurantoor form guarteeing for them if there are any items missing or damage.
    Do not contact this man or discuss the tenancy with him. He is not a party to the tenancy contract, and it's none of his business. Nor is he liable for any damage caused by your T.

    You cannot take the attitude that the T 'should leave immediately'. The only way you can legally evict a T is by serving valid notice, applying for a possession order, and getting a court bailiff to execute the order.

    Comment


      #3
      2) All HMOs (licensable or not) have to comply with certain safety requirements - the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Your property is probably fine
      3 & 4 - the electrician will tell you the score. TBH you should have a regular electrical safety check as (as you have found out) you have no way of knowing if the prperty is safe without one)
      5) You are right, unless it has unenforceable terms that contradict the tenants statutory rights or are 'unfair' UTCCR
      6) He will say he lives there! I don't think you have anything to worr about - you would be told what needs doing, and timescales. Your tenants tenancy rights would complicate a 'close down'.
      7) The environmental health officer or HMO officer could certainly do an inspection - but as above, you will be told what to do (if anything) and by when.
      8b) Protect now (for free) at http://www.depositprotection.com - once you have done so and provided the tenant with te information the scheme requires then you are safe. This will change soon - so don't make the same mistake again.
      8c) The priority will be a current one. You do need to be more careful though because the maximum fine is £20k (yes - honest)
      8d) It is difficult to say without knowing what the ire brigade will find - LACORS will give you an idea if you google it - but it is quite complex.
      8e) I am sure tht such a certificate is compulsory for licensed HMOs, I am not sure regarding those that are not licensed. You are NOT allowed to DIY any electrical works.
      8f) They would have been if you hadn't agreed to a surrender on 22/2
      8g) It wouldn't hae been if you hadn't accepted it.
      8h) You said you had a deposit. You hve a responsibility to maintain the structure of the property - so I am guessing they could successfully argue that the broken window was caused by the fact that it wasn't maintained. Jammed windows also throw a shadow of doubt on fire escape options.
      8i) Their initial tenancy DID end. The current tenancy began when they moved into the new room. Unless you have proof of the cleanliness of the initial room at the start of the tenancy and the end then you would not be able to defend such a decision if it found its way to a court of law. Indeed the deposit you have is against the initial tenancy - so your comment in 8h is correct - you do not have a deposit for this tenancy.
      8j) The tenant has exclusive use of the property deemed to them - who they invite is up to them unless you get an injunction to prevent the person entering the premises.
      8k) You should not discuss your tenants financial details with anyone.

      Comment

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