Communal garden

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    Communal garden

    Please could somebody give me a legal point of view on the following?
    We have let our flat out to tenants for a 12 month tenancy, the garden forms part of the tenancy but it is shared with one other flat (upstairs).
    When the tenants moved in, we left a key in the flat for the padlock on the garden gate..but it was unmarked and very small. A anyway, the tenants borrowed the key from the neighbours so that they could put their BBQ in the garden when they moved in. That was 5 months ago.
    To be fair, they have been asking for a key for a month or so, I asked their neighbour to replace the lock and gave her a new padlock with 2 keys. But nobody can open the padlock, it seems to have jammed/rusted.
    This morning I went to the flat to check the lock for myself, I couldn't open it either. So I spoke to the tenants and explained, I offered to get bolt croppers to cut the old lock off but the guy said if I was happy for them to remove it then they would.
    I went away happy that it had reached a good conclusion, but the agents emailed me later to say that the tenants were threatening to take me to the small claims court for compensation for not being able to use the garden for 5 months..... I was astonished. Can they do that? Surely I should have been given more of a chance to do something? The first time I heard anything about a possible claim against me was today.

    Points in my favour (maybe)
    1 I left a key to the garden padlock at the flat
    2 the neighbours had a key ( which the tenants previously borrowed) so they could have asked for it any time
    3 I didn't know the lock was broken
    4 my husband fitted the gate, had we known they were *so* desperated to get into the garden we could have removed the gate or anything really.

    Please tell me whether they are/are not entitled to any compensation.
    Thanks for your time

    I think they are entitled to a Section 21 notice, and nothing else.
    To save them chiming in, JPKeates, Theartfullodger, Boletus, Mindthegap, Macromia, Holy Cow & Ted.E.Bear think the opposite of me on almost every subject.


      He he! Thanks JK0. My first instinct was "get them out" also..but since the tenant is a housing officer I figured he knew more than me.
      They pay their rent on time and their 12 month tenancy is up in December, so we'll see if we can keep it amicable until then.
      Tell me, this has shaken me a bit, is it a common thing for tenants to threaten to sue? I need to be stronger and probably get some legal knowledge to gain the confidence to fight back. Luckily I have an agent between me and the tenant do that's good independent advice normally!
      Would be pretty unfair if I had to defend myself against an claim for no access to the garden for 5 months when there was really nothing from stopping them sorting it themselves ( or asking me sooner).
      Thanks again


        After I wrote that, I wondered if it is your agent trying to cause trouble between you, so he gets a letting fee for another tenant. Is that possible?

        The only time I was threatened with being sued by a tenant, was when I tried to agree his deposit damage deductions.
        To save them chiming in, JPKeates, Theartfullodger, Boletus, Mindthegap, Macromia, Holy Cow & Ted.E.Bear think the opposite of me on almost every subject.


          I would go back to the tenant and ask him to elaborate on his suing strategy in a friendly manner and note the response. That way you will know if the agent is stirring it.

          Personally I hate letting to so called property professionals or even worse Local Authority ones - always ends in grief.

          Freedom at the point of zero............


            hmmm.. thanks for your replies...
            the agent's exact email was:
            ..."I am writing to inform you that the tenants have confirmed receipt of the key for the communal area.

            However, they are proving difficult due to the lack of access to the communal area for the last 5 months. They have requested compensation, a claim which we rejected on your behalf, and have now threatened to make a claim through the Small Claims Court. Again, we would not support a claim made on this basis. Please can you confirm that you are happy with our response before we put this in writing to the tenant?

            I welcome your thoughts on the above."...

            I rang the agent up immediately to say that when I left the flat earlier that day, the tenant was all happy and smiles and I thought that was the end of it.... I don't think that the agent would make up the claim for compensation.....but I also find it very strange that the tenants turned around and said that.. especially being a housing officer (perhaps he doesn't know as much as he should know?).. perhaps the tenants are unhappy with the agent for some reason??

            aanyway, I have responded to the agent:
            .."As mentioned on the phone yesterday, I was extremely surprised by the tenants reaction to the garden gate fiasco. They only needed to ask the neighbour for the key (if they couldn't find the key we left for them in the flat) or remove the padlock if it was broken (which it seems to be).
            I will not be taking any further action, but I am disappointed in their response. Again, as mentioned, we fitted the gate (some 10 years ago) and if need be, we could have ripped the whole thing down!!

            <name removed> will confirm that I have been requesting quotes for work and instructing the hiring of contractors to complete different maintenance/improvement issues and I had no idea that they were so distressed about the garden access.

            I am more than happy to hear any issues that the tenants have, I am reasonable and fair and would not knowingly break any agreement nor deny them any access to anything stated in the terms of the rental.

            Please relay this to them and attempt to build any bridges that may have been broken regarding communication.

            I am happy for them to contact me directly should they feel that an issue has not been dealt with satisfactorily..."

            I bear the tenants no ill will and will continue to fullfill my obligations as landlord to the best of my knowledge/ability. Why are some people such idiots? I've been there/done that with the tenant thing. Took my landlord to court for damage deposit (I was in a 7 student house and there was rubbish left in the yard behined after I left which wasn't mine) I got my money back...but I would have been willing at any point to drop the court action and come to an agreement with the landlord directly had he asked/been reasonable (note this was before the damage deposit scheme things) aaanyway, enough rambling, thanks for your help and any further guidance as to how to whip agents into shape would be appreciated! I need to check their ARLA membership, but they are estate agents so I just figured that they'd be covered...?


              I don't see what the agent has done wrong, unless he failed to pass on complaints from T about the garden access.


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