Maintaining tenanted property

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Maintaining tenanted property

Postby Goldriverman » Fri Jun 20, 2014 10:38 am

This is a question about the difference between statutory repairs as defined in Section 11 of the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act, and general maintenance and repairs, and in particular to garden walls, as permitted by a standard lease.

This year I have been repairing and maintaining a three bed semi with the co-operation of my tenants. Recently I put in a new gas combi boiler, rebuilt the collapsing drain well, put a new roof on the porch and installed an outside water tap for the garden. I was also repairing and repointing the garden walls, which are leaning in places.

For the first six months of the tenancy, during the autumn and winter months, I left the tenants to settle in. They knew that the property would need some external tlc in the new year and the rent was discounted by £200 per month to account for a degree of disruption to their 'peaceful enjoyment'. Since March I have visited the property by arrangement for several days each month to carry out the external repairs.

Some repairs are also needed inside the house, such as a new kitchen sink and fixing door hinges, but the tenants asked me to leave these jobs until they move into their own property some time this year. They have planning permission to re-develop a yard and buildings nearby into a new home, so they only intended to be temporary tenants of my property. So I agreed not to go into the house, and they kindly put an extension lead through a window for use of a drill.

The lease allows the landlord 'to carry out any works of maintenance or repair to the Property or elsewhere which the Landlord may reasonably consider necessary.' I presumed that this covered repairs to the garden walls and the tenants had no problem with me pottering about when I was there. I also reserved the toolshed for my own use.

After taking a holiday in June I was going to erect scaffolding to the gable end to repair the brickwork, bargeboards and guttering. However, whilst I was on holiday my neighbour phoned me to complain that a dog had been locked in the house for several days and he was unable to sleep because it was barking and whimpering all night. I texted my tenants, who I later discovered had gone abroad on holiday for two weeks, but they just replied that everything was normal and not to worry.

Being concerned that my neighbour might be hallucinating I returned to the property to discover that a dog had indeed been left alone at the property and was in considerable distress. I went in and saw that it had been fouling inside the house, but that food and water had been left for it. I contacted my tenants again to insist that the dog should be removed from the property because it was a breach of the lease to cause such a serious nuisance to the neighbours. The dog was removed next day, to the relief of my sleepless neighbour. In the meantime as I communicated with my tenants it became clear that the dog had been deliberately left in retaliation for music being played by my neighbour late at night.

The tenants then decided to ban me from the property and complained to the local housing officer, who contacted me to discuss my programme of repairs. The housing officer agreed that I had a right to put up the scaffolding to repair the gable wall and roof timbers etc. but that repairing the garden walls is an improvement, not covered by Section 11. I pointed out that my lease covers all aspects of general maintenance, and that Section 11 cannot be used to limit general repairs.

This is all somewhat academic now because my tenants have been sending me numerous insulting and threatening texts, so I would not feel comfortable going to the property while they are still there. I have been forced by these circumstances to serve a Section 21 eviction notice and I may have to seek damages separately for their unreasonable denial of access for both statutory repairs and general maintenance. Police are useless in this situation because they do not take sides in a civil dispute.

The problem I believe I have identified here is that a local council will tend to take the side of the tenant regarding non-statutory repairs. Ironically the tenants are now complaining about my failure to carry out certain repairs in the past two weeks, despite their refusal to allow me to access the external parts of the property. Asserting the right to 'Quiet Enjoyment' can sometimes be taken too far, especially when tenants are annoying neighbours with noisy and distressed dogs.
Goldriverman
 
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby MacadamB53 » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:07 pm

Hi Goldriverman,

This is a question about...

I read and re-read but couldn't find any question.

Nice post though - very well written.

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby Goldriverman » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:44 pm

Thanks Mac.
The precise question is still kind of formulating in my mind. But my first concern is whether the council housing officer should be trying to dictate to a private landlord that he or she can only carry out repairs defined by S11 of the 1985 Act.
The implied or written right of the tenant to peaceful enjoyment of the property is more likely to be disturbed by scaffolding and power tools for the repair of the gable wall and roof timbers, than the much quieter garden wall repairs which I would prefer to do first.
I am meeting the housing officer and the environmental health officer next week to discuss the repair schedule. If the tenants stop objecting to my reasonable request for access for exterior repairs and continue to pay the rent I may withdraw the Section 21 notice.
I suppose the big question is whether even if things appear to return to normal I should risk carrying out the work, or would I have to watch my back? The tenants have sent some very insulting texts to me, probably trying to test me and goad me into saying something they could use to make a compensation claim. I'm still weighing up the options.
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby COGGY » Fri Jun 20, 2014 2:00 pm

Hi
The tenants are at present living in your property. You state they are moving out later this year. Do you have an actual date for this move? They do not appear to be reasonable people due to their treatment of the dog. Personally I would have reported that to the RSPCA. Would it be possible to leave the work until the tenants move? This of course depends on when this will be as all work is much easier to carry out in the summer months. If you explained when they moved in that you needed to carry out work do you know what changed their attitude? Are the tenants happy for you to enter the property when they are out so that you could work then? This is course carries a risk as they could make accusations against you.
Kind regards
Coggy
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby MacadamB53 » Fri Jun 20, 2014 3:16 pm

Hi Goldriverman,

inform the housing officer that you are happy to conform to his directions and appreciate the LA has a very useful and valuable role to play, but if you're successfully sued for not taking action to prevent foreseeable damage then you will:

if finance available - sue the LA for preventing you from taking such action.
if no finance available - go to the press

see what they come back with...

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby Goldriverman » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:13 pm

Thanks for your comments Coggy and Mac. I did phone the RSPCA but as someone was feeding the dog while the tenants were on holiday they told me that the 24/7 barking was a noise issue for the council. Funny, but I recently discovered that the female tenant advertises herself as a' 'Dog Whisperer', and expert in re-training problem dogs! Maybe locking them up alone for a couple of weeks is one of her secret methods of retraining? Might interest the local paper.
I don't think that the nice housing officer has dealt with a case like this before. Usually it is landlords failing to carry out statutory repairs, not tenants conspiring to stop the landlord doing his or her job out of sheer spite.
The man tenant is being chased by various bailiffs and HMRC, so I'm hoping he will run away sooner than later.
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby COGGY » Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:18 pm

Hi

If you are certain that the male tenant is being chased then in your shoes I would be seriously considering giving notice to quit. Did you take up references before the Contract started?

Regards
Coggy
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby Goldriverman » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:36 pm

Thanks Coggy
I have served the S21 and will update here about the outcome with my former good friends who will be homeless by choice for the sake of their dogs!
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby COGGY » Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:33 am

Hi

Possibly you have mis understood my advice. I advised giving notice if one of the tenantsis being chased for money. The reason for this is that I believe your address could become blacklisted. (I am not certain of this as I do not have experience, it is my belief.) I did not advise giving notice because of the dogs.

Kind regards
Coggy
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby despair » Sat Jun 21, 2014 4:08 pm

Your tenants are taking the piss especially since you reduced the by £200 a month to compensate for the repairs being done #

Be very very careful they do not abscond leaving damage behind or not paying rent

you might find they have nicked the new boiler etc if your not careful
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby jonahinoz » Sat Aug 23, 2014 8:00 am

Hi,

Are your tenants saving themselves £200 a month by stopping you doing the repairs? Seems a good deal! So does not paying the rent, knowing you will eventually be evicted, if you don't need a reference. It may be worth looking at the Land Register for the property that your tenants plan to move to, see if there is a lender involved.

My understanding is that all new tenancies are automatically Assured Shorthold, and the tenants have right of tenure for six months, and must be given three months notice, That means that you can give them three months notice after three months. Assured Shorthold notice of eviction are fast-tracked. But hey, my knowledge, such as it is, is many years out of date.

I have known tewnants to trash a property as they move out, then leave the doors open so the local yobs can have a go too.

John W
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby COGGY » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:56 am

Hi
Do you have agents managing the property for you? The property should be inspected regularly (every few months) by appointment with the tenants. A report should then be produced recording the state of the property.
Kind regards
Coggy
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby jonahinoz » Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:44 am

the female tenant advertises herself as a' 'Dog Whisperer', and expert in re-training problem dogs! Maybe locking them up alone for a couple of weeks is one of her secret methods of retraining?

Hi,

Could that be construed as running a business from your premises? Was it her dog? If not, does she have a Boarding Kennel licence? Does the tax man know?

Just brain storming.

John W
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby arsie » Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:28 am

I have just read this thread. As a landlord in a small way for fifteen years I sense these are tenants I would not want to stay any longer then the minimum unavoidable. There is a mismatch between someone being hounded for debt and someone who is financially and organisationally capable of developing a site and managing a new house build anytime in future. The other tenant - I assume jointly and severally responsible for the tenancy under a 6-months AST - your self-styled 'dog whisperer', is either a remarkably gifted person whose whisper carries over great distances or more likely a self-deceiving loonie.

In future you need to be less trusting of would-be tenants imho. They are not all lovely nice decent people, unfortunately. Verbal arrangements not backed-up by clauses in the agreement are always a risk. Checking references and financial means BEFORE agreements are signed is vital. If something doesn't stack up, walk away. There are plenty of honest sound folk who are looking for somewhere to live.

I personally would be doing everything to move them on, with minimum collateral damage. This is not going to be easy.
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Re: Maintaining tenanted property

Postby ukmicky » Sat Aug 30, 2014 7:38 pm

I would have thought leaving a dog alone in a property for a few weeks allowing itto censored and piss all over the place is ample reason to evict.
Advice given is not legally qualified and you are advised to gain a professional opinion
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