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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I am landlord for a flat in London. I have a 12 month tenancy

Customer Question

I am landlord for a flat in London. I have a 12 month tenancy agreement in place for this, with no break clause, a deposit held in a TDS, and 2 month notice period on either side to cover the period after the fixed term. My current tenant and his family moved in in July 2014. He told me at the time that the reason for needing to rent is that a house purchase of his had fallen through last minute. I was quite clear that I was looking for a long-term let, minimum 12 months.
Last week he contacted me by email to say that it turns out another property has come on the market for which his offer has been accepted, that he has decided to act quickly to take it, and proposed to move out in 7 weeks time (ie. with less than 2 months notice, and effectively breaking the contract prematurely). He wanted to ask me my thoughts. I told him quite simply that he would be liable to pay the full 12 months, as set out in the contract, whether he stays or moves on.
The day before yesterday he contacted me again, this time in the middle of the night to say he has spotted a rat in the kitchen, that he, and his son (but not his wife) all have contracted salmonella., that this was confirmed by their family GP). He did point out that this rat sighting may not be related to this outbreak, but nonetheless he had called in a private pest controller.
I immediately notified the council pest control as well, but also attended that evening with 'his' private pest controller, for who's attendance I paid . The pest controller found a single rat dropping and two dead baby rats on glue traps that had been left down under the kitchen counter. Unbeknown to me these had been left out by Astrid prior to the tenant moving in, along with a few other mouse-proofing precautions taken a few months ago as part of a wholesale refurb / redecoration of the flat (prior to the tenants moving in).
I suspect - although he hasn't said anything as yet - that my tenant will now attempt to build a negligence case against me enabling him to attempt to break contract without being liable for remainder of the 12 months, or losing his deposit. I suspect that he will try to link in some way the fact that a mouse glue trap was laid out by us before he moved in, and that a dead rodent caught on it might possibly have caused his and his son's salmonella.
Throughout this tenancy I believe I have always been very quick to resolve, and sympathetic to any issues he has raised - the way I have handled this rat sighting would be testament to that.
Do you have any advice for me?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Alex Watts :

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

Alex Watts :

Do you have a history of pest control problems please?

JACUSTOMER-msie971z- :

Hi - there have been sightings of rats in the flat below mine (not my flat). A former tenant did say that they thought they might have heard a mouse. I suggested to her having done a bit of research that she makes sure no food is left out to attract (she was not a very clean tenant), and mentioned the varoius traps on the market that friends have used. As I say, we have recently completely refurbished and redecorated we had the builder stuff wire wool into crevices etc as a precaution. Other than that, I have not been aware of a rat being in the flat ever.

Alex Watts :

So its all coincidence that he wants to leave, you refuse and he says you have a rat problem?

JACUSTOMER-msie971z- :

it seems this is an unfortunate coincidence, yes.

JACUSTOMER-msie971z- :

or fortunate for him...

JACUSTOMER-msie971z- :

ps. Astrid is the name of my wife.

Ash and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Relist: Incomplete answer.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I don't think you have answered my question - although I have received an email asking me to rate your service!

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
You rated before I answered, I needed more information.
You ask for advice but what specifically do you want to know?
Why can't you let him leave, rent out the property and just charge him for the empty period?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Oh sorry!. OK - I am asking whether you think he will have any grounds for in some way claiming against me due to the fact that we had laid a mouse trap and it had caught a couple of rodents and they had been left there, and somehow he has caught salmonella... or alternatively he manages to get out of paying any of the remaining rent by building a case to say that the flat was inhabitable somehow.

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
But has he linked the salmonella to the traps or just making an assumption?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

He is making an assumption at this point.

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Ok - then you do not need to worry. If it went to Court they would need to show that indeed they got salmonella and indeed it was linked. They simply can not make an assumption.
To end the contract they would need to show that any breach was significant. One rodent is not significant. Also the longer they stay in a property the harder it is to argue that even if there was a breach, they have not agreed to it.
That is called affirming the breach. So the longer they stay the more likely it is they have accepted the breach,
But at the moment there is sadly nothing you can do apart from being a good Landlord. Sadly you have to wait.
Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Alex
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Alex, isnt there a possibility that they could find evidence to suggest that there is salmonella im the flat though? Putting me at risk again? Or would that simply prove impossible... ie the tenant themselves could have brought it in unwittingly from external sources?

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Yes but they need to show a link. Its not for you to disprove.
Alex
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Is it a provable link?

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
It's hard specially as a small claim. They would need an expert report.
Alex
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I seem to still be asked to rate your response... i already rated it as excellent.

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Yes I think that's system generated, just ignore it.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

ok thankyou very much for your help.

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Thank you