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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I am the owner of a 4 bedroom property in Hampshire which I

Resolved Question:

I am the owner of a 4 bedroom property in Hampshire which I let to a father and two grown up children. The usual references where obtained. The initial lease was for 6 months and at the end of the period it became apparent that the tenant was slipping slightly behind with his payment.
We were reassured there was no issue and in order to mitigate the risk a standing order was agreed in order to ensure regular payment as a pre-req to the lease being extended by a further 6 months.
That was in Aug 14 and in Sept the payment was missed and following discussions with the tenant he confirmed that the standing order had been cancelled. Promises were made that the rent would be paid, however when the payments failed to materialise small claims were initiated to recover the costs. Action was also taken to remove the tenant via a section 21.
In order to ensure the tenant did not disappear without trace, two claims were submitted with a 3rd pending. The first two claims were for circa £2600.00. The 3rd claim will be finalised when the cost of repair to the property has been finalised which I would estimate to be in the region of circa £4000.00, bringing the total to somewhere in the region of £9000.00. A warrant has been issued for the first claim with the intention to request a second warrant if the tenant does not respond to the 2nd judgement by 17th Jan.
The Section 21 informed the tenant to vacate the property on the 11th Jan 15. When this didn't happen, I visited the property on the 12th Jan 15 and requested the occupants to vacate the property.
They complied, stating that the tenant had already moved out leaving the remaining occupants. It's my understanding that one of the remaining occupants was the son of the tenant and the others were friends & girlfriends.
It's my understanding that the tenant whilst not paying the rent on the property was also allowing the remaining occupants to stay at the property free of charge.
Prior to the tenant taking the lease, the property was fully renovated to a high standard at a cost of circa £40K.
For the past 6 months the occupants have been using the property as a squat with significant damage to the inside of the property which includes a ceiling collapse due to water ingress. Wine bottles and beer cans located throughout the house and gardens and needless to say, the neighbours have made a number of complaints.
In removing the occupants from the property a large quantity of personal processions remain (clothes, computer, hamster, TV etc).
The occupants are now requesting that I hand over their processions which I am reluctant to do until the matter of the outstanding debt is resolved.
My thinking is as follows:-
1. The tenant who signed the contract has disappeared and is not contactable. I suspect he is living in the local area and by withholding the release of the content, the remaining occupants will force the tenant to provide a forwarding address and contact details which can be used to serve the warrants.
2. A significant amount of damage has been done to the house since Aug 14 when the additional occupants moved in. These people have jobs and I find it ludicrous that they would expect to live in an nice house in a nice area for 6 months knowing that bills are not being paid and not expect at some point to be held accountable. Although I have no desire to keep their personal items, I believe as soon as these are released, they will disappear and I will significantly reduce my chance of cost recovery.
3. I have no idea who most of the occupants are and without the tenant I have no way of verifying who owns what within the house (the place is like a tip with items sprawling the floors in many of the rooms). My concern is that by simply taking the occupants statements at face value I am exposing myself to the risk of later claims of theft, also to false claims that contents existed when they didn't (eg. I had a brand new computer which has gone missing or, I had £2000 in an envelope which is no longer there!). I have requested each of the occupants to provide an inventory which has not been forthcoming.
In summary:-
1. Given that the occupants failed to comply with the section 21, do I need to hand over the contents immediate or are there steps I can take to delay? ie. can I force them to take me to court?
2. Can I hold the occupants accountable for the damage to the property
3. If I am unable to recover the full costs from the tenant, can I recover costs from the occupants?
4. Are there any other routes I should consider?
As the occupants are in their early 20's. I suspect if I can apply pressure there may be a chance that I will at least recover some of my costs.
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 :

For now please let me know what is it you want to achieve?

Alex Watts :

Are there any occupants in the property now?

Customer:

I would like to achieve full recovery of my expenses. (rental outstanding plus cost of repair to the property)

Customer:

There are no occupants in the property at the moment. I'm eager to start repairs asap and relet

Alex Watts :

Ok, so its empty but there is property there, is that right?

Customer:

that is correct

Alex Watts :

Is there anything of any value there?

Customer:

mainly clothes, most of which are unwashed and on the floor. I haven't done a full search until I established my legal position. Only item of limited value is TV and a laptop. I guess the laptop is worth £100 - £200

Customer:

There is also a hamster!

Alex Watts :

Indeed. If the property has been abandoned then you can take possession as long as you are sure the tenant wont return

Alex Watts :

If you are satisfied then you need to take possession of of the goods and keep them in storage

Alex Watts :

You need to write to the tenant, if you know where he is and say he has 1 month to collect and identify them or you will dispose

Customer:

The tenant were removed under a section 21. They are now requesting their goods

Customer:

Alex, have you read my summary?

Alex Watts :

Ok - it is not unreasonable for the tenant to identify what his goods are.

Alex Watts :

Yes I have.

Alex Watts :

1. Only the person that signed the contract is entitled to recover the goods

Customer:

okay, can you answer my points at the bottom

Alex Watts :

That is who your contract is with no-one else

Alex Watts :

Just so I am clear though, you still have squatters or have they gone too?

Customer:

they have gone

Customer:

its the squatters who want their pocessions

Alex Watts :

Ok then you can take full possession.

Alex Watts :

Unless they identify what is theirs you dont need to release the goods

Customer:

ok, can I withhold handing over the goods until the tenant has addressed his rental arrears?

Alex Watts :

2. Yes you can force them to take you to Court

Customer:

excellent

Alex Watts :

You could then counter claim for the damge\

Alex Watts :

Well in theory you could hold on to the goods but if it went to Court they would argue the contract is with the tenant and any arrears should be dealt with the tenant and not them, as you do not have a contract with them

Alex Watts :

3. No. Sadly unless you can prove THEY caused the damage, rather than tenant you cant claim back from the tenants.

Alex Watts :

4. There are no other routes save for taking them to Court.

Customer:

ok, so let me summarise to see if I understand

Alex Watts :

However if they are squatting they are likely to have no assets so you would be throwing good money after bad\\

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Customer:

1. As my contract is with the tenant, it only the tenant I hand the items over to? I do not have to hand over the goods as there are arrears, forcing the tenant to take me to court to force me to release the items and this opens an opportunity for me to counter sue if I so wish

Alex Watts :

1. You could certainly argue that

Customer:

If I adopt this position, does this remove the risk of me being charged for theft?

Alex Watts :

Yes because you are not intentionally going to deprive the items, which is a key element

Customer:

excellent and concise service. many thanks

Alex Watts :

Thank you. Can I clarify anything else for you?

Customer:

do I have the ability to download our chat to my computer for later reference

Alex Watts :

Once you rate my answer the format changes so you can print or save it

Customer:

ok, I'll do that now. Have a nice day

Alex Watts :

Thank you. If I could ask you to rate my answer, the button should be at the bottom of the screen

Alex Watts :

If you need more help please click reply

Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience: Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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