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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25409
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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there. I would like to know how I can deal with my situation.

Resolved Question:

Hi there. I would like to know how I can deal with my situation. In 2012 we let our house as we moved to Africa. We let our house on 100% management with a local estate agents. On return, we have found the house destroyed and the agent are not willing to compensate for the damage the tenant they put into the house caused. They have only offered to give us the full bond of deposit which is far little to address the damage caused. What can we do.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I clarify exactly what is meant by destroyed please - do you mean internally "trashed" as opposed to for example burned to the ground?

Customer:

I mean the tenant left the house in a state of voluntary damage eg. painted over bathroom tiles with paint that is now flacking, removed carpets from all bedrooms including the underfelt, took curtain hanging poles, left a hip of dog mess in the garden, left two wooden sheds, painted over wall papers in every bedroom and painted over light switches etc, had kitchen cupboards chewed up by the dog. They were not supposed to have had pets in the house. There is so much damage to the house its unbelievable.

Joshua :

Thank you. Did you instruct the agents that you would allow tenants in receipt of housing benefit as tenants or discuss what credit profile of tenant you would accept in any way?

Customer:

We did not specify the type of tenant but we gave our agent full mandate to take care of the property including is

Customer:

including inspections

Customer:

We gave them full mandate to manage the property

Joshua :

Thank you so to be clear did you advise the agent that you would accept any "class" of tenant they felt appropriate or sign anything to state that the agents could rent to housing benefit tenants to your recollection?

Customer:

We did not give them any type of tenant. We were told that the housing association had come up with a tenant and we accepted the tenant. The agent did not give us any background information about the fact that the housing association tenants could cause this kind of damage. We accepted on the basis that the agent would have done background checks as to the suitability of the tenant they put in our property

Joshua :

Thanks. Finally did the tenants in question rent for the whole period or have there been previous tenants during the period? Was rent paid on time and how often did the agents inspect in particular during the last year of the tenancy to your knowledge?

Customer:

The tenant rented the property for the whole period from October 2011 until about end January 2015. Rent was paid on time partially by tenant and the majority of it by the housing association. The agents was supposed to inspect the property every six months. The last inspection was August 2014.

Joshua :

Thank you. Reference the inspections, did they carry out inspections every six months roughly? You mention that the last inspection was Aug 2014 which seems to be roughly in line with this though of course I am not sure when the previous inspection was carried out before that. Presumably not all the damage you refer to took place after Aug 2014? DId the agents report to you on the condition after each inspection and in particular did they note any of the damage you refer to?

Joshua :

I hope that should be my last question.

Customer:

There was no damage prior to August 2014. The agents sent us photos which showed that the property was still in the state we left. In August 2014 they reported that the tenant had removed the carpets and was due to lay new ones and was going to decorate the house. After that we never heard anything from the agent as a follow up with the tenant's intentions on carpets and decoration. The agent knew we did not allow pets on the property but they never told us the tenant had dogs. We were not allowed into the property so we did not know what was happening. The agents carried out inspections 6 monthly. We were made to believe that we were letting the house to a single mother with 4 kids. But on asking the neighbours and tradesmen, there were about 8 or 9 klds and several adults. We are also receiving letters for different people with the same surname with the tenant.

Customer:

The agents did not report to us on the state of the damage at all.

Joshua :

Thank you. This is a potentially difficult case. The difference between what the agent is telling you and the reality seems marked. The fact that all of the damage occured in the last 6 months is questionable - for example if they have painted, whether they have done a bad job or not, paint costs money and tenants tend not to spend money on paint shortly before they are going to move out. Normally painting is done shotly after moving in unless of course the walls have been painted as an act of vandalism in which case this would be done prior to moving out.

Another area of concern is that the agent was not aware or did not notify you of the number of people living in the property. The hosing association would have provided information about the tenant and number of children to the agent. It is possible that the tenant lied to the HA but the HA conduct their own enquiries to confirm information supplied by tenants. If the agent was provided with incorrect information by the HA and therefore innocently incorrectly informed you that you were renting on facts which were not true, the question of why they did not notice inconsistencies when they inspected. The difference between the number of people living at the property according to your information and the mumber registered with the agent is not easy to cover up - possible of course is the tenant was careful but not straightforward.

Joshua :

The starting point is to therefore try to establish the facts yourself (as you have already begun to do) and compare them with information supplied by the agents to you in respect of the tenants and inspections - any missing reports you can request. inconsistencies such as the above can be questioned. The agent operates as a property professional and is therefore expected to be reasonably astute with regards ***** ***** of property.

Joshua :

As to whether you have grounds to claim compensation, this will depend on the extent you can establish the agents have either deliberately misled you or failing which may have been naive in respect of their dealings with the tenant where such naivete could amount to negligence.

Joshua :

That is not appear to be straightforward obvious basis on which you can confidently claim compensation. for example, had the agent not sought your specific authority to rent to a housing benefit tenant, but done so without your permission, you would have grounds to claim compensation for the damage caused to your property because an agent cannot let property to a benefit tenant without authority. However from what you say, they did secure authority; that they did not specifically warn you of potential issues with regards ***** ***** and similar tenants is not sufficient to establish negligence as the law expects landlords to satisfy themselves as to the "market" of tenants they wish to let to. It is good practice for an agent to advise you in respect of risks associated with specific tenant types and their failure to do so leaves them open to a claim of negligence but it is far from clear cut. The duty of care an agent owes to its client is lower than that associated with for example a solicitor.

Joshua :

Equally from what you say the agent claims to have complied with its basic services it agreed to carry out under your contract. The rent was broadly paid on time and if you believe the agents, the correct tenant was living there and no more and there was no damage as at Aug 2014 so again there is no obvious factor you can point to - eg. failure to inspect - and therefore claim damages.

Customer:

The fact that the agents were given full mandate to manage the property surely should make them liable for damages especially as they did not notify us of the state of the house when they did their inspection and the state of the garden where there is a hip of dog waste, which i believe is a health hazard for me and my family. The agents did not follow up the fact that the tenant did not replace the carpets as she was supposed to have done. The tenant did not allow any inspections without appointments as far as we are aware. The agents said the tenant had a court order to not allow anyone into the house unless they had an appointment. This was due to the fact that the tenant had an abusive partner and was scared of letting anyone into the house without an appointment. I believe this is how she managed to put wool over everyone's eyes as she could hide all evidence of how many people were in the property at any inspection.

Joshua :

So apart from the slightly tenuous complaint you can make in respect of the agent failing to counsel you in respect of the pitfalls DSS tenants the basis for your complaint must principally be founded on your identifying a) failures of the agent to register and notify you of damage caused to the property at the time of inspections; b) failure of the agent to notify you and report to you on the fact that more people than were supposed to be were living in the property c) negligence on the part of the agent in managing the property in failing to identify risk of damage to the property during its inspections and d) if applicable failing to secure a sufficient damage deposit.

Joshua :

The more evidence you can uncover or produce that underlines failures by the agent on the above factors the more weight and therefore chance of success your complaint is likely to have. Based on what you say you identify above a number of failures on the part of the agent you can point to in this respect.

Joshua :

In terms of how you may consider proceeding:

Joshua :

You have obviously already made the agent aware of your complaints regardig their service. If you have not already obtained one it is necessary to ensure the agent has treated your complaint formally and given you a formal written response setting out their final position in writing. They are required to do so under their complaints procedure which they are required to maintain.

Joshua :

Once you have their final response, if you are not satisifed with it you can refer your complaint free of charge to redress service they are required by law to be a member of. There are three such government approved services which all carry out the same function and they must belong to one of them:
http://www.tpos.co.uk/index.htm
http://www.ombudsman-services.org/property.html
https://www.theprs.co.uk/

Joshua :

The approprate ombudsman has the power to independently review your complaint and weigh it as against the agents own response and against the Ombudsman code of conduct the agent is required to comply with. if the Ombudsman finds in your favour they can award compensation - th agent is bound by their decision though you are not.

Joshua :

As you say it is difficult on the face of it to readily accept the agents version of events which if I understand you correctly is essentially that bar for carpets, everything was generally acceptable with the property up to the point of their last inspection and there was no evidence of breaches of the tenancy. If you can demonstrate that either this was not the case or that the agents have been negligent or naive in their management of the property you can construct the basis of a reasonable claim against them.

Joshua :

You can of course also pursue the tenant for damage caused beyond the amount of her deposit but of course the difficulty with housing benefit tenants is they often have little or no money to pay any damages to you so this can often be a waste of time.

Customer:

I think that the agent failed us in that they did not check whether the tenant had done what she said she would do and whether what she had done was in acceptable condition eg. decoration was done so appallingly that some of the paid is peeling off. She removed carpets and never replaced them. She basically took away carpets and curtain poles from the property without our consent. We did not authorise the tenant to decorate the house or at least in the manner she did it eg. painting over all bathroom and kitchen tiles with inappropriate paint causing the paint to peel off or paint over the whole paper. We left brand new carpets as we were told to do that before the tenant moved in. We put in a brand new hob and cooker both of which have been damaged.

Customer:

I did not think the onus was on us to pursue the tenant as we had an agent working on our behalf. The tenant was put in by the agent therefore I was of the opinion that they would be responsible for following it up. We made the case a police case and the police advised us not to follow up the people of the type of the tenant as they could cause us more trouble due to their behaviour so we did not follow up and we do not know where she is now.

Joshua :

It is not for you to pursue the tenant - your agent is responsible for managing the property as you say and if you can point to failures on the agent part in this respect such as that you refer to above, you can seek damages for negligence for damage which you can show reasonably resulted from that failure using the above approach

Customer:

Ok thanks for your help. In your opinion do you think that we stand a chance of getting something basing on negligence if we could gather enough facts. Sorry to take too much of your time.

Joshua :

No problem.

Joshua :

Based on what you say you do have the basis of a claim. I would not wish to discourage you from pursuing one. What I have been keen to do is not seek to overplay the quality of that claim. The problem you have is that there is no "smoking gun" based on what you say. e.g. had the agent just not bothered inspecting, your claim would be almost open and shut. The quality of your claim which her is likely to turn on the quality of the evidence you can produce showing the agent essentially has been negligent on the aove fators we discussed above.

Joshua :

You would appear to have some evidence against the agent already - that they failed to follow up issues with the tenant and they failed to identify over occupation (they may be able to explain why) etc and the more you can show that demonstrates this negligence the more you may be able to claim.

Joshua :

as above, you have a right to refer your complaint to the property ombudsman service and because the service is free, there is in a sense nothing to lose so there is no reason not to pursue the matter because there is no risk to you in doing so. The more evidence you can produce of course the more likely your complaint will result in compensation so it is worth carrying out some legwork in establishing the best evidence you can before raising a complaint making sure you do not go over time which is earlier of 6 months from the date of your final decision from the agent or 12 months from the date the cause of your complaint occured.

Customer:

Thank you. I will follow up with the organisations you pointed me towards. I do not want to just let it go because my quality of life has been compromised by the tenant especially given the fact that I was made to put new items in the house before letting it out now having to come back to a dilapidated state of a house. Its heart breaking. We have all been very stressed by this. So far we have spent a considerable amount of money repairing things we did not break eg. radiators and boiler.

Joshua :

To my mind DSS tenants were unsuitable for your requirements (I do not say this just with the benefit of hindsight). Many landlords rent to DSS tenants successfully but they are generally hard nosed with particular types of property. Based on what you say - fitting new carpets, new kitchen appliances etc - it is unlikely DSS tenants would have been suitable for you because of the lack of respect that is frequently though by no means alwasy shown to properties. The agent really should have discussed this with you and this is a ground for complaint in itself though as above not necessarily enough on its own to result in compensation but combined with other evidence such as above could together build a substantive complaint against them

Joshua :

Can I help you with anything else or has the above answered your questions satisfactorily?

Customer:

Joshua you have been wonderful. Thank you for putting up with me for a very long and tedious account of my problem. I think that you have answered my questions fully and also pointed me towards more help which I appreciate.

Joshua :

A pleasure. I hope you are successful in claiming something from the agents using the above approach. Consider contacting the HA to ask them what information they gave to your agents regarding the tenant and compare it to what the agent told you. If there is a difference, that would be very bad for the agents.

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. If
there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me though

Customer:

In actual fact, the agent told us it was a good thing to let to housing association so we thought we were having a good deal since we were not going to be in the country. One more thing, do we damage our case if we accept the bond we have been offered by the Housing Association or should we leave it until we take our case to the ombudsman.

Joshua :

Mention that - this is evidence the agent induced you to accept the tenant without explaining the very significant potential pitfalls. Accepting the bond fro the HA does not prejudice your claim against the agent. Notify the HA that you will accept bond as interim payment towards the costs of repairing the damage caused but your position in respect of the tenant and other third parties is reserved

Customer:

The agent did not give us a copy of the tenants agreement or anything. It was all verbal from the agent. We were not told anything more about the tenant.

Customer:

Ok thanks will do that.

Joshua :

I wish you luck with your claim.

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