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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Property Law
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Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I rent a house through a letting agency. In January a radiator

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I rent a house through a letting agency. In January a radiator in an upstairs bedroom leaked, dripped through the ceiling and came into the dining room. The tenant phoned the agency emergency line at 2am when she noticed the water but no one came out until the following morning. There was damage to both rooms which I sanctioned the agency to repair but the tenant is now saying her dining furniture was damaged and she wants me to pay for the repairs. Also, she wants two months free rent to compensate for the stress and the fact that she couldn't use the rooms for over a month. She is threatening to take me to a small claims court if I do not do this. What should I do?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.

Alex Watts : Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.
Alex Watts : Do you have landlord insurance or does she have contents insurance please?
Customer: As far as I'm aware she does have contents insurance but she doesn't want to use it!!!
Customer: Unfortunately I didn't arrange my landlord insurance in time so although I do have insirance now I didn't have at the time of the incident!
Alex Watts :

She can try and take you to Court but the whole point of insurance is when things like this happen.

Alex Watts :

She should make a claim on it.

Alex Watts :

The insurance people * may * chase you, but even then it should generally only be for the excess

Alex Watts :

But she needs to make a claim.

Alex Watts :

If she tries to issue proceedings you can defend by saying she has insurance and has failed to mitigate her loss

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Customer: Can I send you a copy of the email she sent and get your advice on what reply I should send?
Alex Watts :

You can copy and paste it here yes

Customer: Dear Sue Thank you so much for responding and I am so sorry that life has been so hectic (and worrying for you). I hope your daughter is recovering well and I'm sure that she really appreciates her mum being with her to help. My mum was a Godsend and I miss her every day, as do her grandchildren, so remember you are special to them even if it is sometimes left unsaid. Thankfully babies are always worth any amount of trauma they put us through so congratulations to you all on the birth of your new grandson, enjoy every minute. In relation to your response about the repairs. Following two further phone calls to IMS today, which both resulted in messages taken and nobody making themselves available to speak to me (as always now) IMS have finally responded through an email from Terry Rooney (one of the Directors). The responses received from both you and IMS have finally made my position very clear and I cannot say I am not shocked by both. IMS are very clear that they do not accept liability and have 'acted swiftly and under the landlords instruction.' They also previously informed me that they were awaiting your response in relation to rental rebate and repairs but this response has not subsequently been communicated to me. I have also checked my contract which is indeed with you as the named landlord, with IMS acting as your agent 'acting from time to time on behalf of the landlord'. I have taken further advice and faxed a copy through to Which consumer legal services and have been informed that this means that your influence is total and I must now deal directly with you in relation to repair costs and compensation. My furniture yet again is due for collection tomorrow and I have been left in a horrible position for a second time. I will now forward you the emailed estimate for the repair work which is trade price and £1000 + VAT. They will not hold this trade price so the costs may increase if I do not take this forward. My understanding is that the other estimate arranged by IMS stated that the repair work would cost in excess of this quote. Through the process of instructing a local joinery to undertake an estimate IMS as your agent have effectively acknowledged liability in common law terms. I have been advised to take my claim against you forward through the small claims court process as it is less than £5000 for damage to my property and personal impact/injury. This allows me to gain the recompense due to me without incurring any significant costs but would very much prefer to settle this matter in a more friendly and conciliatory way. My current situation and preferred way forward is as follows: The cost of repairs is currently £1000 + VAT = £1200 if the quote is held.I have suffered severe disruption and distress with the loss of the use of two rooms for over a month and continual disruption and mess from contractors and repairs. The lengthy and disrespectful process which I have had to endure over the past 5 weeks has exacerbated my anxiety and distress and that of my son.I have had to re-arrange my living arrangements, planned visits from family/friends and work commitments to accommodate this.I personally am going to try and repair the sideboards and display cabinet which sustained less water damage and have not sought to pass these costs onto you.The walls and carpets have not been returned to a satisfactory state and this will deter any future tenants but I have communicated this to you and photographed this and accept that as the landlord that it is your decision to leave them as they are therefore it is not something I have any liability for. I would be grateful if you could acknowledge this and your acceptance that there will be no point in my having them professionally cleaned in accordance with my contract with you when I leave the property as this has already proven unsuccessful and cannot therefore be justified.I have been advised to seek £1200 to cover the damages/repairs (or the actual costs if this increases due to delays/quotes being withdrawn) and £750 for the month of disruption and distress (one month's rental) = total £1,950 (but this may yet increase) + any costs incurred through the small claims court process. I have kept copies of all written communication and notes from all calls made to support me with the claim and have followed due process throughout. Alternatively, I ask that you allow me two months' respite from paying rent (£1500) and formally inform me and IMS of this so that I am not deemed to be in arrears and can take the repair work forward immediately with no ill will on either side. This is my preferred way forward.
Customer: Sorry but the paragraphs, underlining and bold seems to have got lost in the pasting of the email!
Alex Watts :

Yes this seems fine.

Alex Watts :

And your reply:

Alex Watts :

However as this act was not caused by negligence and was simply an accident your first step should be to contact your insurers.

Alex Watts :

They will deal with the matter and if necessary seek to claim against my insurance.

Alex Watts :

Should you issue a claim in the County Court this will be defended and indeed attention will be drawn to the fact that you have failed to mitigate your loss.

Alex Watts :

In the first instance you have insurance and are required to make a claim under that policy.

Alex Watts :

It is a matter for you entirely of course but if you do not then you can not seek to make a claim against me.

Alex Watts :

Yours etc.

Alex Watts :

Is that ok?

Customer: I didn't have landlord insurance at the time of the incident.
Alex Watts :

I see. But in that case the contents insurer may or may not pursue you

Alex Watts :

But in any event the first claim is against insurance

Customer: As I have an agency dealing with the house (I live abroad.) is her contract not with them rather than me. Can I ask her to deal with them rather than directly with me?
Alex Watts :

Yes you can but you are the Landlord dont forget after all. The agents can deal with everything for you

Customer: Thank you. I will reply to her email and await her response. Can I ask further advice on receipt of this?
Alex Watts :

Yes of course.

Alex Watts :

If this answers your question could I invite you leave feedback on my service which I hope has been excellent today, if you need more information or help then please click reply.


Please remember that I am always happy to help if you have future questions, even if I am in Court I can normally respond within a few hours. For future information, please start them with ‘For Alex W’.


 


Please bookmark my profile if you wish for future help: http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-alexwatts/

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I have received a response from the tenant which I will post. Could you please let me know what you think and if I should respond. Also, my agency has suggested that I serve her with Section 21 as she only has a 6 month rental agreement which finishes in June. Should I serve her with this sooner rather than later?



Reply from tenant:
Dear Sue and Terry,

Just an update to say that on 1st March Susie from Sparkle Clean spent nearly three hours at the house cleaning the carpets with little/no impact upon the staining despite her every best effort. I understand that she informed Sean at IMS of this on the same day.

I have attached photographs of the wallpaper, ceiling and carpets for you so that Sue is in a better position to assess the situation. The new ceiling and plastering is fantastic and flawless you’ll be pleased to hear (and see). It is clearly up to you how you wish to proceed in relation to any further house repairs from here but I’d be grateful if you would let me know when you have decided.

Now that I have received communication and clarity about both your and IMS's position I will as I advised be progressing a claim for damages and compensation through the small claims court in due course. The damage was sustained through lack of maintenance of the heating system and was so extensive because of the failure by IMS as your agents to respond to the emergency in any reasonable timescale. Despite all of the disruption, distress, inconvenience and damages I as a tenant have endured over a five week period through no fault of my own neither has offered any recompense whatsoever and there is nobody who would see this response as either morally or legally acceptable.
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.
Yes that is fine, you are correct to serve a section 21 notice.

Alex

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Should I reply to her latest email?
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.
No - I do not think you need to.

Alex

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.
No problem - all the best.

Alex

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
This is not urgent but the latest is the tenant is saying she has had another leak from a different radiator and therefore she believes that neglect has been the reason and so it is not accidental and that she will follow through her threat to sue me. What should I do in the meantime to prepare for this?

Also, as I live abroad how will she serve the summons or will it go through my rental agency?

I don't believe it is neglect as I had a service agreement with British Gas and they serviced the heating system every year even though the radiators themselves were not always checked. What do you think?
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.
There is nothing you can really do to prepare. She must serve on your address abroad.

Alex

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.
Happy to help.

Alex

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Alex,I have received a further email from my tenant again claimimg compensation. I wonder if you could read it and suggest the best course of action. Do you think I should just refund the rent or let her take me to court?Re: claim for compensation Further to my email of 5th March 2014 (and all previous communications with you directly and your agents IMS lettings), I am again writing to you in connection with my claim for compensation in respect of: • damage to my furniture and belongings and the cost of repair• the upheaval and distress which has continued since 28th January and is on-going• the loss of enjoyment of the property for which I have paid full rent throughout since taking up the tenancy on 17th December 2013• the loss of use of my son’s bedroom and dining room for 7 weeks as a result of the plumbing and heating system failures atXXXXXsince the first flooding which continued over none hours through the night and into the morning of 28th January 2014. There have been three further significant water leakages: from the boiler across the utility room sides requiring repair; from the bathroom plumbing through the kitchen ceiling and from the front bedroom radiator across the floor and into the living room ceiling. As your tenant I bear no responsibility for the flooding and disruption, I have kept you and IMS informed at all times of issues and progress, I have behaved respectfully XXXXX XXXXX to all of IMS’s staff and all contractors (eleven individuals to date) who have undertaken assessments and repairs to the property and I have suffered huge distress and disruption to my personal and professional life throughout. I have no choice but to take further legal advice since both you and IMS have made it clear that you do not intend compensating me in any way. It seems that I am not alone in being shocked by this response and have been advised as follows: • I am legally entitled to the cost of both compensation and repair of my property which has been damaged• Whilst both you and IMS have told me that I must claim for this damage through my own insurance I am advised that there is absolutely no legal obligation for me to do so as I the responsibility for these costs lies with you as my landlord• I have been more than reasonable and many tenants would have made much greater demands both at the time of the first floods and subsequently which would have increased costs to you and IMS• That what I proposed to you by way of an amicable way forward on 5th March was far less than I might reasonable have asked for• That if you do not agree to settle my claim for compensation through negotiation in one of the ways proposed below I can be confident that a claim through the small claims court process will award me a far greater amount of compensation that I am seeking by way of resolution including legal/court costs I have mentioned before, I genuinely wish to resolve this situation with no ill and, in an effort to save further costs, unnecessary expenses and yet more distress, I propose the following options without prejudice to resolve this situation and upon legal advice: 1. Refund of 2 month’s rent totalling £1,500 + £51 legal costs£1551) ​Total within 14 daysOR 2. Payment of the following costs:​ £1200 ​(the cost of furniture repair by NMC) £51 ​(Which Legal Services costs to date) £1313​(50% of the rent paid over the worst 7 weeks)£2564​Total within 30 days Unless I receive your satisfactory proposals for settlement of my outstanding claim within seven days of the date of this letter to you I will proceed to issue a claim against you in the county court without further reference and will abide by whatever the judge awards me confident that this will be in excess of either of my proposals above. If you are not happy to accept either way forward as proposed please provide me with your home address so that Court papers can be issued. I am entitled to this information under the Landlord and Tenant Act 19887 (Section 47) in respect of issuing legal proceedings. Please note that proposal 1 above only includes £300 compensation for the acute distress, disruption and on-going anxiety this situation is causing. Neither proposal addresses the issues of maintenance of the property and the need for the landlord to take action to ensure that the heating system is thoroughly checked to avoid further problems and other essential maintenance is undertaken. There is evident deterioration in the property is concerning e.g. the external drainage pipe from the kitchen sink has perished and is cracked and open; the kitchen tap drips constantly; the boiler is aging; the wooden window frames and fascias are crumbling and the front fence gradually falling apart. I will make every effort to care for the property as I would my own through painting and gardening but these general maintenance issues are concerning.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Relist: Other.REALLY NEED RESPONSE SOON AS COURT ACTION THREATENEDVery good response from Alex to previous queries but I need some advice to this quite soon. I posted the question on Saturday and have not yet received a reply.

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