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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71050
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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hello, I am a landlord and have a property recently vacated

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I am a landlord and have a property recently vacated by a tenant. 2 week prior to her moving out, I discovered dry rot in the bedroom, and lounge (same wall) which she had previously descriobed to me as "a bit of damp" a month earlier. On the day of discovering the dry rot, I called a damp specialist in. He explained that floorboards and plaster needed to be removed for inspection for a full report. The tenant asked whther this could wait until after she moved out in 2 weeks as she did not want the disruption. I agreed and arranged for the inspection at 9am on the day after her departure. I also found the bathroom floor had soft patches which had also not been reported. The propertry had been managed by a letting agent for the 3 years of her occupancy. At the check out interview, the tenant brought her sister who was hostile and aggressive towards me throughout the checkout, When i questioned how long the bathroom floor had been in disrepair, they would not answered but blamed me for the damage (shower had a leak in 2011 which was fixed upon reporting). They refused to provide a forwarding address or email. I asked that the bond be left in dispute until i had received a report from the damp specialist. they then refused to hand over the keys and threatened to "occupy" the house forcing me to evict them. They also claimed that citizens advice had told them they could sue me for the last 2 weeks rent as dry rot had been present (this had not been confirmed at the time). I was forced to relinquish the bond in view of their threat to withold the keys. I am now told that the entire bathroom suite needs to be removed to rectify the ubnreported floor water damage. My insurance has exclusion clauses for wood rot damage. the key issues are: refusal to provide a forwarding address, threatening behaviour to force me to hand over the bond and failure to report substantial damage leaving the property ininhabitable. Is there any recourse to me against the former tenant, her sister and the letting agency?

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

What exactly do you think the tenant has done wrong please?

How often was the property inspected by the agent?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Jo,
I think the tenant should have reported the bathroom floor problem earlier. She only mentioned it at pre check out inspection. The agent says she made frequent inspections but did not see anything untoward. There is no record provided to me of inspection dates and notes so I do not know whether inspections took place.
I do not think the tenant should have threatened to occupy the house and refuse to pay rent to force me to evict her in order to secure the deposit back before a full inspection was made by the surveyor.
The terms of the tenancy agreement state that the tenant was obliged to return the property to me in the same condition in which it was rented and in a rentable state. It is now uninhabitable. I delayed inspection and therefore repair of the property at her request. She then tried to claim this delay as negligence on my part for not dealing with the rot. Mostly it's holding me to ransome with threats to hold the keys to force me to pay back the bond which I feel is wrong as well as failure to report damage in a timely manner. I think the agent has also failed to manage the property properly and make proper inspections.
If they agent manages the property and it is part of the agent's brief to do regular inspections, I think this probably comes at the foot of the agent.

I cannot see that the tenants had any cause to sue you for two weeks rent as there was some dry rot present. I think that is a figment of their imagination although some citizens advice bureau is (in my experience) do tell people what they want to hear often with no legal basis.

Remember that just because you have let the deposit go back to them, does not mean that you can not sue them for any loss or damage.

They are not under a duty to provide you with any forwarding address that is not difficult to find because a tracing agent will be able to locate them at a cost of about £50 plus VAT.

The reality with regard to the threatening behaviour is that there is nothing you can do. You were at liberty to call their bluff and tell them to sue you for the two weeks rent.

If they stayed put in the property you could have applied to court for an order to evict them and claimed all the legal costs of doing so from them also. It is a bit academic now because they left.

Presumably, your tenancy agreement as a provision in it whereby they have to report any damage immediately. If it does not, the fact that they did not tell you about this, puts a stop to their liability puts it fairly and squarely on the agent (who probably have liability under their contract also).

The sister has no liability.

Whether there is a claim at all in respect of any of this either against the tenant or the agent really comes down to what caused the damage and whether it would have been visible for a long time and was completely ignored.

In my experience, tenants are extremely keen to report any damage whatsoever and to complain if they think that there may be a vestige of compensation likely to be coming the other way. For that reason, I think the tenant would say in court (if you decided to take them to court) that this damp had only appeared two weeks before and that there had never been a problem except in the last two weeks.

To counter that, you are going to need comprehensive experts evidence from damp and timber specialist that confirms this problem would have been extremely evident for a long time and as a result of the tenant's breach of the terms of their tenancy agreement to report any damage to you, you have suffered further loss.

I think you do have a potential claim against the tenant and the potential claim against the agent which it is not going to be an easy one to win and whether you win or lose will really come down to the obligations in the tenancy agreement and the agents agreement and also the opinion of the damp and timber specialist.

Can I clarify anything for you?

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