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LondonlawyerJ, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 818
Experience:  Solicitor with over 15 years experience.
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I'm a landlord and i have a disabled tenant with an Assured

Customer Question

I'm a landlord and i have a disabled tenant with an Assured Short-term Tenancy Agreement. Since moving into the property the tenant has developed mobility issues and has stated that she is likely to have to procure a mobility scooter. She has demanded that i provide her somewhere to securely store this.
There are a number of issues here - first, the property has no external storage, and no property attached - there is no garden, the door opens directly onto the pavement, and the scooter will not fit into the property. She states it cannot be dismantled. The door would need to be expanded to fit the scooter, but there's another issue: the door opens immediately onto a flight of stairs. Even if it could fit through the door, it would need to be taken upstairs, which is not feasible.
She is demanding that we allow her to store it outside - the unique configuration of the property is such that one building houses three distinct properties. The rear is my house, the middle is a maisonette, privately owned, and the front is the rental property. The tenant is demanding to store the scooter behind a gate, which provides shared access to my house and to the maisonette. The rental property has no claim over that path. It is primarily owned by the maisonette, but as it provides access to my front door I have a right of way through there. However, this means that it's not within my remit to allow storage on this land.
As such i've explained that there is nowhere physically to store the scooter. The tenant is shouting that this is discrimination and i must make changes to allow this. There is no physical space to store the scooter, so i'm unsure how to proceed.
The dispute has escalated, and she is claiming that we harass her and are demanding money from her which is unwarranted. However, we had an oral agreement on finance, which she has defaulted on. She has already defaulted on the repayment schedule stated in the contract, and the tenancy is only 4 weeks old. She has stated that she intends to not meet her financial obligations, because she "doesn't trust" me, and I only care about money and not her welfare.
I'm now in a position where she's threatening me with court action because i can't provide storage for the scooter, and harassing her for money. The truth is, she paid the first 4 weeks in advance, but has yet to provide two full security deposits (she rents two rooms). She also has stated that she won't be paying the agreed amount this week when the next installment is due.
Given that, i'm curious where we stand on legal grounds -
1) the perceived discrimination when we fail to make "reasonable adjustments" for this scooter, when there is no facility for storage.
2) the rent arrears - i understand that a mandatory possession order can be granted if there are more than 8 weeks of arrears, but given the trend that is already emerging, is there scope to escalate this?
3) the harassment - she has called the house in the middle of the night because she's "scared of being alone", she has threatened us with court action, and she's arrived on our doorstep after 1030pm with questions and queries, even though an established channel of communication was in place for concerns and queries. She's assuming a level of harassment on our part, because we are "demanding" money, but i'm sure we're within our right to do this if she is in arrears.
Are you able to offer any advice here please?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
Hello I am a solicitor with 20 years experience. I will try to answer this for you.
I am sorry to hear about the difficult situation you find yourself in.
Can you just tell me when did she move in, how long is the agreement for?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi - she moved in on 29 May, and the contract states a 6 month term for the tenancy.

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
1 Discrimination.
You don’t have to make changes which affect the structure or which would substantially and permanently alter the flat. For example, you don’t have to remove walls, widen doorways or install permanent ramps. But there are some things you must do to adapt your home if you’re disabled and if it’s reasonable to do so.
These might include:
remove, replace or provide any furniture, furnishings, materials or equipment - so long as it would not become a permanent fixture when installed
replace or provide signs or notices
replace taps or door handles
replace, provide or adapt your door bell or door entry system
change the colour of any surface - for example, a wall or a door.
The relevant law is in Equality Act 2010 s 20.
I don't think you need to make any alterations for this lady. It is clear from your questions that it is simply not possible. In any event even if it is why doesn't she buy a lock or some other security device herself? It is not discrimination to not provide a secure place for her scooter.
Have you or she asked the occupier of the maisonette if he minds the scooter being stored where she suggests? Would it be practical to do so anyway.
Her threat to bring an action for discrimination is just that, an empty threat.
2 Rent arrears
Yes, you can seek a possession order based on 8 weeks rent arrears and if you prove the arrears you will be entitled to possession and payment of the rent. But if you go down this route she may be able to defend the case or to counterclaim (eg alleging harassment or disrepair or disability discrimination) Even if totally without merit this could slow down proceedings a great deal and lead to siginificant costs.
If you want her out yo may be better off serving the usual notice requiring her to leave the property at the date the tenancy ends and if there are arrears at that time then pursuing her for the money separately in the small claims court.
3 Harassment
At present I don't think there is anything you can do. It may be wise to keep a nuisance diary and if it continues put in writing your request for her to stop. But in reality non threatening unpleasant behaviour is probably outside the scope of the law.
I Hope I have answered your questions but please let me know if you need more infromation
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you so much for that.

So, her threats to go to take this to court probably won't yield the results she wants, based on our situation. My stance on this has been that there are no reasonable adjustments we can make to accommodate her scooter. The only thing i can think of is some sort of anchor point at the front of the house for her to fit a lock to, but she's adamant she can't do that as it would obstruct a public highway (it would literally be on the pavement (I can give you the address and you can see the situation on Google streetview if that's of any use!). She thinks this would invalidate the insurance, and is not an acceptable compromise. That being the case, it doesn't seem practical to do anything else. From your experience, there's nothing the court could order me to do here is there?

Going forward, if she continues to be late with payments, i know that i'll get into trouble with my mortgage, so i can't really afford for her to be consistently late. That being the case, what can i do to enforce the rent payments, or trigger an eviction? From what i've read, after the initial 6 months i'm free to trigger and eviction with no reasoning behind it, but within the 6 month period it needs 8 weeks of arrears. Is there any other way to chase this though? What if there are less than 8 weeks of arrears, but a consistent trend of missing payments or underpaying, which is already evident. In her last mail to me she stated that she intends to underpay on her rent by as much as £50 per week because she feels she can't afford more than that until she applies for her benefit payments. No idea how long this will take, and how far in arrears she'll end up, but this will impact my ability to pay my mortgage. Can i do anything about that?

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
Yes, there is no winning legal action she can bring against you.
As far as arrears are concerned you can seek possession based on persistent arrears of less than 8 weeks but this is a discretionary ground for possession ie you need to prove the arrears but also you need to convince the court that it is reasonable for a possession order to be made. That might not be easy.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Ok, that's reassuring.

What sort of argument would you need to present that persistent rent arrears were causing a problem? Seems a little unfair that you agree a rate and the tenant is allowed to effectively pay whatever they want for the first few weeks.

On the subject of the 8 week period, is it 8 full weeks worth of complete non payment? Or if she's short for 8 consecutive weeks (i.e. she continues to pay 2/3 of the agreed rent for 8 weeks)? I suspect the latter will be the scenario i'm in, so it would be useful to know whether the court consider deliberate part-payment the same as non-payment.

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
It is 8 full weeks rent arrears. Part payment is not the same as non-payment.
The reasonableness agreement would focus on the extent of the failures and also on her situation more than yours eg is there some reason she is not to blame that led to her lateness in paying, has she made it up, will she be caused serious hardship if a possession order were made.
It is a very chancy way to try and get possession and can take as long as waiting for the end of the tenancy as suggested earlier.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Last question, i promise! Is there anything that protects the landlord in this instance? I mean, what's to stop a tenant signing a contract stating that they'll pay a certain amount, and the tenant knowing full well they have no intention of paying it. They just decide to pay half of the agreed amount, so as to avoid falling so far behind that they are the equivalent of 8 full weeks in arrears?

In this case, she would likely contest that her housing benefit or disability benefit hasn't been granted yet, and so whilst she's eligible for funding to cover the full amount, she doesn't have it available at present. From what i understand the courts would likely grant in her favour in this instance, but the landlord is the one who suffers, having to cover the additional expense themselves.

Is there nothing that would help protect the landlord from essentially fraudulent tenants?

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
1 The remedy would come later when you pursue her for money in the small claims court.
2 You are correct.
3. Not really in the short run but in most contracts, if someone acts in bad faith they can gain a short term advantage at the other party's expense