A word of warning from our Litigation Solicitor, Kate Austen.
Many landlords may have lovely tenants, who pay rent on time, care for the property and leave it in a good condition. However, there are some landlords who will also have come across the bad tenant.
In the last 12 months Kate has acted for a landlord during an extenuated possession procedure simply because the landlord had not carried out the appropriate checks on the tenant
before they signed the tenancy agreement.
The tenant, let’s call him Mr X, sees the landlord’s (Mr L’s) advert for a one bedroomed flat. Mr X is charming, extremely impressive to Mr L, he says he is employed, provides a glowing reference from a previous landlord and says he can pay rent and deposit as soon as the agreement is signed. Rent is agreed, a tenancy agreement is signed and a moving in date confirmed. However, before that moving in date Mr X requires access to the property. Mr L obliges but does not get any rent, or any deposit. 6 weeks later and still no rent or deposit had been paid.
Mr L contacts Kate and a pre-action protocol letter is sent to Mr X. Mr X instructs solicitors and complains that the property is uninhabitable, that there are bare wires giving him electric shocks, mice throughout the property keeping him up at night, blocked drains, faulty boiler and broken shower, forcing him to pay to sleep and shower elsewhere.
Mr L takes the matter seriously and carries out an inspection of the property, but as expected there are no issues and instructs a Section 8 notice to be sent (there being more than 2 months arrears by this stage). Subsequently possession proceedings are issued. Mr X however contacts the environmental health department at the Council who provides a report saying that some holes need to be sealed (holes which were less than 5mm wide).
In any event, 5 months into the tenancy Mr X confirms that the property is now “up to his standard”, however still does not pay any rent.
The first Court hearing results in a long list of directions taking the matter to trial. Mr L duly provides a witness statement, Mr X provides his late. Mr X asks the Court for further extensions in relation to each and every direction resulting in the trial being more and more delayed.
12 months almost to the day the tenancy started the trial begins. No rent has been paid in this period, there are a couple of Unless Orders and an unpaid costs order against Mr X. Within the first hour of the trial the defence is struck out and Mr X is ordered to vacate immediately.
But does he?
Of course not. Over the next 3 months Mr X files appeal after appeal, applies for stays of execution until the High Court Master assigns the case to himself and refuses any further of Mr X’s applications. We finally get Mr X out of the property using High Court Enforcement officers.
Mr L learnt a very big lesson – make sure you carry out proper checks on a tenant before agreeing a tenancy. Had Mr L done so he would have found out that Mr X has previous convictions for fraud, would be on housing benefit, was unemployed and could never have paid the rent.
This is an extreme case, and fortunately extremely rare, and the only one Kate has come across in 9 years of acting on behalf of landlords and tenants. She is able to assist landlords with all matters relating to renting a property, including the current obligations and standards for a property.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice as each circumstance will differ.