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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Property Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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I have a claim against me from the tenant from hell. The let

Customer Question

I have a claim against me from the tenant from hell. The let was a short term flexible let for @ 2 months before and after Xmas 2011. It revolves around a boiler that had to be reset occasionally. I have a reference from the preceding tenants (family with young child and female heavily pregnant) and tenants after (young couple with baby) both confirm they were and are happy with the property and myself as a professional/courteous landlord. He also sent the claim to an address he knew I didn't reside at. Fortunately I got the acknowledgement to CCBC on time. Here is a copy of his claim:

"I AM CLAIMING A RENT REFUND FROM MY FORMER LANDLORD FOR LETTING ME A PROPERTY WITH A MALFUNCTIONING, AND THEN NON-FUNCTIONAL, BOILER. WITH HIS AGREEMENT, THE RENTAL WAS TERMINATED 13 DAYS EARLY. I SEEK: FULL REFUNDFOR 13 DAYS’ RENT (9.1.12 TO 22.1.12) = £425.26, PART REFUND (ONE THIRD RENT) FOR 26 DAYS OF BOILER MALFUNCTION (19.11.11 TO 11.12.11 INCLUSIVE AND 6.1.12 TO 8.1.12 INCLUSIVE) = £283.51, PART REFUND (TWO THIRDSRENT) FOR 19 DAYS WITH NO HEATING OR HOT WATER (12.12.11 TO 30.12.11 INCLUSIVE) = £414.36, COURT COSTS (PLUS ANY EXPENSES INCURRED TO ATTEND A HEARING AND FOR MY LEGALFEES), AND MY COSTS FOR PREPARATION OF THIS CLAIM, WHICH HAS TAKEN ME TWO FULL DAYS (NORMAL DAILY RATE IS £400) = £800. THE CLAIMANT CLAIMS INTEREST UNDER SECTION 69OF THE COUNTY COURTS ACT 1984 AT THE RATE OF 8% A YEAR FROM 09/01/2012 TO 06/06/2012 ON £1,923.13 AND ALSO INTEREST AT THE SAME RATE UP TO THE DATE OF JUDGMENT OR EARLIER PAYMENTAT A DAILY RATE OF £0.42."

1) The tenancy agreement AST fixed term) was in joint names but he is claiming through his sole name. If I was to force his partner to attend court I think he would drop claim. Should the claim be in joint names
2) Can someone claim £800 to prepare a county court claim
3) I see it as my word against his/theirs but is there any way I can get this struck out at an early stage. Can I issue any court papers against the claimants partner to compel her to attend.
4) I didn't agree to terminate the agreement 13 days earlier as the boiler was replaced over the Xmas period while they were away and left fully functioning.
5) If I can get this struck out as irregular or whatever what County Court references do I need to quote
5) The claim is no more than opportunistic.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: UK Property Law
Expert:  Fran-mod replied 2 years ago.
Hi, I’m a moderator for this topic and I wonder whether you’re still waiting for an answer. If you are, please let me know and I will do my best to find a professional to assist you right away. If not, feel free to let me know and I will cancel this question for you. Thank you!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi yes I'm wondering if I should have posted it under UK law as its really a county court claim against me. I think 'landlord-tenant' may be a bit restrictive/niche.
cheers

Martyn
Expert:  Fran-mod replied 2 years ago.
Hello Martyn,

This has been moved over to UK Property Law. Landlord/Tenant is a US category. Sometimes, finding the right Expert can take a little longer than expected and we thank you greatly for your understanding. We’ll be in touch again shortly.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer. I will try to help with this. Please RATE my answer OK SERVICE or above.

On your specific points

1 No, there's no reason he cannot claim as a single tenant.

2 He could make an application but it won't be allowed. This is a small claims court sum. He will only get fixed costs.

3 No. There's a proper argument. There's no case for summary judgment.

4 If the premises was uninhabitable due to lack of heating then there is a reasonable claim for a reduction in rent during the periods of time that it took to put it right I'm afraid.

5 There's no basis.

6 Most disrepair claims are.

I'm sorry this isn't the answer you wanted but it is the position that you face and I have a duty to inform you truthfully.

Hope this helps. Please remember to rate my answer either OK SERVICE or above and then I will give you related information for free.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi, thanks for response and apologies for delay. It may not be the answer/s I'm after but best to know exactly where I am with it. Perhaps it might be easier if I bullet point again:
1) I accept he can claim a a single tenant. However is there not a 'witness summons' I can issue to the claimants partner. Is this not reasonable that as someone jointly and severally liable (and who stands to benefit from the claim) I am within my rights to request her attendance. Unfortunately, I have to take the same approach as the ex tenant and make life uncomfortable i.e. force his partner to attend. Being perfectly blunt if I can make his partner attend he may well discontinue.
2. Am I preparing a 'witness statement' or a 'statement of truth' on a single sheet of A4? If so what court procedure am I quoting to dismiss his £800 costs i.e. fixed costs only.

3. I accept I won't be able to get this struck out at an early stage (summary judgement) but worth asking.

4) I accept the claim or any claim for disrepair is and may well often be opportunistic. However I have 2 references prior to and after the claimants tenancy telling a story. Would the judge, on the balance of probability, consider these references and might they weigh in my favour or am I wasting my time putting them forward. The references are't gushing simply 'we were/are happy with the property' and I am a 'courteous and professional landlord'.

5) I forgot to mention previously I agreed to refund them the balance of the tenancy from the 2nd > 20th January 2012 if I had not replaced the boiler by the 2nd January. i.e. over Xmas while they were away which was done. However they turned up with a van irrespective. The claimant had also let it slip to me that he could have commuted. I agreed to the refund on the condition but primarily because hey were the tenants from hell and I had visions of them squatting till Xmas 2012. When they left on the 3rd January he took he keys with him and returned them on the 19th.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
1 You could witness summons the partner but there's no point. To be honest, I think it would be very dangerous to do that as she's not going to support you.

2 You don't quote procedure at the small claims court. You just ask the court to consider costs. They won't award that anyway. You could just fail to mention it and the court would consider it.

3 No, its not. There's no basis. You would be at risk of a costs order as thats just a vexatious application.

4 That would make no difference and may well be excluded.

5 Not sure what you mean?

I will be happy to continue with this but please rate my answer OK SERVICE or above.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Jomo (BTW when do I click the smiley face?) I think we might have slightly crossed wires on 1.What I was getting at is when I met the pair of them and throughout the tenancy I noticed how he continually swooned around her. He called to look at the apartment and took photos then drove back to show her the photos for her approval, a sort of servile relationship.

It's nothing to do with any support from her as I know that will never happen but what my point is that he will do anything to protect her from the 'terrible trauma' of attending court. Her character is that she would probably get in front of a judge and ramble/go to pieces and/or just reiterate what's in the claim form. Do you see where I'm coming from now? It's coupled with the nuisance factor. I think I can issue a witness summons and just get away with giving her minimal costs such as train fare or so much per mile petrol. I really need to get her in to court or have the threat of attendance over her.

4.The references before and after the claimant/s tenancy term confirmed the property was habitable and comfortable contrary to what the claimants put forward.


5. This was something I forgot to mention. I agreed a refund prior to Xmas that if the heating wasn't working by when they returned (2nd) which it was. Therefore the offer of refund was withdrawn but irrespective they turned up with a van to move out on the 3rd, it was pre-empted, they had no intentions of staying on whether the boiler was fixed or not. However also The claimants retained the keys to the end of the tenancy (20th January) so it couldn't be marketed or re-let. If someone claims for a period of rent refund but disappears with the keys do they not in some way invalidate that period of claim.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Ok. I'm happy to go on with this but it would be really helpful if you could try not to give me so much information.

If you could summarise your additional questions into one short paragraph that would be great.

I
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok I'l condense and try not to go round the trees:
I must, at whatever cost, get the claimants partner in to court and/or at least have the threat of court over her. Do I use an N20 and do I serve it through the court it ends up with (currently with Northampton). They claim a refund for 2>20 January 2012 but left with the keys returning them on the 19th, how can this section of their claim be valid/warranted, is it not invalidated by their actions.

Don't worry about references, I'll submit them anyway as I've got them, it was to discredit their claim more than anything. Cheers
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
You do use an N 20 for a witness summons.

Yes, you do serve it through the court. You have to submit the form to court to seek a summons and then it has to be served upon the witness.

You really should consider this carefully. I prosecute all the time and tactically a summons is very rarely the friend of the Crown. There are other reasons we have a policy of doing it in some cases than actually getting convictions. A summons witness is a reluctant one. A reluctant one is unhelpful. An unhelpful witness assists the other side where possible.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 64982
Experience: Over 5 years in practice.
Jo C. and other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
shoot I clicked on the smiley and its finished. I wanted to ask you about the witness statement. I understand where you're coming from but aren't we at opposite ends of the spectrum. you probably have more high profile cases mine is merely a small claim for @ £1k, my sole motivation is nuisance value and possible discontinuance. I can't see that the judge will question my motives as she was party to the AST and she stands to benefit from the claim. Can you see where I'm coming from. I'm convinced if I issue a N20 he'll discontinue. I think that's about it, there was only one other thing I wanted to ask but it was a bit off topic, is the best place for reference for the legal trade at the law society directory. I was trying to find legal entities specialising in litigation against local authorities i.e. not moving to the LGO post stage 2 complaint but going direct to litigation. Any references gratefully appreciated. Thanks
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
FOR JOMO1972 sorry I still can't get my head around this witness summons and why I wouldn't do it. I don't mean to protract the Q and A session but I'm getting an identical response from you. I only wish to use it in order that it may well force the claimant to discontinue. The witness summons would be served on his partner (party to the tenancy) it's only nuisance value. I don't care if she comes in to court and sulks and says nothing, I don't have to worry about her being unhelpful, do I. Is one of us missing the point? Are you intimating that if I call an unhelpful witness the judge may well frown on the action or are there other ways to implement nuisance value when one party is reluctant to attend court.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
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