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Joanne M
Joanne M, Solicitor
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 264
Experience:  LLB (Hons), LPC
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In March 2012, I let a house in Birmingham through a lettings

Customer Question

In March 2012, I let a house in Birmingham through a lettings agent (Rex Long & Co.) They found a tenant (Paul Fanthom), checked his references and he moved in. The gas certificate was due for checking in July 2012 but it proved impossible to arrange a visit. The rent was in arrears in September but was paid up in December. Soon after, he went into arrears again and has not been paid since. In February 2013, the gas people turned up, obtained keys from Rex Long, went in and discovered a cannabis farm in the 3 bedrooms with a consequent huge amount of damage, including bypassing the electricity meter. Police were called, who removed the cannabis, disabled the electric heaters and later arrested Mr Fanthom. He was subsequently released with a police caution! - which I find highly unsatisfactory and is being investigated within West Midlands Police..
My landlord insurance would not cover it as it was deemed 'malicious damage'.
The letting agent, although sympathetic, says they are not liable - even though they clearly did not manage the let adequately.
The chances of Mr Fanthom even paying his rent arrears seem slim as he has inevitably 'disappeared'.
His forfeited deposit (£600) doesn't even cover the arrears let alone the damage.
It has taken 6 months hard work to restore the property and it is now for sale.
Can you recommend a course of action please?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Property Law
Expert:  Joanne M replied 1 year ago.
Hello.

What was the total cost of rectifying the damage?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I don't have a precise figure for rectification yet but the basis will be as follows:


 


Travel: 19 trips to Birmingham from Watford plus local runs


(4500 miles @ 0.45p) = £2,025


Labour: 67 man-days @ £200 = £13,400


Materials (estimate) £500


plus subsistence???


Total £15,925


 


Also


Rent arrears (around 3 months = £1800)


Loss of rent due to uninhabitable status (say 6 months - £3600)

Expert:  Joanne M replied 1 year ago.
There is another question on here which is obviously not you but with very similar circumstances (although no drugs). It is around the breach of contract of the agent to take up satisfactory references . Indeed, in the other case, we strongly suspect that the agent fabricated the references or at least manipulating the figures to get themselves a tenant.
What does the retainer/contract that you have with the agent say about their duty to carry out referencing checks?
what does it say about their duty during the period of the tenancy?
how many times did you try to visit the tenancy during the period?
Please bear with me over the weekend if I don’t come back to you immediately because I am online and off-line
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thanks Joanne.


There's no particular rush on this, although as things stand, we have agreed a sale (through a different agent!). I guess this is not relevant though?


I have a recent letter from the letting agent which states:


"The good references we obtained for Mr Fanthom certainly did not give a clue he would enter into illegal activities - he was clever enough to avoid/cancel our periodic inspection appointments."


I have a copy of the tenancy agreement, and although it specifies inspection visits at 24 hours' written notice, it does not appear to mention the number of frequency. At this time I don't have a statement from them detailing when such appointment(s) did take place.


 


Separately, I have triggered an internal enquiry at West Midlands Police. Status at 29 August (response still awaited):


The constituency inspector has been appraised and will be making enquiries with the detective chief inspector regarding the nature of your enquiry in terms of the police decision to caution. For information this decision was made by the custody sergeant at the time who will have provided some rational for the decision.

Expert:  Joanne M replied 1 year ago.
Obviously, you can sue the scumbag but the chances of getting any money are remote.
It comes down therefore to whether the agents are in breach of contract for failing to carry out proper reference checks.
I would ask for copy of the requests for references and ask for copies of the replies. If they will not let you have them, the chances are that they are hiding something.
In that case, you will need to make an application to court for pre-action disclosure of the documentation.
At that stage, it would probably be better for a solicitor to write threatening the application and an application for costs to see whether they roll over and let you have them. If they don’t roll over and let you have them, you are faced with applying to court.
Once you have them, you can then see what they asked on what the replies were and if the questions were not sufficient or the replies were unsatisfactory or even non-existent, then you have a claim against the agent for breach of contract.
Can I assistfurther or answer any specific points?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

thanks very much. I have a couple of specific points but I'll do that tomorrow.

Expert:  Joanne M replied 1 year ago.
no problem. I am glad to assist.
I would be obliged if you could rate my answer positively so that I get some credit for my time.
The thread does stay open and we can continue this exchange some time tomorrowor afterwards.
Regards
Joanne M, Solicitor
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 264
Experience: LLB (Hons), LPC
Joanne M and 3 other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I will rate you as 'excellent' ...

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Joanne,


A few specific points:


1) As you suggest I will ask the letting agent for copies of the tenant's references and replies. I will also ask for dates of their inspections and requests for them.


 


2) They have just sent the tenant's £600 deposit to me but I will also ask for a complete account because this doesn't cover the arrears and certainly not the damage or missing items.


 


2) I don't think it's worth spending much money or time on this, but my Landlord's Insurance does have a legal assistance clause so I could possibly use this to press matters further (what do you suggest?).


e.g.


a) sue the lettings agent for failing to manage the property adequately.


 


b) get a CCJ on the tenant (even if he doesn't have money now). Reasons: rent arrears, non-payment of council tax and other bills, tampering with electrical installation and theft of electricity, damage to property structure and decor, damage to fire detection system, illegal activity, etc. - all this and more is in the signed tenancy agreement.


 


c) Is there any point in trying to get a joint action with Birmingham City Council, British Gas etc.?


- they will be pursuing the tenant for unpaid Council Tax, unpaid bills respectively.


 


d) Press the insurance company (Endsleigh) for an ex-gratia payment as they (I believe) unreasonably exclude 'malicious damage' (i.e. damage by the tenant) from my landlord's policy in force at the time. Their current policies have been upgraded to include 'malicious damage' but I was not specifically informed of this.


To maintain continuity, I have renewed the policy - now upgraded as above without any specific action on my part.


Thanks in advance.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Joanne,


(apologies if you get this twice - I seem to have replied to myself earlier!)


 


A few specific points:


 


1) As you suggest I will ask the letting agent for copies of the tenant's references and replies. I will also ask for dates of their inspections and requests for them.


 


 


 


2) They have just sent the tenant's £600 deposit to me but I will also ask for a complete account because this doesn't cover the arrears and certainly not the damage or missing items.


 


 


 


2) I don't think it's worth spending much money or time on this, but my Landlord's Insurance does have a legal assistance clause so I could possibly use this to press matters further (what do you suggest?).


 


e.g.


 


a) sue the lettings agent for failing to manage the property adequately.


 


 


 


b) get a CCJ on the tenant (even if he doesn't have money now). Reasons: rent arrears, non-payment of council tax and other bills, tampering with electrical installation and theft of electricity, damage to property structure and decor, damage to fire detection system, illegal activity, etc. - all this and more is in the signed tenancy agreement.


 


 


 


c) Is there any point in trying to get a joint action with Birmingham City Council, British Gas etc.?


 


- they will be pursuing the tenant for unpaid Council Tax, unpaid bills respectively.


 


 


 


d) Press the insurance company (Endsleigh) for an ex-gratia payment as they (I believe) unreasonably exclude 'malicious damage' (i.e. damage by the tenant) from my landlord's policy in force at the time. Their current policies have been upgraded to include 'malicious damage' but I was not specifically informed of this.


 


To maintain continuity, I have renewed the policy - now upgraded as above without any specific action on my part.


 


Thanks in advance.

Expert:  Joanne M replied 1 year ago.
by all means check if your insurers covers any loss.
You can of course sue the letting agent for failing to manage failing to take up proper references as I said earlier.
Getting a county court judgement against the tenant is really a fruitless exercise if he has no money to pay you or is not working. The damage is criminal damage and the “theft” of electricity is abstracting electricity which is also a criminal matter. They are matters for the police.
Neither British Gas Northern local authority will enter into a joint action. They will however pursue the tenant on their own
by all means take it up with Endsleigh but it appears that you did except the exclusion instead of deciding to go to another insurance company so I don’t think that unless they roll over and send you some money, that one is worth pursuing.
Joanne M, Solicitor
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 264
Experience: LLB (Hons), LPC
Joanne M and 3 other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Joanne,


Yes you did answer my question (and supplementaries). I rated you 'excellent' on both and gave you a bonus. As I don't have any further questions in the foreseeable future, I have decided not to continue the subscription but will ask questions on a pay-as-you-go basis.


Best regards,


Graham

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