Here is a question to the blog clinic ‘fast track’ from Roger (not his real name) who is a tenant
On 17/04/16 – found a property in a nice area on a rent facilitating website and subsequently visited it accompanied by the landlord. We agreed *verbally* on small repairs to the property including regrouting the bath, fixing a bathroom cabinet, redecorating areas, cleaning the bathroom that had mould, and specific storage needs to which our offer would be subject. Later that evening he accepted.
On 18/04/16 – LL requested we send him money directly to secure the property. We emailed the website that replied saying this was not advised. We challenged the request and opted instead to follow the process as stipulated by the website that would give us more safety – whereby we paid £200 to confirm the offer we’d made.
On 22nd & 23rd/04 we signed assured shorthold tenancy agreement which the LL subsequently signed on 24th April. We transferred the first month’s rent and the deposit to the website.
On 29th May at 10pm the LL – that lives next door to the property – gave us keys and spares and showed us the property. The boiler was not working and agreed repairs had not been completed, the flat was dirty and he backtracked on several claims, i.e.external storage (even suggesting us to illegally use someone elses’ property for our needs). Also only now he mentions there is a large noisy repair ongoing in the flat below, but should they ever made noise outside of permitted hours we should simply contact him.
On 30th May at 10:00 am we sent a polite email w/ pictures of the faults requesting that LL would fix the boiler and complete the other repairs as promised. We prioritised worst that made the property particularly unbecoming or possibly hazardous such as many cracked floor tiles that were not there when we first visited.
On 30th May at 11:00 am he called us and screamed down the phone, so loud that our movers could hear him. He said things such as ‘I will fix the boiler but nothing else’ , ‘Do you know who you are talking to?’ and ‘There is no ‘correct way’ only MY WAY!’
On 30th May at 11:15 am I go meet him at the property in the hopes of finding a peaceful agreement. He continued to be abusive and spoke in a raised voice. He refused to make any of the repairs previously agreed.
When I noted the property wasn’t clean nor freshly painted as stated, e.g. pointing large green ink stain he shouted ‘SO WHAT? This is something the other tenants had stuck there!’ When we said he wouldn’t be comfortable inviting guests over he shouted ‘Then don’t have guests!’
He then asked for a revised, shorter and dearer contract with different terms, including for the deposit to be lodged directly w/ him, and having unrestricted access to property. That he no longer accepted that we moved with any furniture. When asked *when* we’d make new contract: “I don’t know, I’ll speak to my solicitor.”
Then LL firmly demanded “You guys are trouble. I don’t want you living here any more. Give me back the keys”.
On 30th May at 12pm, I returned the keys to the landlord which he accepted, but we have no witnesses.
We were forced to ask our former landlord to extend our rent by a month and pay movers even though we have to cancel the move.
On 30th May at 3pm we attempted to return the other sets of keys to him. He now refused to come and speak to us. Over phone says ‘I’ve spoken to my solicitor he’s told me not to accept the keys’. We left the remaining keys in the property and shut the door and notified him via SMS. We have filmed evidence of this. We no longer have access to it.
On 30th May at 6pm he pretends to be conciliatory and write us a polite email, stated he fixed boiler, would consider trying to fix a single tile and wanted us to move into the property. This was in direct contradiction to his earlier demand for, and acceptance of keys.
We replied disagreeing with his (clearly untrue) assessments of the state of the flat, listing his abusive behaviour & proposing to end the tenancy w/ no further exchange of money. We ask for his confirmation. He’s since refused, emails we either resume tenancy by 10/Jun (tomorrow) or he’ll re-enter & re-list his property and sue us for all. We do not want to move there.
What can we do? We don’t want a legal battle and we’re afraid we don’t have enough evidence should he take us to court.
The landlord cannot force you to pay without getting a court order first. If the landlord applies to Court for this (which I think is unlikely) you would have several lines of defence.
Note also that unpleasant people like this often try to intimidate others by threatening legal proceedings when they have no intention of doing anything – it is easy to say “I am going to take you to court”. It is quite another thing to actually issue proceedings.
Also – if you are in the right and are being sued by someone why has behaved in the way this person has – you have nothing to fear as the Judge will be on your side. Legal proceedings are only expensive (in this type of claim) if you lose.
1 The landlords cancellation.
Your first defence would be that the landlord himself requested that the tenancy be cancelled and that you withdrew at his request.
There may not be any witnesses to this conversation other than your own evidence but this does not mean that the Judge will not believe you (if the case ever came to trial, which is unlikely). For example, the very fact that you withdrew and returned the keys is itself corroboration of your side of the story.
2. A request to ‘unwind’ the tenancy
Your second defence, if the Judge found against you on the first and held that the tenancy was not cancelled by agreement with the landlord, would be a request to the court that the tenancy be ‘unwound’ under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 on the basis of the landlord’s conduct.
This would include his refusal to carry out repairs which had previously been agreed between you and his general conduct which most people would consider to be unreasonable.
You would also be entitled to ‘counterclaim’ for the return of any money paid by you to the landlord.
Your claim would be corroborated by the fact that you really need the property but that you handed the keys back and did not go ahead with the move. You must have had (a Judge would reason) a pretty strong reason for doing this, and the most likely reason is the appalling behaviour of the landlord.
Note also that if the landlord re-lets to someone else, then he would not be entitled to claim against you for rent anyway, as the new tenancy would automatically end yours.
What you should do now
If the landlord continues to bother you, I suggest you write a formal letter telling him that you are not prepared to either move back into the property or pay him any further money.
Say that if he brings a court claim against you, you will be defending on the basis that he himself requested that the tenancy end, and /or that you would request the Judge to ‘unwind’ the tenancy under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 on the basis of his refusal to carry out agreed repair work and his general behaviour.
Go on to say that were he to bring legal proceedings against you, you would also take the opportunity to counterclaim for the return of all money paid to him, for compensation for the expenses incurred by you (eg wasted removal costs) and for the distress and inconvenience you suffered as a result of this experience.
I suspect you will never hear from him again.
If you need further help, then I have a list of places where you can find legal support here.