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Difficult Tenant - Advice please!


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Advice landlords please!

 

I purchased a flat at auction in April this year which came with a tenant. The tenancy began in December 2013 and the compulsory 6 month period came to an end in May 2014. The flat is a small one bed flat in south London and on inspection of the property I realised I haven't necessarily inherited the worlds cleanest tenant and matters aren't helped by the fact it seems she resides in this small flat with her, her two young children and (I believe) her sister and boyfriend. Regardless of this the place is a mess and I'm looking to evict my tenant and refub and sell on the property this year. The tenant is not a DSS tenant.

 

So here's my story and situation I need help with:

  • Mindful that she has two young children I thought I'd be a considerate landlord and give her a heads up that I would be looking to evict her in the next 2-3 months so suggested she start looking for a place sooner rather than later so she can give me notice, rather than me provide her notice
  • She welcomed this news and responded "Sure, give me a court order to leave". She gave me background to her statement:
    • Apparently the previous landlord had tried to evict her
    • She went to the council seeking a two bed flat for her and her two children
    • Due to the housing shortage in London the council refused to re-house her as she was not officially homeless
    • The council said they required a court eviction notice to label her homeless and a standard eviction notice would not suffice

 

HELP!!! She's refusing to leave without a court eviction which she is proactively requesting. This is turning into a nightmare. What can I do?

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Hi Dhiren,

 

That doesn't sound quite right to me, though my experience is mainly in the Scottish market which differs slightly on eviction notices.

 

The following link makes it all seem rather easy, though I am unsure of costs https://www.gov.uk/gaining-possession-of-a-privately-rented-property-let-on-an-assured-shorthold-tenancy 

 

If you don't fancy getting your hands dirty, you could always get your agent or a specialist to do it for you, it may be easier and cheaper;

 

http://www.landlordadvice.co.uk/

 

Hope that helps! In a sense, you've beaten the system by being a nice guy and giving her plenty of notice, these things can drag out for a few months. Much better than serving notice and then only finding out at the end of the notice that she hasn't left.

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God awful website on that Landlord Advice page, but looks like a competent bunch of people. 

 

I've used Legal4Landlords previously for the Stage 3 eviction process which involves court orders and bailiffs (eek). 

 

Unfortunately the advice given by the tenant isn't unusual. If a tenant leaves a property due to an eviction notice, then they are put on the housing shortlist but they have to be under a court order to be bumped up to the emergency housing list. I'm not sure if that's an official policy anywhere, but it's not uncommon throughout the country due to the housing shortages generally.  

 

I think credit should be given to your tenant for being honest though. She could have just smiled and agreed and then refused when the time came to evict her. At least now you can go back to her and say 'I'll give you a court order, but the process will take a few weeks / months to sort out so I'm starting the process now rather than in 2-3 months time.' 

 

You can't blame the tenant for the council's policy and if you had 2 kids to look after, would you jeopardise the roof over their head to help your landlord out?  

 

 

While it sounds like a pain in the proverbial, it's relatively quick and simple to do.  It will cost you money, circa £700 all in, but this is the cost of doing business in the PRS it would appear.  Rough with the smooth and all that.  

You can do it yourself and it's not that difficult a process, but the slightest mistake on a form and the court can kick your claim out due to a technicality and you have to start from scratch again.  I took the view that it wasn't worth the risk and paid someone who does it for a living to do for me. 

Damien Fogg
MRICS CeMAP CeFA

Email: damien@theepinvestor.com

Web: www.theEPinvestor.com

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This sounds exactly like a story from an investor that I heard recently.

He's been battling for months to evict a tenant on similar grounds.

 

The really surprising fact is that the council gave the tenant advice not to move after receiving a section 21.

For the same reason above, the council would not regard them homeless until there was a court order.

 

Is there any way that you could negotiate with the tenant to do the refurb while she is there and perhaps get a cleaner in regularly to help with the cleaning.

I know this isn't an ideal solution, but sometimes difficult situations mean we need to be a little creative.

Check out my property journey here:  http://diytopropertyinvestor.co.uk/

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Hi Dhiren.

I had a similar situation a couple of years ago with a tenant I needed to evict, but she didn't want to go. However the process should be the same. Is your tenant on an AST or has it moved on to a rolling / periodic contract ? In other words, when her initial contract was up in May, or when you inherited her as a tenant, did you put a new contract in place ? If that is the case you can get her out on a Section 21, using the accelerated procedure ( still takes 4 months )and not have to prove grounds for eviction.

This is a relatively easy process to do. I had no previous experience of it, but just did my homework, triple checked my dates on the contracts, and court paperwork, and it cost me just the court fees, but then also the fees for the bailiffs. It really wasn't a nightmare at all, even though this was essentially an adversarial eviction, ie. the tenant didn't want to go, and took every opportunity to appeal, and won every appeal, until she didn't, because she, and the judge ran out of a legal platform to grant the appeal.

Until I can establish what kind of tenancy she is on, there is no point in me adding more to this, other than to say that if she's on a periodic contract, she would need to be evicted on a section 8, for which you need to prove grounds. I've never done that, and in all honesty, I know that I wouldn't even try. I would definitely engage a solicitor for a section 8. Nonetheless, it sounds like your tenant wants to be evicted, and rehoused by the council, so it is in her interests to work with you, on getting the paperwork correct, which is just a case of generating an AST retrospectively. So the eviction can be carried out using the accelerated procedure, and the council will bump her on to the emergency list.

Hope this helps. I will check in again later to see your response !

Fiona

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Dhiren

 

Fiona's post above is hopefully helpful to you?  You have sadly stumbled into an increasingly prevalent problem in the property market, particularly in London, where rented accommodation is at a premium and councils have massive problems re-housing tenants in the social sector + the private rented sector prices are well above housing benefit levels.  Councils are frequently now using housing legislation to buy them time and have a lot of experience to do it well! If the tenant leaves of their own volition, without having a new place to go to, they will be deemed "intentionally homeless" and effectively write themselves off council housing as there are so many emergency housing cases following court action - this is why your tenant is staying put and insisting on this process.  Sadly, even if they do extend to the end of legal proceedings they are not guaranteed a property and can be housed out of the area which can prolong your legal action further.

 

If you can retain a working relationship with your tenant it will probably save you both time and money.  The use of the term eviction is a bit pejorative and softer phrases like "ending tenancy agreement at its normal break-point" are softer and less confrontational.

 

If you are new to letting I would suggest engaging a specialist company to assist you and consider it a cost of purchase - which was hopefully providential at the auction?!  As Fiona alluded to above, getting the paperwork done correctly is essential as the council will be looking for every loophole to prolong proceedings and each time it is thrown out of court you can add 4+ weeks to go back to court only to have another one found.  The council will not identify them all at once they will do them one at a time to keep the process going and buying time - so a specialist  should be engaged to save you money (even if it does not feel like it at the time)

 

Was the tenancy agreement inherited with the property or was it one that you put in place following purchase?  This could be crucial for the serving of legal notices - it sounds like there is an AST in place if so was it one that you signed with the tenants or is it one that came with the auction pack?  The contents of this agreement could make proceedings easier or harder and again the specialist company will be able to advise you.

 

There is also the issue of the additional people at the property who are probably not on the agreement and its consequent overcrowding; if the tenancy agreement is with the tenant only, I would also suggest looking into trying to get them to leave voluntarily by pointing out the she is breaking the tenancy agreement and making her life harder for re-housing and also her chances of being sympathetically dealt with by the courts.  If you cannot negotiate their departure a solicitor's letter may assist as you could be faced with the tenant moving out on a court order and then having the other adults remaining and squatting etc - thereby re-starting legal procedings to get them out too.

 

Sorry to be the harbinger of doom :( - I have found negotiation and trying to work with awkward customers as the best and most cost effective route.  There will probably be other TPH members who can recommend a good company to use for tenancy eviction -if not I would contact the National Landlords Assoc (NLA) or the Residential Landlords Assoc (RLA) as they have excellent facilities and contacts.  Their membership fees are tax recoverable ( ;) ) and possibly a useful investment also.

 

Good luck - I hope it turns out less stressful and protracted as it may appear at present!

It could also be useful to all TPH members if you could update us on progress and the process you used for future reference

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This is the reason I avoid the DSS market on the whole - not because of the tenants at all, it is because when sensible, thought-out, support is required from the local council, so often there are these stories; and the approach by the councils will not assist them in the future when private landlords refuse to deal with DSS.

 

Then councils won't be able to rely on private landlords to ease the pressure on social housing... so the problems will increase.

 

As Damien mentioned, its the council who are at fault and causing this problem - not the tenant.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Apologies all, I've had some personal issues at home and hence I have been away from the hub.

 

I'd like to start off by saying the above demonstrates why I and so many others love this site so much. A friendly, open and supportive community of members Rob and Rob you really have done a great job of developing the site and more importantly creating and nurturing a great forum culture.

 

Thank you Damien, Dale, Kylie, Fiona, Time & Chris for your advice. I'm going to take a look through and respond in the coming days. Hopefully will see some or all of you tomorrow at the social!

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