Three Cautionary Tales for Landlords

This week we’ll look at three recent case studies which illuminate issues that landlords should be aware of.

1.)    A landlord in Derbyshire has been handed a suspended jail term after her failure to carry out gas safety checks led to the death of a tenant from carbon monoxide poisoning. Dr. Victoria Martindale was also handed a fine of £4000, ordered to pay costs of £17,500 and given 200 hours of community service. The judge said that ‘as an amateur landlord she had shut her eyes to her responsibility’. This case highlights how gas safety checks are there for a reason; they are not a box to tick but a real way to keep tenants safe. All landlords should be well aware of this legal obligation and the case should remind anyone who has not acquired their annual CP12 certificate to do so.

2.)    A landlord who failed to carry out repairs in a reasonable timescale after requests from the tenant and the serving of a formal improvement notice by the council has been fined a total of £2000. Mr Brij Bushan Chowdhry, from Northumberland, was first approached about the repairs in September 2010 but has repeatedly ignored his responsibilities since then. This case seems fairly clear-cut but Rentify also know that even if you try to make the repairs you need, tenants can make life difficult. They may deny access to builders because the times don’t suit them, or ignore requests to let you know when would be convenient. This can lead to the builders losing interest and de-prioritising the job. The case shows that the potential fall-out from not completing work can be serious so we strongly advise that you keep a record of all correspondence and requests you make of the tenant to show you are doing your best to get work done.

3.)    Finally, a case that shows the shortcoming of the law in supporting the landlord. A tenant in Earlsfield, South-West London, who was legally evicted after failing to pay the rent, left behind all of her belongings and a ‘trail of squalor’. You would think the landlord, Paul Sinclair, had been through enough trouble but the tenant threatened to sue him if he removed her belongings! The law says items of value must be kept for 14 days and personal documentation for 90 days. This, coupled with the threats, has led to further delays in getting the property back on the market. Essentially, the landlord is punished twice over for the tenant’s shortcomings. As Mr Sinclair himself noted: ‘I feel the rules…need to be clearly laid out as part of winning the possession order’. Absolutely, and they need to be much more favourable to the landlord. Until any such changes are made, however, eviction experts Landlord Action suggest a full inventory on eviction, a clear communication trail giving a legal date by which belongings need to be collected and the presence of an agent as a witness at the removal of belongings. All this will cost extra time and money when the landlord is wholly in the right. The law clearly needs changing.

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