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This was a particularly sad experience for us and one that did not have a happy ending. Brent Council housed a homeless young mother with a baby girl in one of the flats on an AST which basically meant they had decided she was able to handle a tenancy in a private sector flat. The first real dealings we had with her was when she came to us saying she had no hot water. So we took a look at her emersion heater. It had a tape joint on the mains supply associated with it and it was not evident how to switch it on or off, or if there was any timer facility for it. The only working heater was in the kitchen so a small electrical appliance was in use to heat the other rooms.

On closer inspection by our block contractors it transpired the main breaker panels in the living room totaled 3 in number which was far in excess of the need of any one-bed flat. One breaker seemed to be off but there was no telling what it supplied. With some of the cabling looking highly suspect in the kitchen there was no way the tenant should even attempt to turn it on.

Based on these findings I contacted Brent Council myself and requested a full wiring report and repair to be carried out by a Competent Person under Part P of the Building Regulations as a matter of extreme urgency. I also requested a copy of the gas safe certificate.

Unfortunately, due an unacceptable response time we notified various parties (including the leaders of both Brent and Waltham Forest councils), and again sent in our own contractors via our managing agent. Further investigation found that the taped electrical joint around the boiler was bare wires twisted together, which had burnt out completely. This was re-terminated properly in a connection box. Also the other storage heaters throughout the flat were powered up, at least providing warmth. The thermostat in the boiler had also blown hence the reason for there being no hot water.

The risk of fire or electrocution from the tape joint clearly placed the property in the category of ‘dangerous’ rather than sub-standard. It was our opinion that this flat should never have been placed on the books of any local authority without due diligence being carried out as to whether it was fit for purpose.

There was also the issue of severe mold found in the bedroom and more throughout the flat. From personal experience of mold issues in our own flat, this should have been easily avoidable with proper preparation of the walls prior to painting (which has been done successfully in other flats) and ensuring that the ventilation already built into the property was not blocked or reduced in any way. Which it was because a) the vents had been made smaller and b) the fireplace was blocked! The state of the flat was so bad that the bathroom floor even had a partial collapse into the flat below!

Tenant Starts Causing Problems

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, despite our best efforts to deal with these problems and settle the tenant, it transpired she had drink, drugs and anti-social behaviour problems which were not picked up by Brent Council who housed her here and she went steadily downhill. She disappeared for over 48 hours at one point on a drinking binge which led to her ending up being reported as a missing person by her boyfriend and her younger sister, who took her daughter away to family.

So what did she do on her return? She hooked up with the alcoholic tenant and her new ‘boyfriend’ turned out to be not only an old boyfriend but was the violent drug dealer who had previously assaulted the alcoholic tenant in his own flat with a claw hammer and put him in hospital! She was seen shortly after his reappearance sporting a black eye so no prizes for guessing who gave her that!

We also had to call the police because she told another tenant she was going to come and ‘knife’ me, a threat they took seriously.

Eviction Process Started

Whilst all this was going on I was pushing the agent for Brent Council for the tenant to be evicted. I had hoped that the landlord would have been sympathetic to the situation but when I called him he said it was nothing to do with him! Which it was because the council had relinquished their responsibility for the tenant by her being granted an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. I continued to copy in the landlord on every e-mail I sent to concerned parties and in the end he ensured that his e-mail address was no longer in use and all my e-mails got sent back to me!

I had to continually chase for updates and what grounds the tenant was being evicted under and she was eventually served with a ‘Notice seeking Possession’ under s8 of the Housing Act 1988 (a mandatory ground under rent arrears) along with the following grounds under Schedule 2:

  1. Ground 12 (any obligation of the tenancy other than one related to the payment of rent has been broken or not performed;
  2. Ground 13 (the condition of the dwelling-house or any of the common parts has deteriorated owing to acts of waste by, or the neglect or default of, the tenant or any other person residing in the dwelling-house etc (she did cause some damage to the flat herself);
  3. Ground 14a (the tenant or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house, has been guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in the locality), because the flat was being used as a drugs den.

UPDATE

After all the grief that was caused, there was no eviction fanfare or bailiff action. The tenant simply disappeared but the police did attend the block on a number of further occasions as this was the last address they had for her and she had warrants out for her arrest. I think she ended up in prostitution. Her daughter lives with her grandparents.

The flat is now owned by a lovely landlady who has not only fixed all the issues within the flat, but has been happy to continue to sublet to the next tenant and her daughter who have been there for two or three years. No problems anywhere!


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