Our Third Landlord and Tenant Nightmare
This landlord and tenant nightmare was a particularly troubling experience and one that did not have a happy ending. A homeless young mother with a baby girl was placed here by Brent Council 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 boiler. The thermostat in the boiler appeared to have blown hence the reason for there being no hot water.. It was not evident how to switch the boiler on or off 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. There was also a tape joint on the mains supply which was found to be bare wires twisted together which had burnt out completely as evidenced by scorching around the insulating tape and the most worrying aspect, a junction box which was not fixed to the wall with at least 3 cables with one of them looking like it was tape jointed to another cable with red insulating tape.
So based on these findings I contacted the leaseholder-landlord and whilst I didn’t go into all the specifics he said it was nothing to do with him and it was a bit inconvenient! So I also contacted the leaders of both Brent and Waltham Forest Councils as the risk of fire or electrocution from the tape joint clearly placed the property in the category of ‘dangerous’ rather than sub-standard. I also 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 as well as a copy of the gas safe certificate.
Unfortunately, due an unacceptable response time we sent in our own contractors via our managing agent. In addition to what we had already found, it transpired that 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. So the tape joint round the boiler was re-terminated properly in a connection box and the other storage heaters throughout the flat were powered up, at least providing warmth. .
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 the problems and settle the tenant, it transpired she had drink, drugs and anti-social behaviour problems which were not picked up by Brent Council and subsequentlyshe 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 (then) boyfriend and her younger sister, who took her daughter away to family for safety.
When she eventually turned up at our flat she was extremely distressed, crying and so weak through lack of food and alcohol consumption she all but collapsed whilst I was advising the police of her return. We comforted and advised her as best we could and she managed to convince the police when they turned up to see her that things had just got a bit ‘on top’ of her and the plan for the day was to pick up her daughter and return with her.
However, en route she met up with the alcoholic tenant who resided at another flat after which we had more visits from the police as she disappeared again and an arrest warrant was issued.
It did however get worse.
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.
One night there was a serious altercation between the boyfriend and another tenant on the block which led to myself calling the police. The boyfriend and the tenant and were arrested and she was due to appear in count the next morning. We didn’t know under what charge but a banning order was to be placed on the boyfriend.
This situation highlights the danger to others when vulnerable, unstable people that should be housed by the local authorities (with the necessary support) are not just placed into the PRS but are also shipped out to other boroughs. Myself are my partner are not social or care workers and the tenant had been given every opportunity to settle here (including us calming her down in her flat when she was shouting abuse at her sister, throwing things about and waking other tenants in the early hours of the morning shortly after she moved in.
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:
- Ground 12 (any obligation of the tenancy other than one related to the payment of rent has been broken or not performed;
- 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);
- 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 AND SUMMARY
The problems here clearly demonstrate that whilst granting someone an AST may be great for the council as they remove themselves from any liability, belief that the tenant can handle themselves alone in the PRS may well be misplaced. When they fail to keep the freeholder in the loop they run the very real risk of placing problematic tenants with rogue landlords. This didn’t happen here and so the tenant was placed with a landlord who took the benefits but refused to offer any assistance which he should have done. Neverthless we were satisfied that we had done the best we could and 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!
Whilst the agreements make it clear on the responsiblity of both the council and the tenants, we have had no end of problems with tenants being housed here that have issues with anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug use.
These tenants also get placed with landlords who are unfit to operating such and our first landlord and tenant nightmare can be read here.