Landlord Tips

So Sue Me

David Rutland
Written by David Rutland

Tenants have rights and can take you to court to defend them. Don’t fall into these easy to avoid traps

Being a landlord isn’t easy. In addition to the humdrum business of finding and keeping tenants, there’s a whole raft of legislation designed to keep your tenants safe, and ensure that you’re not letting to people you shouldn’t.

Some are common sense, such as health and safety violations which put your tenants’ lives are at risk. Or deliberately overstuffing HMOs like you’re some sort of Dickensian slumlord villain.

But there are literally hundreds of regulations governing property letting, and we’d be surprised if you weren’t doing something wrong on at least a semi-regular basis.

Here are some of the mundane ways you’ll probably get yourself sued during 2018:  

Letting yourself in without permission

There are many reasons you might want to enter a tenant’s property when they’re not in. Maybe you want to check whether the decor needs updating. Perhaps you feel you need to check on the state of the pipes o they don’t freeze during the winter. It could even be that you suspect they’re running a narcotics ring from their basement and you want to find out for sure.

Don’t.

If you really truly have a burning desire to enter your tenanted property, you need their written permission. And your tenants do not have to give it. As we point out here, their home is their castle, and by effectively breaking in, you’re leaving yourself open to all kinds of legal trouble. Your tenants can claim damages, and even get an injunction against you.

The only exception here is if there’s a clear and present emergency, such as flooding or fire.

Refusing to fix problems

When tenants move into a property, they expect and deserve a minimum standard of maintenance. It doesn’t need to be a Mar A Lago finish, but it’s reasonable to expect  a structurally safe roof and flooring, an electricity supply which doesn’t endanger their lives, and plumbing which supplies clean, drinkable water and takes away waste.

In fact, it’s more than reasonable, and it’s your legal duty to provide these facilities in working order. And if they break, it’s your responsibility to fix. We’ve already mentioned that health and safety violations are a big no-no, but if there’s a hole in the roof, you have to fix it. Carpet wearing out? Replace it. If you don’t, your tenant could sue you, or worse – stick the council on you.

Cleaning out a property after a tenant has left

After a tenant leaves, either by mutual consent, or because you’ve turned them out on their ear, you may find that they’ve left things behind. It’s not unusual and can range from a pair of glasses left on the bathroom cabinet to an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia piles and piles of unwashed laundry.

It’s natural that you want the place cleaned up as quickly as possible, and you may be tempted to hire a skip for the junk and stick the rest on eBay. This is especially tempting if their rent is in arrears.

You probably already know that we’re going to advise against this.

Any items left in the property still belong to the tenant. Even if they’ve left the house a mess, and even if they’re in arrears.

If you throw something away, and the tenant says it has value, guess what? They can sue you. If you sell their stuff without notice, they can sue you and you’ll be putting yourself on the wrong side of the The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.

There’s a procedure and you need to follow it.

About the author

David Rutland

David Rutland

With a decades long career as a professional writer, David Rutland has worked as a journalist on local, national, and international newspapers, before embarking as a career as a freelancer.

He has ghostwritten several books, as well as producing travel guides, manuals, humour articles, and more internet blogs than you can shake a stick at.

David maintains offices in East London, but spends most of his time in a shed near Liverpool, where he writes, as well as developing apps for Android.

What people say about him:

Arrogant and abrasive - Alan Davis, Editor in Chief North Wales News Group

An absolute liability - Matt Simms, Editor, Vale advertiser

Are you sure this won't get us all arrested? - Mohana Prabhakar, Editor in Chief, Apex News Group

Go and have a shave. You're all prickly - Mrs Donna Rutland.

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