Should I Pay, Or Should I Go -To Court?

16 Jan

Yet again, I find myself in another fine mess on account of my tenants…I’m going to call them “tenant tangles” – far less expletive than the words I would normally use, and considerably less libellous.

So what’s the story?

As ever it starts with a letter.  A letter which pops through my letter box, unannounced and which I have no fair warning I am about to receive. It was an invoice for works to the tune of £190.40 for boarding up a door.

I checked the address – yes, indeed I own that property.  But, No, I did not authorise those works.  Especially not when I read the letter further and discovered the works were carried out in April 2012 – some nine months ago!

Satisfied the letter had nothing to do with me I filed it. And ignored it.

One week later: another letter arrives, this time with DEFAULT SUMMONS; and adds a court fee of £110, bringing the total due to £300.40. 

The letter states: “If you do not wish for Court Action to be taken against you and your property then payment must be made”.

Now there are many things I wish for – a Lamborghini Aventador being the top of my wish list – but Court Action, “Nah”, can’t say I have ever wished for that.

Lamborghini Aventador

So I called the company, I felt it best to share my wish list with them – perhaps they would enjoy listening to the merits of a Lamborghini over the boarding up of a door?

They didn’t.  They wanted my money and they wanted it NOW.

I felt such a demand was pretty unjust – don’t they know how long it is going to take me to save for a Lamborghini Aventador?  I have a piggy bank the size of Waterloo Station next to my house which I need to try and fill before I die if I am ever going to buy one!

I told them:

a) I did not know anything about these works

b) I did not instruct these works

c) I did not authorise these works so…

d) I am not paying for these works.

To which they told me:

a) the police instructed these works

b) we did the work

c) you own the house so…

d) you should pay for the works

I told them no matter how many sub-points they use, the fact remains I did not do the damage, nor have anything to do with the reason why the damage was caused in the first place, nor ask them to do anything about the unknown damage so NO I am NOT paying the bill!

I told them to contact the tenant (who still lives at the property) – after all he was the one who was to blame for the whole mess anyway – the police were NOT trying to break into MY house to arrest ME!  They were trying to break into HIS house to arrest HIM.  I am his landlord, NOT his mother, NOR his guardian, NOR his bill payer.  I will NOT be held liable for my tenant’s actions when all I do is rent him a house!

The exchange got pretty heated. So I slammed the phone down. “How dare they try and rob my Lamborghini fund!”

Fuming.  I was steaming.  All I do is rent a property to a person and suddenly when they don’t let the police in to enact a warrant for their arrest it’s somehow something to do with me?


It is NOT something to do with me.

I am just the landlord. I am just the owner of the property.  I am NOT the person who is liable for the tenant’s actions.

And so the letters continued.

And they became ever more threatening.

And then I got *really angry*

I am just a landlord not my tenants billpayer

So I called the police and told them to pay the bill.  They did the damage so what the hell has it got to do with me.  They told me it was not their bill to pay.  I told them it was not my bill to pay.  They told me it was my tenant’s bill to pay.  We agreed.

So I called the company again.

I told them to stop harassing me and start harassing the tenant whose fault it was anyway and whose bill it was to pay.  And I told them the police had also said it was the tenant’s bill to pay and that the tenant had agreed at the time of arrest to pay the bill.

I think I must have really *shouted* because all I heard at the other end of the line was a quivering voice which said “We have tried writing to the tenant, but he has never responded to us” 

*BINGO* Life lesson learned: if you ignore something for long enough, it goes away…it becomes somebody else’s problem.  I DON’T THINK SO!

So I called the NLA helpline, a solicitor and posted my question on my Landlord Network Forum where I got lots of great advice.

The outcome?

There’s two options:

  1. Pay the bill and deduct it from the tenant deposit (fine, but it’s unlikely there will be anything left of his deposit due to other “tenant tangles”
  2. Don’t pay the bill and fight them in court

Right now, I’m heading for option 2.  The deadline for payment is today otherwise they’re taking me to court.  I have mused on this a lot.  Probably far more than what the sum is actually worth.

But this feels like a principle.

This is not just about the money.

This is about fighting for landlord rights.

This is about landlords NOT being treated as scapegoats for their “tenant tangles”.

******************  UPDATE 18:14 16 Jan 2013 ******************

Thanks so much for all your comments, tweets and FB messages – which were all overwhelmingly in favour of *FIGHT* – you are such a blood-thirsty lot!!!

I was especially inspired by Tom’s comments (or as he said “pep talk”) which said:

“principles…shape who we are as people”…”You may of course WIN! And set a new precedent for future landlords who fall foul of this outrageous behaviour…”

Well that did it for me! Such fighting talk – I went off and polished up my sword!

So let battle commence – I will wait for my summons with glee and let you know what happens!

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