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

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?

No.

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!

37 comments
  1. Adrian Thompson

    Hello

    We are currently assisting one of our members with an identical case which will most likely go to court but that’s not been decided yet. The other side have responded with what they claim to be case law supporting their position but they have only provided the names with no case reference whatsoever. These cases only seem to show an entitlement to be paid and nothing more from the extract they have provided but I’m still investigating. (Nobody denies their entitlement to be paid for the work, it’s by whom that is the question!)

    See this article and the PACE guidance although there isn’t much help until it’s tested I’m afraid.

    Remember, “principle’s” can be expensive!

    Adrian

    1. Sam

      Thanks for sharing Adrian and the articles are interesting…although as you say, untested as yet (and would appear so from your current case cited).

      I have no issue with the police doing their job – I fully support them.

      I have no issue with the company wanting to be paid for their work.

      I have an issue with the fact they have decided I am “easy prey” and liable for my tenant’s bills.

      I agree re: comment on “principles”. I am mulling this over…

      1. Tom

        Hi Sam,
        I’ve been a silent follower of your blog for the past few months, until now. However this post has got my back up and I wanted to show you some support, or maybe its more of a pep talk! Although principles can be expensive it is those principles that shape who we are as people. I feel this isn’t about the money at all, its the way that you’ve been shafted into being the one who has to cough up. You could easily make this all go away by paying, but when you look back at this situation later on in life you may feel that you backed down too easily to ‘the man’. And its that ‘easy life’ way of thinking that keeps the door open for ‘commercial highwaymen’ to continue to act and pursue the innocent like this.
        If you can afford to lose a court case, personally I would head into battle with my teeth gritted.
        You may of course WIN! And set a new precedent for future landlords who fall foul of this outrageous behaviour…
        Good luck with whichever route you choose!
        Tom

        1. Sam

          WOW Tom – thank you being vocal now – I appreciate you overcoming your silence for such an overwhelming and inspirational post of support.

          Thank you so, so much! What a *boost* 🙂

    2. john

      Hi everyone, I have read all the comments on this subject and the one thing that seems to stand out is that no one has come on and commented that they have actually been to court and given the outcome, strange isn`t it

  2. Lucille

    Sam, I agree with you in principle but surely your property is the most important thing here… not rights of tenant/landlord? If I had a damaged property I would want it repaired…regardless of who’s liable for it. Your baby is your property…so take care of it…..it’s worth far more than any tenant!

  3. Jon Butler

    I think you should stick to your guns, Sam. I think it is unlikely that you can be held responsible for this bill. The contractors had no contract with you, I assume that your tenancy agreement is on the basis of the tenant being responsible for insuring and repairing. Fixing a broken door is surely the tenant’s responsibility. The responsibility has transferred legally from you to the tenant.

    Having said that, I am not a solicitor and Adrian’s point about “principles being expensive” is a good one. But I wish you luck. If it were me, I would go to court, I think.

    1. Sam

      Actually Jon I have a horrible feeling that the door repair would come down to the landlord as a repairing obligation…HOWEVER I would have repaired the door and boarded it up with one of my contractors who would have cost me considerably less and at that point (when informed of the situation) I would have also made sure the tenant paid the bill direct to the contractor as it was his fault the damage had been caused!

  4. Mary Latham

    Sam there was a time when, if you made enough fuss, the Police would pay for this type of damage but not any more. As long as they did what was reasonable in order to execute their Warrant and they were in fact at the correct address they will not pay. I think that you will find that it is the owner of the property who will be held liable and it will then be up to you to recover the cost from the tenant – good luck with that! If you do fight this I, and many other landlords, will be interested to hear the outcome. Whatever you decide to do good luck.

    I once fought British Gas for the cost of replacing a PVC door and frame – over £600 – when they went to remove a metre where a tenant had not paid and they believed that the property was unoccupied. Not only did I end up paying for the new door I also had to pay for the replacement of the metre – the tenant ran off when there was no power – and a deposit to get the service put back on. This was a very expensive “principle”

      1. JoKingDevon

        So do our Local Councils pay for their tenants’ damages bills in these situations? If so then Taxpayers are ultimately picking up the tab and there’s no incentive whatsoever for those truly responsible to learn lessons about their unacceptable behaviour. I’m going to ask my council what they do in these situations.

  5. HMO Landlady

    Hi Sam

    Having been in this situation a couple of times, I understand your frustration with both the police and the tenant. They both caused the damage for one reason and another but it doesn’t affect them as they will probably never see the property again. I’ve normally paid up as I kissed goodbye to my principals years ago ………. along with my dream of being a news broadcaster! However, the firm should have either sorted out payment there and then (I can’t believe they would be so naive not to considering the parties involved) or at least chased the debt earlier. 9 months later and the horse has definitely bolted. How about agreeing to go halves or sit it out to see how far they’re willing to take the matter?!

    1. Sam

      We should never give up on dreams!
      I’ve decided to fight them on a point of simple contract law: i do not have a contract with them!

  6. iAmALandlord

    Hi Sam, so sorry I’m so late into this thread but thanks for your tweet inviting me to comment. I loved the blog by the way. I think I’d be tempted to fight it too. I suggest the first thing you do when you get the Court Summons is apply to the Court to have the hearing transferred to a Court near you. That’s your right as a defendent. I’ve had it done to me when I am claiming against somebody else and it’s a real pain. I’ve dropped cases for that reason alone in the past. Other tricks that people have played on me is writing to the Court the day before explaining that they will not be able to attend for spurious medical reasons. That’s always incredibly frustrating, turning up at Court only to find the defendant has secured an adjournment. One person played us at that game for 5 years but we eventually won just last month. It was a £6,000 claim and to be honest, we would have dropped it a long time before if she had not put in a ridiculous £50,000 counter claim. Anyhow, just know that their are plenty of dirty tricks you to play to get a moral victory, even if the judge eventually finds against you. Good luck with your fight, I will be VERY interested to know what the final outcome is. Remember, even if you lose you will still have 28 days to pay up before it affects your credit rating and if you play the game it could be years before this ever gets to Court 😉

    1. Sam

      Hi Mark, thanks for your comments and for sharing your experiences. It’s also good to know about the “ins and outs” shall we say, of what I can do. I am pleased to hear you have recently obtained victory – wow 5 years is quite something! I am concerned about your comment re: this affecting my credit rating. I have to be honest, this was not something which I had considered previously (and probably should have!) although I am comforted that as long as I pay it quickly it won’t affect my rating! Something, you will probably know more about than me is with regards their costs – is there a limit to the costs they can claim against me (e.g. for court expenses and legal bills?) I am led to believe there is, but would be grateful for any knowledge/ experience you have of this. Thanks again.

      1. bepreparedtolose

        I would ask for full disclosure, be a pain, date, time, reason, proportionality, outcome, instruction to carry out work, kind of work and reason, instructed by who, when, why, and if anyone was left on the property, and ask if the tenant was taken away for a short HMPleasure break. And then disclosure of all letters sent to the ‘tenant’ by the boarding up firm, who they originally sort cost from, any replies, time frames and costs, before deciding it was to much hard work and turning onto the easy prey being the landlord. Why are they not taking the tenant to court if they originally chased them for costing? As an example, if somebody was left on the premises, it is down to the tenant to arrange fixing as its not insecure, its not the police’s job, who have a duty to secure a insecure premises, as in they would at a break in, whilst you were away on holiday. You did not instruct that, but I am sure you would be happy it was done and pick up the bill. I support you! Ring up a inner London council and ask they policy. (not a sterotype, just experience they deal with this daily)

        1. Sam

          Thanks for that! Great questions as well!

          The company have basically given up on the tenant as he has ignored all their letters and so they decided to come after the “easy prey” of the landlord. Well, I do not have a contract with them and am not prepared to pay their bill. Previous advice I was given was with regards to deducting this from the tenant deposit when he vacates – however I have since spoken to a solicitor and discovered I would have no “right” to do that and he could challenge the deduction. Basically, the bill is between the company and the tenant and they need to sort it out rather than running to me and expecting me to open my cheque book!

  7. David Wood

    I have just successfully won a Residential Property Tribunal case against Hull City Council (they are a bunch of lefty landlord haters) which is not an easy option as the time and costs involved can be enormous. However the biggest lesson I have learnt is that any government dept has a legal obligation to direct you to the specific clause that they are using for their action, and secondly they have to fully explain this clause to you. Once you are armed with this information it should then become an easy decision as to whether you believe you can win the case or not.

  8. andrew bate landlord

    im in same situation door boarded up by request of police ,bill £210 ihave thoughythis throuh i think i will re bill the boarding company the same amount £210 to remove their work which was not asked for ,required and possibly any other damaged caused by there workmznship

  9. Andy Lee

    I too have just received a bill for boarding works at one of my properties. The tenant lives there but was staying at her mothers. The Police where called as someone had reported a break in. The Police instructed the works to secure the property.
    I have contacted GMP who have said its the tenants responsiblilty.
    I have wrote back to the company invovled to inform them of this.
    I await the response.

    1. Sam

      Andy, I wish you luck.

      It is the tenant’s responsibility, however if they do nothing, or do not pay, then the company seems to think it is your responsibility to pay the bill.

      I have no end of threatening letters from the company now all claiming I will be in court soon, however I have become very adept at being like my tenant and just ignoring them. I don’t like doing that (and it feels very unprofessional) however there is no reasoning with them!

      So I will wait for my day at court…

      1. Clara O'Donnell

        i would love to know how you got on. i have just gor off the phone from rapid secure and the police, i am furious and in the same boat, have been getting the letters for months, but no court summons, today i asked them to stop threatening me and send me to court!

        1. Brenda Thompson

          I have also been having the same problem with rapid secure I received a bill last month for something they say happened in January £240 for ramming a bit wood in a hole. I’m not going to pay it it’s a licence to print money if you ask me

          1. Thomas

            Hi Brenda,
            I am interested to know what has happened with the £240 bill from Rapid Secure. I was recently burgled and have received a £240 bill for a piece of plywood, 4 screws and an unbranded padlock. And they called it a Locksmith job! I called them and told them to supply me with an itemised bill but they refused. Like everyone else I have explained that I am not happy about the unreasonable charge but it did not matter. So where you able to sort this out?

        2. Ella

          Clara have you had a resolution to this yet? I’m also getting constant threatening letters… we’ve got as far as ‘final notice of court proceedings’ now, but still on Rapid Secure headed paper… Do they leave you alone eventually or do they finally get the court summons issued… I wonder if I need to be more proactive or can continue keeping my head down… Haven’t really got the time to reply to their many and varied correspondences… Again, like others’ situations the job was shoddily carried out and nothing to do with me, although at my property so I’ve no intention of paying!

  10. Ella

    Hi Sam, I’ve been getting letters from Rapid Secure too… Having looked for other people’s experiences, I’ve not found anyone they’ve actually taken to court… Do they just threaten and then back off? (Hoping so!)

    1. Trish

      I also ignored them and have heard no more, I complained to the police. Wetter they had a word with their contractors, I don’t know. I think it’s a grey area which they pursue profit from ignorance of the landlord. they kept telling me I was responsible for my property repairs and I kept telling them only for repairs which I had authorised. They gave up cos I wasn’t budging. Do not pay!

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