Letting Agents Alert: Eviction Focus
Evictions are more and more likely to go the 'full distance' these days. We have substantial experience in making sure that 'all the ducks are in a row' when it comes to evicting a tenant. In this week's Alert we look at how badly it can go wrong if done incorrectly - particularly in today's harsh climate and how we can help when it has. Or even better - how we can do things right from the beginning.
Do you still serve your own eviction notices? If so, before possession proceedings are commenced, you would be best to check the validity not just of the notice but of the deposit situation. Because at that stage, there is still time to avoid massive costs.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy our Alert and please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.
To Your Continued Success,
Simple Notice... £3700 costs bill and no eviction...
How one simple mistake cost a landlord 17 months of rent and £3700 in costs
It still amazes me that landlords insist on filling in their own section 21 notices even in the current climate. For a start, the law has changed and is changing. I am also in amazement (and some degree of admiration!) that letting agents take on that huge responsibility, particularly when they don't need to and when they are unlikely to be insured for any losses resulting from defective notice. One of the biggest growth areas for litigation lawyers right now is professional negligence i.e. suing professionals for getting things wrong. Does your firm want to be in the firing line? Sorry to be so direct but, sure, it was probably ok to draft your own notice in days gone by when tenants truly believed that by receiving a notice to quit that they were required to leave by a particular date. And so they upped and left.
Now, however, with so much information (much of it wrong of course) on the internet but more importantly the widespread reality that council housing officers tell tenants that they should ignore such notices and only leave the property as and when the landlord has a possession order through the court and has bailiffs ready to attend (you see a tenant is often told by a housing officer not to move based on a notice alone because they will be regarded as 'intentionally homeless' and won't qualify for a council house). The problem is crystal clear: if the initial notice wasn't correct and you now have to start proceedings, the whole thing is likely to fail. And unfortunately, once 'legal aid' lawyers get involved, that failure can cost big in terms of the landlord's costs and your reputation.
How not to evict: A Recent Case Study.
In a recent case in which we were instructed, the landlord approached us after the possession case was already over: the landlord had originally instructed an 'eviction specialist' (unlike us, they were not utilising a regulated law firm and had no rights to conduct litigation in the courts) who prepared a notice without first checking that all of the deposit requirements had been satisfied. In this case, the necessary requirements had allegedly not been satisfied but the landlord asserted that they had.
The long and short of it was that by bringing the possession claim, the landlord ended up in great difficulty because the tenant took some legal advice on legal aid from a local legal advice agency who put in a Defence based on defective notice on the basis that the deposit had never been properly protected. That naturally meant that the section 21 notice was defective. Instead of going through court quickly, efficiently and with a possession order at the end, this ended up being a trial. THE LANDLORD LOST HER CASE AND ENDED UP WITH A CLAIM FOR £12000 COSTS AGAINST HER AND THE TENANT STILL IN THE PROPERTY 1.5 YEARS AFTER THIS SIMPLE MISTAKE.
I must emphasise that we were never involved in the case until it was too late and the Judge had ordered against the landlord - if we had been then I am convinced we could have still won.
As it happens we were able to negotiate her costs down to £3700 which was the absolute best that could be done and, in the circumstances, she was delighted.
Our only concern and sadness was that if she had come to us in the first place then all of that delay, cost and aggravation could have been avoided. We know how to remedy the deposit situation and explain this to a Judge. That's why, after everything had gone wrong, she then finally instructed us to evict the tenant which was successfully achieved within a few short months, without hassle, without any court hearings and certainly no costs to pay to 'the other side'.
The moral of the story is that absolute precision is now required at the time of deciding to evict a tenant and serving notice. And if you don't want to take on what is in reality a legal task yourself, then we are happy to do it for your client. Let us take the strain!
If you or your client need any assistance in the eviction process then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0330 017 7932.