Another Judgement from Judge Rinder

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I know this is the second item in recent times which has been prompted by Judge Rinder and I can almost hear the comments about someone who spends her whole time watching television. 

That really is not a true representation of me, but when the day is cold, dark and wet (I am in the North West) and I have ironing to do, something to take my mind off the monotony of the task before me is very welcome, and this morning it was Judge Rinder. 

The case today on Judge Rinder (though it may have been a recorded and perhaps even repeated edition) was a landlord and tenant dispute. 

The property was the landlord’s first attempt at private renting, which he let, 5 years ago, to a couple and their children. We were not told how many children the couple had, but presumably enough to merit the large property they took. 

All went (reasonably) well for a year. Housing Benefit was prepared to pay £923 of the £925 monthly rent. The landlord was not concerned about the £2 shortfall. However, after one year, problems arose. For some reason (possibly due to benefit changes) the housing benefit payable reduced to £725. Whilst you and I can imagine the stress this would cause if we were on a set, limited income, the wife seemed oblivious to the fact this would accrue debt.

Judge Rinder heard that the tenant is still in the property and notice has not been served. The debt stands in the region of £3,980. She argued that she had renovated the garden and therefore this should be taken in lieu of the rent arrears. She did say that the landlord had not hassled her for the money. This nice testimonial to the landlord, however, did not help his case at all.

The tenant had ‘buried her head in the sand’ and appeared to take no responsibility for the debt. As far as she was concerned, the rent was being paid by the DWP.

Judge Rinder ‘s judgement was that the second year of the tenancy, when the arrears were accruing at nearly £200 per month and the landlord was making requests for payment, for that one year, he would find in the landlord’s favour. The period after this though, when he had not been asking her for the money, nor putting anything in writing to formalise what was happening meant that he could not find for the landlord in the matter of nearly £2000. 

What of the tenant’s claim that all the debt should be wiped out because she had renovated the garden? She should have asked the landlord’s permission to do so, but what landlord will refuse if an artistic tenant turns a patch of scrubby lawn into the equivalent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a haven for birds and a patch of colour in this dreary world? 

Well, the landlord thanked the tenant for what she had done. This had turned a patch of lawn into – a totally paved area, devoid of pots of flowers or interest. Judge Rinder asked her how much she had spent on this work? She said the cost was not an issue. Maybe it is the sceptic in me, but I think it is possible that family members had done it, possibly with left-over paving from another job. Judge Rinder did not find in favour of her claim, which presumably was approaching the landlord’s claim. 

The lessons to be learned from this case:                                                                                                                  

  1. The tenant must be kept informed of the debt and made aware that it is payable.
  2. Put it in writing and pursue the debt.
  3. In the initial period when there was £2 per month underpayment, an addendum to the tenancy agreement should have said that the landlord was prepared to accept £923.
  4. Because of the far more considerable debt which accrued of nearly £200 per month, this should have been pursued rigorously, and not just in the second year of the tenancy.

This landlord had acted with compassion towards his tenants; they had health worries and he had not wanted to hassle them for the rent. But the Court cannot make a judgement on the landlord’s good behaviour. He had not asked them for the rent in the 3rd, 4th and 5th years of the tenancy; therefore, this may have established a confidence in the tenant that it was not expected. 

Judge Rinder awarded £2,000 to the landlord; the tenant left the Court proclaiming how much she wanted to stay in the property (though with no suggestion of how she could pay). The landlord left saying he would take advice about eviction. I hope he succeeds.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

 

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