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I have spent years persuading intelligent and competent landlords that solicitors are usually unnecessary. In almost all cases, they can undertake an eviction without the expensive help of a Solicitor.
Many times (sometimes with my assistance) landlords have taken their tenants to Court and successfully evicted. Of course, there are cases where a Solicitor must be involved; where the landlord receives a letter from a Solicitor working on the tenant’s behalf; where the local enforcement team have been asked to investigate a complaint that has been made; or where the landlord wants to evict using a Discretionary ground and a case has to be made in court.
However, none of these circumstances applied when a landlord I had advised frequently in the past, decided to evict. I was on holiday at the time and the landlord was eager to start proceedings as the tenant owed over £3,000, which equated to nearly 6 months’ rent – rents are lower in the North!
In desperation, he served a section 21 notice. The tenant responded by telling the landlord he could not evict her as she had a doctor’s note to say that the living conditions were making her son ill. There had never been a complaint about the property; no repairs that were needed were reported. The landlord decided that this was one of the circumstances where I would advise a Solicitor should be instructed.
He was wrong. He could easily have waited for my return before, in a panic, he picked up the telephone to a Solicitor. The landlord had a witness as to the state of the property – me – who had been to the property very recently to try and resolve the arrears issue. I failed, not because of lack of skill on my part but lack of inclination by the tenant.
The property seemed in good condition, though there was some condensation on the lounge window, which the tenant said also occurred upstairs. She was advised to open windows to ventilate, but the landlord said she would make arrangements to have a ventilation system installed which would ‘cure’ the condensation issues completely. The actions of a good landlord, but this would not protect the tenant from eviction unless there were steps taken to reduce the outstanding arrears.
What did the Solicitor say? ‘You’ll never win if there is a doctor’s note. Try and pay her off’. So he did.
The tenant finally left owing £3,800, with a sum of £1,400 in her pocket paid by the landlord to enable the tenant to pay a deposit and the first month’s rent in advance – to say nothing of Solicitors fees of over £1,000. The tenant then moved in with her mother!
Where would my advice differ from the Solicitors? I would explain that local authorities are well aware of how patients can persuade a GP they have known some time to provide a letter, though he may never have seen the property. The local authorities have their own, independent Medical Officers who will make their own judgement.
Many people will aspire to becoming social tenants and countless times they will provide a letter with a Medical opinion that they should be re-housed. If Environmental Services/Enforcement teams say the property is not fit to live in, this is taken very seriously; a letter from a doctor far less so.
So don’t be frightened into contacting an expensive and in this case, an ineffectual and ignorant Solicitor. Most of the time, you can do it yourself, but ask for advice – your landlord association, your landlord accreditation scheme and even your local authority private sector officer will all be happy to advise you; only when you are totally lost and have exhausted all possibilities should you contact a Solicitor, and then make sure he is a private sector housing expert.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon