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  • Problem Tenants

    Non-compliant benefits tenant

    Hello PT-heroes, 

    I need urgent help! So bought what we thought was a basic 3-bed vanilla BTL on auction in Liverpool, with a tenant in situ. The LL died. I was a bit surprised when the previous LL's conveyancer asked for rent apportionment, because I thought they would have collected rent up to the date of completion, (first lesson), so we dished out some additional cash to them. 

    We also assigned four month's worth of arrears to the estate.

    Now the fun starts. Our letting agent went round to the property, which looks like it needs a couple of issues seen to - apparently previous LL stopped doing repairs about a year ago - so a couple of the problems are loose banister, leaky taps, lights to be replace, doors and door handles needs TLC. There was a GSC done in Jan 2018, so no serious gas issues, also a recent electricity check.

    Tenant had gone to Council and informed them that her partner has moved in and they suspended her benefits claim on the grounds that her circumstances have changed and they both need to apply for their housing benefit together. So the Council is not paying anybody at the moment. 

    We have asked the tenant to sign a new contact - since we weren't given a copy of the existing contract - we only have a screenshot of the first page (our letting agent got this on the first visit when the tenant was still happy to help us). At this first meeting she also informed the lettings agent that she has some mental health issues. She has lived in the house for 5 years.

    She has since told the lettings agent that she won't co-operate until she gets to review the schedule of works to be done, she is insisting that the bathroom suite be replaced (in lieu of us fixing/replacing rusty, leaky taps, and replacing a loo seat that is broken) and she has today refused to give access to the electrician, who had made an appointment with her to fix a concerning wiring situation in the kitchen. She has told the lettings agent she will be the worst tenant imaginable.

    So we have been landlords of multiple units now for 8 years, but have not come across something like this. I'm a total newbie with regards to difficult benefits clients.

    Here are my questions:

    1.  We have a contract with her now, the one that the previous LL had with her, but we don't have the paperwork. Can we go to the council with this and get her housing benefit paid to us as rent? If not, does it have to be a contact with both her and her partner? 

    2. I don't really want to get into an eviction war that is going to cost me a year's rent, but I've instructed the lettings agent to keep meticulous record of each incident where the tenant is difficult to work with with regards to repairs. So if the tenant won't give us access to fix the property, how do I force her to do it? Nothing is so serious that she can't live with it, but I will feel ashamed to say that I'm the LL of that property, as it is. 

    3. Do I just meekly allow the tenant to dictate the schedule of works, so she will sign the new tenancy agreement? How do I force her to sign it, so we can get money from the council?

    4. Since her contract is in her name, is she still 100% liable for the rent even though we have seen that the council has suspended her housing claim? Can I claim all the arrears that is owned to us from her? Do I have to accept a repayment plan from her with regards to the arrears?

    I want to make this into an inviting home for this (or any) tenant, and I want to make it better for me to accept a benefits tenant by getting (some) of the rent directly from the council, but it looks like this person does not want to co-operate. 

    Your advice is appreciated!!

    Thanks

    BHE

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    Sounds like she needs to go - she has clearly not even complied with Council request to submit new joint HB claim and the mention of mental health issue sounds like a hint that she will use that vulnerability to her sole advantage - rather than being compliant with a professional landlord trying to get property up to a decent standard.

    Maybe issuing S.21 would motivate her to get her act together - and if she is childless Council have no responsibility other than referring her to PRS - plus rent arrears are treated as intentional homelessness.

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    Serve the section 21 notice now, tenants like this never change and will always be a pain, then get a nice new tenant after doing the checks on them. Sometimes its tricky like when nick tadd leaves his underwear at my house butyou just have to make sure you do a credit check and check their references an you should get a good tenant

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