Here is a question for the blog clinic from Colin (not his real name) who is a landlord:
I am the unfortunate landlord of some ‘tenants from hell’. I have received numerous complaints about their behaviour, which has ranged from excessive noise to criminal damage. There are also suspicions of drug-taking on the premises.
The council recommended that I serve notice on them, which I did. The tenants have responded by saying that they will not leave, quoting protection from eviction and claiming victimization.
Finally a couple of weeks ago the police attended an incident and arrested one of the tenants but they were released with only a caution. The local anti-social behaviour unit have now told me that if the tenants do not leave then the property will be boarded up by the police – at my expense!
I may be wrong but this doesn’t sound right to me, especially as I have already applied for a (very expensive) court order. Can they actually enforce this or is it just hot air?
Police powers are not an area I know much about, so I put this question up to see what others have to say about it.
If they do have the power to board up the property though (and they may have), then I don’t think they can actually send you a bill and require you to pay for this work while the property is let to someone else – if anyone is liable for the cost it will be the tenants.
However you will ultimately be out of pocket as when the property reverts to you, you will have to remove the boarding before you can re-let to another tenant.
You will of course be able to deduct the cost from the tenants deposit, but I suspect that this will just be one of many items and that the deposit will not cover them all. (You may want to see what your insurances covers though).
A letter to the Council
I suggest you write back to the Council saying that you are bringing proceedings for possession but that you are unable to do anything else to hasten the tenants departure as this will put you in breach of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
You could then add maybe, that the Protection from Eviction Act makes it a criminal act to deprive any residential occupier of their occupation of the premises and that you trust they are not suggesting that you should put yourself in breach of the law by doing this. As if so you will wish to make a formal complaint about it.
Go on to say that you are unaware of any legal power to charge you for boarding up the property where tenants exhibit anti social behaviour and can they please let you know their precise legal authority for saying this so you can take legal advice.
Breach of natural justice?
My understanding of the law is that landlords cannot be held legally liable for the acts of their tenants – none of us are liable for things that are done by someone else (save possibly our children and employees acting in the course of their employment).
I know that there is a move towards making landlords liable for their tenants though, and it looks as if some local authorities are taking this view.
Hopefully at some stage there will be a legal challenge to this – perhaps from the landlords associations.
For example I would have thought that there is an argument that any law making someone legally liable for the acts of another human being over whom they have no control, would be in breach of natural justice or maybe ultra vires.
Although it does not, on a quick glance, seem to be strictly in breach of the Human Rights Act.