Happy new year! I have a couple of questions regarding tricky tenants, which I hope you can advise on. Apologies for the long post!
These 2 tenants are on a 12 month fixed term contract since 1st May 2022 (standard Openrent AST, with 6 month break clause) for a 2 bed flat in SW London. Myself and my business partner are joint landlords. In December, they notified me about mould in the flat. I checked with freeholder, who is also the council, to rule out any structural issues, and I am currently investigating solutions such as installing ventilation systems etc, but as an interim solution, we offered to buy a new, supposedly very effective, dehumidifier. I asked the tenants about their availability and they said they were away for the Christmas / New Year year period, so my business partner had the dehumidifier delivered to her address and said she would drop it off to the flat over the Christmas break so it would be there by the time the tenants got back from their holidays. I notified the tenants about this on the 20th Dec and I did not hear anything back from them. On the 2nd Jan 2023, I received a phone call from one of the tenants telling me they were locked out and cannot get inside the flat. I was initially confused as the tenants have all the keys for all the locks to the flat (and this is documented in the inventory report). My business partner had locked both locks of the front door for security after she dropped off the dehumidifier, and here was the problem - the tenants told me they separated their keys, without telling us, and they only use one of the two locks of the front door. Of course, I came down to unlock the door as soon as I could, but I received a lot of verbal aggression (via multiple text messages) before I arrived about how the tenant has the legal right to choose what keys they use, and that this access to drop off the dehumidifier was technically a breach of tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment and that it is trespass because we did not notify them of the specific day for access or providing 24 hours notice. He literally wrote “what do you want slapping with first, breach of quiet enjoyment or breach of tenancy agreement via trespass. You do not get to dictate what keys I am using for a property I am renting. Basic L&T”, and even asked if he would be reimbursed for his drinks and meal he’s had to buy while he’s waiting for me to unlock the door. Of course, he was still having his dinner elsewhere when I arrived so I simply unlocked the door and left, since I was not sure if he would be as hostile in person and I really did not want to hang around and see.
This tenant is generally very aggressive in his communication, and has repeatedly threatened legal action in what would otherwise be straightforward interactions (e.g. “there is mould in the flat, do I need to remind you of your landlord repairing obligations”) I have kept my side of communication as polite as possible, which only seems to enrage him further. I cannot see this relationship improving, and I would rather have a void period than deal with this attitude. I am planning on issuing a Section 21 next month to terminate the tenancy at the end of their fixed term period (30th April is the last day of the initial term). I have checked the S21 validity flowchart and I am fairly confident it is valid. So my questions:
I am worried the tenant will try to derail my S21 notice with the claim that we trespassed and breached their quiet enjoyment when my business partner dropped off the dehumidifier. The tenants were notified on the 20th Dec that we would be doing this while they were away for the Christmas period, otherwise if they were at home, we wouldn’t have bothered and would have simply ordered the dehumidifier to be delivered directly to the flat. Is there any basis to this claim of trespass and breach of quiet enjoyment? Consequences of this? Should I be lawyering up? I think it’s a stretch but these days, you never know!
We are pro-actively trying to resolve the mould problem, and will likely install the ventilation system. We have already sought and received written permission from the freeholder, Wandsworth council, to install the vents that cut through the external walls of the building. Would the mould issue threaten the validity of the S21?
Is there any legal basis to the claim that tenants get to choose which keys they use for the property? I couldn’t find anything online specifying this. Tbh I think the tenant is stupid for separating the keys and not using all the locks, and then trying to blame us for his mistake. Surely this would simply risk their contents insurance terms if they suffered a break in?
Any other advice for when issuing the S21? Would you hand-deliver a copy of the S21 in addition to email, just to ensure they received it, or is that too much?
Thank you in advance!