Philip James Operations Manager Nadia Fortune explains what happened to her when she was summoned to court by a tenant who refused to prove his bills were paid;
“Moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do. There are hundreds of tasks to organise from booking a removal firm to arranging time off work. But one of the most important things to remember is to make sure all your utility bills are paid up to the day you vacate a property.
“We make sure all our tenants understand how important this is, and how it forms part of a legally-binding contract. Because the payment of utility bills is such an important part of a Tenancy Agreement, Philip James employs its own permanent member of staff to deal with the return of tenants’ deposits. She ensures all utility bills provided are correct and up-to-date, and that all relevant companies have been informed. There are always stacks of papers on her desk – I’m surprised it doesn’t drive her mad. But her role is vital within the company and most tenants and landlords really appreciate the work she does.
“But there’s always the occasional tenant who can’t see the wood for the trees and believes a deposit should be returned automatically, regardless of whether they’ve paid bills or not. So last week we were unfortunate enough to be summoned to a court case where a former tenant had demanded his deposit back, whilst refusing to take responsibility for proving he had paid his bills.
“In the six-month run-up to the court case we had tried as hard as we could to explain the reasons why it’s important to take responsibility of one’s affairs, yet we were bombarded with aggressive telephone calls, abuse, insults, and finally a blog about how “unfair” we had been.
“It’s never easy to be accused of something when you’ve acted responsibly and within the law. So when the case came to court last week I was only too happy to defend our position.
“I spent all day in court and was delighted and relieved when the Judge dismissed the claim on the basis the tenant hadn’t fulfilled his obligations under what he considered to be a fair and legally-binding contract. But my day in court wasn’t wasted. We now have a ruling that our tenancy agreement is fair and legally-binding and this will stand us in good stead if another tenant attempts to argue about his or her obligations.
Non-payment of bills causes majors headache for every landlord or agent who let their tenants get behind on their bills or mismanage the end of the tenancy. This has resulted in the utility companies stepping in and installing dreaded Pay-As-You-Go meters – once these meters have been installed it’s hard work getting them removed. This is bad news for a landlord and even worse news for the next tenant, who has to regularly top-up payments in the depth of winter. And with, believe it or not, water companies asking the government to make landlords liable for a tenant’s water debt – we help to make sure tenants keep on top of things and hopefully save landlords money too. If you’d like any advice on managing rental properties just give us a call, we’d be happy to chat.
Philip James Property Management,
679 Wilmslow Road,
Telephone: (0161) 448 1111