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Being sued! Please help

(57 Posts)
evansthebread Thu 21-Mar-13 23:21:42

Please help - I'm frantic. It's a long story, for which I apologise, but apart from wanting to post ALL the FACTS, I think I need to get this off my chest. I haven't slept for a week now and my nerves are at breaking point. I'd appreciate any help or support.

I put my house up to let last November and with that intention had the gas appliance (fire and back boiler) serviced and checked. It was issued with a safety certificate by a Gas Safe registered engineer. There was an advisory on it saying that the flue was not within current standards but was still safe to use.

Tenants moved in on 3rd January. They only wanted the property for a short time as they were waiting for their new build to be completed, but they couldn't give me a date that they would be leaving so they signed a 6 month AST.

A few days after they moved in their CO monitor went off at about 10pm so he texted me to let me know and they all went down to the hospital. They were checked out and were found to have levels of 6 and 7 in their blood (not sure who had those levels, them or their children). I freaked out and called the engineer who was there at 9am the following morning, waiting for me to let him in.

I was shocked at what I found - so was he from an engineers point of view. The place looked like one of those hoarding programs on telly. Furniture and boxes stacked up virtually to the ceilings in every room.

Anyway, the engineer carried out checks on the boiler, fire and flu and found nothing. The first thing he did was check the air to see that it was safe to enter. His "snooper" detected zero CO in the room, despite it being left with the windows closed. He pulled the whole thing to bits and could find no evidence of sooting or anything else that would indicate a CO leak. He left an hour a half later having found no fault. He did, however, point out that their furniture and carrier bags full of stuff were blocking the vent to the room and that they had also clearly been burning a large candle in the room. He said I should ask them to ensure the vent was clear.

I arranged for engineer to return in a few days to extend the flue to current regs which he did.

As he was leaving, a British Gas van pulled up. Apparently tenants assumed our engineer was "dodgy" and called them, too. They took out a plan and told me I had to pay the call out of £99 (which in panic, I agreed). BG man (and apprentice) pulled fire and boiler apart again, also checked out flue, stating that I "should" have the flue extended a few hundred mm to make it to current standards.

While he was there, the tenant's CO monitor went off so he held his "snooper against" it but it read zero. He proclaimed it to be clearly faulty and took it outside to break open to prevent further use. He did a final check of the boiler and just as he was about to close it up, having found nothing wrong, the pressure valve flickered so he said he'd change it "just in case" which he did.

Both my engineer and the BG man stated that there had been "unusual atmospheric conditions" that night which may have caused a "blow back puff" that was apparently quite common, but I think we were all satisfied that the boiler/fire was safe so they came back and carried on living there.

The next day I had a text complaining that the rooms were not getting warm. I'm not surprised as every single rad had stuff leaning against them. Tenant was adamant that rads needed bleeding and that he would do them himself. He was still complaining, but his wife told me separately that they were fine. I think she must have told him as I heard nothing else about it.

Less than a fortnight later, I had another late night text telling me they'd booked into a hotel as their new Kidde CO monitor had gone off. I freaked out again and told them I'd call my engineer out but they said they'd call BG in which they did. An engineer was promised by lunch time but he didn't turn up so I gave them oil-filled rads to use. He turned up after dark and said he was unable to do anything as it was too dark to check the smoke coming out of the chimney. He left a fan heater and tenants stayed at property.

Next day a different BG man turned up. Checked the place out, could find nothing wrong and no CO. He checked their new Kidde monitor which the wife had said was bleeping "intermittently" (her husband had previously stated it was going off continuously!)but the readings were zero. He told them it must be faulty and nailed a BG monitor to the wall for them.

Again, I just thought it was a run of bad luck with faulty monitors and thought nothing else about it. Then we had the cooker ring saga - but that's another story if any of you are interested.

So, fast forward to today and I find a solicitor's letter in the post claiming £20,000 pain and suffering! I also had a letter from tenant last night telling me that he'd reported me to HSE and the council for not having a gas certificate! I gave him a copy before he moved in along with the EPC and the electrical safety certificate. I've sent a copy by email to the council guy and spoken to him by phone. He says he's satisfied and will be taking no action. I'm waiting for HSE to call back.

Tenant is actually moving out this week and has only paid rent up to today. He's also taken out £99 from his rent for the BG call out, despite me writing to him asking him not to as I'd noticed damage to the door when I went in and would offset it against the repair cost at the end of the tenancy.

Estate agent did a viewing last Thursday and called to say that the prospective tenants had been "frightened off" by current tenant who interfered throughout the viewing, telling them the house was unsafe. He also has a CO monitor bleeping in every room which the EA said was very off-putting.

So, I am in the kind of situation I never thought I'd find myself in and am not doing very well. I suffer with severe anxiety and depression and didn't cope very well, with the cooker ring situation and all tenants nasty texts (but a BIG thank you to all those who supported me through that. It is very much appreciated). I can feel myself starting to "give up" with this already.

I am hoping for any advice I can get regarding these issues: am I liable to have to pay out? Are those CO levels high (as I have no idea where they could have been poisoned from - I'm pretty sure that all/any of the engineers would have shut the system down if it had been the cause)? They reverse their cars up against the vent and front door - could that have contributed? Can I claim the rest of the rent he owes even though he's moving out? Can I ask for the £99 back? Who is responsible for utilities if he moves out but still is within his contract date? It's too cold to leave the house without heat without risking burst pipe damage. Can I go in to make sure it's being heated? A few months rent and £99 won't go far towards £20,000, but it might help me pay my solicitor's bill!

To top it all, I asked before they signed if they had pets. They said two outdoor dogs that they were "getting rid of" (which they have). I noticed cats trying to get in when I attended the property - I have a cat and cat flea allergy that causes me to have severe asthma attacks. Tenant told me they were his cats, but they were outdoor cats and never come inside (they looked like they were pretty used to being let in when I was there!). I'd had the place professionally cleaned before they moved in and now will not be able to risk going in again until it's sanitised properly again. Can I bill them for it? They said they would leave the property clean but I'm afraid to go in and perform a check-out with them now. How do I go about this?

A BIG thank you in advance for any help/suggestions/support.

Flossbert Fri 22-Mar-13 04:43:07

I am in no way a legal type, although i do have some experience as a landlord. I can't see that they'd have grounds to sue at all. Wrt the gas cert, I'm fairly sure that it doesn't matter if he's claiming not to have seen it, so long as the inspection was done. I agree that I'd be looking for evidence of those CO readings from the hospital - he's clearly prone to embellishing the truth.

However, you may have a problem wrt entering the property before the end if the fixed term. I'm sure that with any normal tenant the return of keys and letter informing of intention to leave would be enough to make you feel comfortable going into the property before the end of the term without reproach. However, I would worry that he might be trying to set you up. Try LandlordZone website - it's a forum just like this but full of LLs and property law experts who may be able to give further advice.

Try not to let the bastards get you down. Karma will get them.

fishybits Fri 22-Mar-13 04:50:29

As someone up thread has said please don't take any tenants without full references even if it means you lose them. Offering six months rent up front and very keen to move in bypassing the need for references would be a red flag for me.

GrumpyOldWomanToo Fri 22-Mar-13 05:11:21

I don't know what the tenants mean by "levels of 6 or 7 in their blood". Can you get hold of the hospital report?

From Wiki:
Concentration and Source
0.1 ppm Natural atmosphere level
0.5 to 5 ppm Average level in homes
5 to 15 ppm Near properly adjusted gas stoves in homes
100 to 200 ppm Exhaust from automobiles in the Mexico City central area
5,000 ppm Exhaust from a home wood fire
7,000 ppm Undiluted warm car exhaust without a catalytic converter

Concentration and Symptoms
35 ppm (0.0035%) Headache and dizziness within six to eight hours of constant exposure
100 ppm (0.01%) Slight headache in two to three hours
200 ppm (0.02%) Slight headache within two to three hours; loss of judgment
400 ppm (0.04%) Frontal headache within one to two hours
800 ppm (0.08%) Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 min; insensible within 2 hours
1,600 ppm (0.16%) Headache, tachycardia, dizziness, and nausea within 20 min; death in less than 2 hours
3,200 ppm (0.32%) Headache, dizziness and nausea in five to ten minutes. Death within 30 minutes.
6,400 ppm (0.64%) Headache and dizziness in one to two minutes. Convulsions, respiratory arrest, and death in less than 20 minutes.
12,800 ppm (1.28%) Unconsciousness after 2–3 breaths. Death in less than three minutes.

Karoleann Fri 22-Mar-13 05:27:00

I would write back to the solicitors and ask for a copy of their medical records stating that they have high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood and any medical complications they have suffered as a result of the "poisoning". They have to have a specific reason for the pain and suffering.

It sounds as if they are a bit dodgy and trying it on

LIZS Fri 22-Mar-13 08:23:47

Did they pay any deposit and is it in a registered scheme ? If an EA was involved in finding them then they should have advised you about the agreement and payments and done credit checks - so ask them what came up. Legally tenants are liable for rent up to June and you could claim against them if they take legal action. it would have been wise to have the flue made up to spec before they moved in but we had similar recently with our own boiler and all it needed was a cage to prevent obstruction. £99 is neither here nor there really, as presumably you get to keep the service agreement for rest of year.

Whereisthesnow Fri 22-Mar-13 08:59:57

Op - am 9 months pregnant - sleep is not my friend!
As someone has pointed out they need an actual injury to sue you for personal injury.
Just reaching back in my memory about how CO is detected medically ... You need to be tested for it at same time as exposure as it has a half life so decays in blood stream. A hospital can do a blood test which is fairly accurate, pretty sure the results are given as a percentage - so 6 Or 7 % is nothing, under 10% is not expected to show any symptoms. Or some a&e departments have a finger pulses meter type thing to test for CO - clip type thing attached to finger, which is more rough and ready - think but not sure that's a reading out of 10.
Definitely need to see those records.
And call your insurers today! Insurers sometimes penalise for late notification of a claim as part of the policy will be that you allow then to handle the claim on your behalf

greenfolder Fri 22-Mar-13 09:20:04

sounds like a scam from scum.

strongly suggest that you pass this on to your insurers with an explanation of what you have done, and think no more of it.

this is a case without legs and i really cannot comprehend any solicitor being willing to represent them- their claim has zero chance of success. which solicitors is it?

WestieMamma Fri 22-Mar-13 11:18:37

I'm only a law student, so please keep that in mind, but I'm pretty sure that in order to sue he'd have to prove that you acted negligently. It doesn't sound to me like he'd be able to do this in a million years.

WestieMamma Fri 22-Mar-13 11:23:43

Oops, posted too soon. He'd also have to prove that he'd suffered a loss (injury). From information posted in this thread it sounds like the CO2 levels were within a normal range ie no claim. I can ask my husband to confirm this when he gets home tomorrow if you want. He's a chemistry professor, he'll be able to give a definitive answer.

kikid Fri 22-Mar-13 11:38:14

Scam from Scum. love it greenfolder!

op, I hope this is sorted quickly & fairly in your

BoreOfWhabylon Fri 22-Mar-13 12:54:17

Sounds like a scam to me too.

You (or rather your insurers) need to request full information re the blood tests that were allegedly performed. The blood is usually tested for a compound called carboxyhaemoglobin (HbCO - usually expressed as %). This is different to tests for atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO - usually expressed as ppm)

A certain amount of HbCO is normally present in everyone's blood. The amount varies according to whether the person lives in an urban or rural environment, whether they are a smoker or not and other variables. The exact type of test performed also makes a difference, eg one source I looked at gives these HbCO levels:

Less than 1–2% for people who live away from urban areas and who do not smoke.
Up to 5% for people who smoke up to 20 cigarettes a day, people living in urban areas who do not smoke, and pregnant women.
Up to 13% for heavy smokers.

So all requires expert interpretation.

Don't worry about it any more, just hand it all over to your insurers (who, I imagine, will also be able to check whether Scammy Scummy Bloke makes a habit of this sort of thing).

BoreOfWhabylon Fri 22-Mar-13 12:59:02

Forgot to say, am not legal type but have A&E/Critical Care nursing background.

Also wondering if legal types think you could sue him for distress and suffering caused to you?

evansthebread Fri 22-Mar-13 13:47:45

Thanks All.

LIZS - they're taking the plan with them.

Tenant's wife (40+ yrs) had recently had a baby. Is claiming she has developed a heart condition from exposure.

She's also claiming that the baby was sleepy and they all were unwell. Every time I'd been in there baby was bawling (angry-type screaming as I'm sure most will KWIM). I remember coming back in and telling OH that as a nurse, she should have known better as she was continually holding baby upright under his arms, letting his head fall back. No wonder he was miserable.

As far as being unwell, she'd come in to mine several times for a cuppa and a chat - had made no mention of feeling ill/headaches etc. She was in with me while my mobile hairdresser was here and was laughing and joking the whole 2.5 hours.

It just seems so, as Greenfolder says, scammy.

Selks Fri 22-Mar-13 14:04:56

Baby has developed a heart condition from the exposure?? Scam scam scam. They must think you are a mug (you're clearly not).

I know it's easy for me to say but I'd be tempted just to totally ignore it all. I doubt they'd have a leg to stand on legally and they know it - they're just trying it on. If they don't see you bite then they might huff and puff a bit but would ultimately drop it.

Let us know how you get on when you've spoken to your legal bod.

LIZS Fri 22-Mar-13 14:09:24

If they're taking the BG plan then why should you pay for it when you had your own plumber on call hmm

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 22-Mar-13 15:11:07

They probably leave a trail of havoc behind them, skip through life threatening to sue and dodging bills. Did you see any proof of hospital checks? They acted perfectly normally, their pets were fine, the baby was vocal and screaming lustily.

Are you all right? Please don't give them any more head-space.

Indygoes Fri 22-Mar-13 15:35:22

I suspect the letter from the solicitor is just because they want to leave the tenancy early and not pay the remaining months rent - they're hoping that a claim for £20k will make you think you've got a good deal if all you lose is rent!

Sounds like you have good evidence (make sure you have copies/records) of everything, and that you did what was required. Pass the letter onto your insurer and let them deal with it, and make sure the tenants know you will be pursuing the outstanding rent and counter-claim for it if they ever do issue a claim. Copies of medical records need to be requested because ultimately that is their only possible evidence of a problem.

Seems possible that they will try to frame you for illegal eviction, so to protect yourself you could call the tenancy relations officer at your LA and thereby create a record of what's happened nd the clear intention the tenant has given that they are moving out.

Indygoes Fri 22-Mar-13 15:38:56

I suspect the letter from the solicitor is just because they want to leave the tenancy early and not pay the remaining months rent - they're hoping that a claim for £20k will make you think you've got a good deal if all you lose is rent!

Sounds like you have good evidence (make sure you have copies/records) of everything, and that you did what was required. Pass the letter onto your insurer and let them deal with it, and make sure the tenants know you will be pursuing the outstanding rent and counter-claim for it if they ever do issue a claim. Copies of medical records need to be requested because ultimately that is their only possible evidence of a problem.

Seems possible that they will try to frame you for illegal eviction, so to protect yourself you could call the tenancy relations officer at your LA and thereby create a record of what's happened nd the clear intention the tenant has given that they are moving out.

LadyMercy Fri 22-Mar-13 16:52:50

Evans, please try not to worry.

Forgetting all the gas safety/carbon monoxide stuff
The tenant signed a 6 month fixed term assured shorthold tenancy agreement (correct me if I'm wrong).
The tenant is therefore liable for rent, council tax and utilities for that period.
Unless you agreed that they could leave early, they are still responsible for rent etc.

It sounds very like they are trying to take advantage of your good nature and maybe make a fast buck at the same time. They don't want to pay the rest of the rent/bills. I strongly suggest some professional advice to avoid giving this person any ammunition to use against you (e.g. illegal eviction).

evansthebread Fri 22-Mar-13 18:39:11

Thanks All.

Called HSE earlier and I have NOT been negligent. They will NOT be taking any action against me and will be sending a letter out stating that.

You would not believe the relief.

Selks - no, the mum has said she's developed a heart condition. I remember mine going "dodgy" when I was pregnant and had it blamed on me being older and pregnant.

LIZS - that's what I thought and when I looked into it, I'm not liable for any second opinions they had.

I'm not having a pity party here, but I have a really nasty scar for life from self-harming over these people when I was having hassle with them over the hob. I simply could not cope with the nastiness. I'm gutted as I've SH'd for years, but never left anything more than faint scars. I can't believe I did it over those horrible people. It's made me more determined now to take them for every penny they owe me now, though!

Lady - I'll be going the legal route all the way. I rang the council and utilities earlier and they've not closed any accounts. This will make it harder for me to prove that they've actually quit. However, EA says they're going to sign a surrender letter tomorrow (I reminded her that I can't accept new tenants until it was signed and a forwarding address supplied, and she reminded them that they're liable for rent until AST is up or I get someone in).

Again, thanks All. My struggle against depression and anxiety has been a long uphill slog. These people have made me ill, but the support I've had here has been nothing but uplifting for me.


Selks Sat 23-Mar-13 00:54:48

Glad to hear your update - that's great. A big weight off your shoulders smile

westcoastnortherner Sat 23-Mar-13 03:28:13

Good luck, I hope it all turns out ok, they sound like scammers. I'm no longer a LL it was too much stress

IneedAsockamnesty Sat 23-Mar-13 12:24:51

As you live next door,did you ever notice their car just being left engine running under a vent?

evansthebread Sat 23-Mar-13 21:39:19

Thanks again, All. I'm still worried, though :-(

Socket - Not idling for long time, but enough to defrost windows before driving off and to-ing and fro-ing trying to back into their spaces.

IneedAsockamnesty Sat 23-Mar-13 22:22:22

I was asking because its quite a common scam,raise the levels using your car by a vent or even hose through window, to frighten your ll into not chasing you for rent or other perks.

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