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Commercial Lease, out of date and not executed..Court Claim Received


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Hi there,

 

I have recently left a rented business property and paid my rent up to date. The landlord has since complained that I had not left the property in a good state of repair, a claim I strongly dispute.

 

The lease expired several years ago and I never received another one. The LL has now produced an amendment to the lease, which I never saw or signed, but even that has expired by more than one year. The property has been re let but the LL has now sent me a demand for several thousand pounds for restoration work and a surveyors report. I have had threatening letters from a solicitor but as of yet no court papers, should I be worried?

 

Many thanks for any help.

 

tibar

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burden of proof with them, a denial of any damage and liability wouldnt go amiss

 

I presume old lease fully repairing so any claim yould need to show that you were contractually obliged at the time of the supposed risrepair.

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Many thanks ericsbrother

 

I have sent a denial letter, sorry I have just been called away and need to go out. I will post tomorrow if you don`t mind as I would like to discuss your other post.

 

Thanks again and kind regards.

 

tibar

 

ericsbrother

 

Yes I have sent a letter to the LL solicitor denying any liability and stating the fact that I maintained the property (a shop) and also carried out restorative work prior to leaving.

 

I also stated that the decor was better than when I first occupied the property.

I added that it was my opinion that whatever restorative work I had undertaken would have failed to satisfy the LL and that he would have demanded money regardless.

 

The property has been re-let to another tenant who is operating a completely different business.

 

The LL did undertake some work on the shop prior to letting it,

that work was carried out by his Son,

it included such as plastering and new light fittings,

however I was a tenant for more than twelve years and obviously more modern fittings etc would be needed to attract a new tenant.

 

The terms in the initial lease were that I would maintain the to decor of the shop and to decorate it, which I did.

 

The lease ran out in 2011 and a new lease was never offered,

I continued paying the rent until I vacated at end of October 2015.

 

The locks were then, shortly after, changed and a parking restrictive barrier fitted.

 

The LL contacted me to point out some work was needed to restore the shop as per the lease. I carried out some work but he became more and more pedantic, I stated verbally to him that I considered I had upheld my obligations and ceased.

 

That was the last I heard until I received the first of two solicitors letters claiming several thousand pounds. I was extremely shocked.

 

The solicitors letter included a copy of a surveyors report which went frankly "over my head" and was very technical. There were no details of how the financial figure demanded was reached.

 

I responded by denying any debt and requested a copy of a true, fully executed copy of the lease.

 

I received another, more threatening, letter with a copy of the old lease which expired in 2011 attached to it was what appears to be an amendment, I had never seen this before, it was not signed by anyone.

 

This "amendment" was for three years and expired in 2014, more than one year before I vacated the shop.

 

I am at a total loss to know how I stand on this and I can ill afford to seek legal advice unless it becomes absolutely necessary.

 

If the absence of a current lease means the LL is just trying it on I would feel relieved.

 

He is a rather intimidating man and has recently told me verbally that he will bankrupt me.

 

I have stated in my response to the solicitor that I have no wish to converse, other than in writing, with their client.

 

Any help from caggers gratefully appreciated.

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it looks like they are trying to get you to pay for improvements rather than repairs and this is called "betterment" so not allowed.

Let them know that you will defend any claim vigorously.

 

As for the lease then despite it being expired you essentially agreed to carry on under the same terms.

Absolute proof of delivery on non delivery of the new terms of the lease wont be necessary, it will be more a matter of whose evidence a judge prefers on other matters and that will tip the balance of probability in that direction - winner takes all.

 

If the LL continues to try and contact you once you have said in writing or via a solicitors only you can make a complaint of harassment as both a criminal act and civil tort.

 

Depending on the amount this is all about that may be enough to consider a counterclaim but the threshold of what is harassment can be quite high depending on what form it takes.

 

Phone calls are low down on the scale unless violence is threatened so record all calls if possible.

A cheap recording answerphone should be enough.

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Many thanks ericsbrother

 

I am so very grateful that you have replied.

 

I think I understand and I am hopeful that the LL will not pursue. It is, IMO, quite inconceivable that he could justify his claim as the property was not in a poor condition when I left it. The "betterment" aspect seems to be his aim and I shall most certainly defend any action. I was obviously hoping that an outdated lease would have clinched it.

 

As to the potential harassment. I am now rather less concerned, I passed him in the street yesterday, it is a small town, and he walked by without comment. He would have, no doubt, received my message via his solicitor so hopefully that is a good sign but I am not "counting the chickens".

 

I do not want to go on and on but I can not thank you enough. Kind regards and best wishes.

 

tibar

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  • 1 month later...

This case is, unfortunately, still going on, no actual court summons as yet but it does seem quite possible. One thing I would appreciate advice on; the total for the repairs, demanded by his solicitor, also includes a claim for me to pay the LL surveyors fees. As I did not engage his surveyor can he successfully include the fees if he were to win the case? I am hoping that if he has no right to make this claim it would damage his standing in court, if it goes there.

 

Thanks for any replies.

 

tibar

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What does the lease say about his costs if he has to claim against you?.

 

Usually they say that the T is liable for the LL's costs : if he says he wouldn't be able to particularise the costs without a surveyor's report, it would be likely that costs (if reasonable!) could be claimed.

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again, what did the lease say?

If full repairing then the survey fees can be added on.

 

Were you givenn the opportunity to have an independent survey done at your expense?

If not then this is something to agrue about if you have evidence the work wasnt done or was "betterment" rather than repair.

 

You will need some evidence of this such as photographs.

Even pictures of the contents of a skip would be helpful, old doors in a skip point to improvements rather than repair for example.

 

You could always post up the surveyors reprt on here with your details and the shop address redacted.

There will be people who know the difference between a lick of paint and structural problems caused by time.

Likewise the lease should say what is expected such as full repairing and return to original condition if you for example take the windows out and remodel the shop front.

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Many thanks BazzaS.

 

It is a little complicated as the LL has not produced a copy of the initial lease, I was not actually running the shop when it first opened and I have no copy of it.

 

I have asked the LL`s solicitor for a copy of a true, fully executed copy but, as of yet they have failed to supply it.

 

I have looked at the protocol regarding issuing court action and he has not adhered to it in several ways, although hr has not actually sent the summons.

 

I did do a lot of restorative work at his request but he was very demanding and whatever I had done would not have satisfied him.

 

He then, without warning gave me the surveyors report but had work done by his son immediately after.

 

No costing or estimates were forthcoming just a huge total which is ludicrously out of line.

 

The total is just that, no breakdown of the work done, prices for materials or other evidence.

 

Thanks again and regards.

 

Thanks ericsbrother,

 

Yes I will try to do as you ask,

I will need help posting as I am not too good with computers.

 

Some of the light fittings I left are still in use at the shop, it has been re-let, and the surveyors report includes removing them, I will take some photos of that.

 

I was not given the chance of providing my own report, it was a case of the LL giving me his report and then his son immediately doing some work,

 

I did not have access to the shop at this time as I had handed him the keys and he had the locks changed, although I feel that will be denied. I know I have been naive.

 

Thanks again.

 

tibar

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  • 6 months later...

This matter has unfortunately raised it`s ugly head again and after several months of not hearing anything and thinking it was all over I have received a court claim letter from the former LL solicitor.

 

I had previously mounted a robust response (with photos) and stated that the light fittings were still in use at the shop, likewise very expensive marble floor tiles that I fitted at my expense. It seemed to do the trick but our paths crossed over the Christmas period.

 

I visited a local restaurant with friends and family and the LL was likewise there with people, no words were exchanged but after several minutes of intense staring at me he stormed out and cancelled the meals. I thought at the time that it might start again, he is not a man who likes to lose.

 

I do not think the LL can win this case as I have evidence of the work I undertook, I could not imagine a rational businessman taking this to court but he is obviously taking it personally and intends bringing a vexatious case.

 

I would be most grateful for some help with opinions.

The unstamped claim form states that I must choose which court I prefer, I wish to make it as difficult as possible so do you think I should not answer that question and if so could I then choose a different court if and when a summons arrives?

 

Also, do you think that the fact that I heard nothing for almost six months will be relevant at court?

 

Finally, and most importantly, when the summons arrives it will presumably contain all of the LL case documents, would he be able to add to this after he reads my defence?

 

I am concerned as the work he has stated that he has undertaken has not, so far, been backed up with receipts/invoices, his son supposedly did it.

 

The LL has fingers in many pies and I feel he may be able "produce" some spurious documents when, in my official defence, I draw attention to the fact that he lacks any corroboration.

 

Many thanks and regards. -- tibar

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The N1 is a summons, if correct you have to respond to this, there is nothing else to wait for. You will automatically lose othrwise. You say unstamped form- does it have a reference number or claim number on it? If so you can chack this with the courts service to see when it was issued and by whom. No number and they are merely pulling your chain. Computer generated forms from Northampton dotn have a stamp but do have a number.

 

The court will always be YOUR local one unles you choose another one for reasons such as near to work, disability access problems etc.

 

Come back here as soon as you have read the thing properly and can answer the above point re claim number. Your other questions can then be answered in order of importance to your situation rather than as a shotgun approach that is currently invited.

Edited by honeybee13
Paras.
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Many thanks ericsbrother, this is so good of you.

 

The Claim Form received is headed County Court Money Claim Centre, it has a Fee account number but the Claim Number box is blank.

There is a circle for a Seal Stamp but that is also blank.

 

Lower down it states Value - Less than £25,000.

It further states the Court venue which is not Northampton.

 

The venue is not too distant but not the nearest or my preferred.

 

The brief accompanying solicitor`s letter states "we enclose copies of the papers which have been filed with the court today to enable proceedings to be brought against you" it is dated 5 Jan and was received by ordinary post on 7th.

 

The Claim Form also has the total amount claimed and the court fee of more than £1000

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no claim number?no summons.

 

Did you phone the courts service and ask them whether it is genuine or not?

You can also sign up to moneyclaim online an once registered check to see if a claim has been issued.

The issuing centre is nothing to to with where a hearing may be held.

 

As it comes just from a solicitor I would wait for the genuine court claim, it should be with you in 3 days.

If you dont get it complain to the legal ombudsman about the solicitor making false representations of issuing court claims under the Courts Act.

 

In short these twits are just sending out threatening letters and should be given some bother over it.

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That is great news so far I just hope that it is an idle threat. I will register with moneyclaim later. If I ring the court tomorrow would they just give out the info or do I need to do more?

 

As the claim has quite a few holes in it as far I can see, I am concerned that he will try to cover himself when he sees my defence so I would like a definitive answer, if there is one, for possible piece of mind, regarding whether or not he would be able to add to his evidence after he views my case?

 

Many thanks as ever ericsbrother, donation sent.

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I dont give a toss about the content, you want to see if they have lodged a claim and then you know whetehr to expect a legit form on your doormat or not.

IF it is a fake claim then get complainting as suggested and make the sods suffer for taking money for telling lies.

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Yes it is a waiting game for sure.

I have tried to find out via Moneyclaim but without a claim number it is not possible.

 

I will ring the court later and try to find more from there.

I will most certainly complain if they are making false statements, it would be marvelous if that were the case.

 

Thanks as ever.

 

I have been on to the court and they have no knowledge of a claim, the Lady said that it might take up to 10 days as it would come from the "holding centre"?

 

She even said that the letter might not mean that it definitely will go to court.

 

So, for the moment it is so far so good. I will Just hope the dreaded package does not arrive but if it does I am now feeling more upbeat about it and ready for a fight if need be.

 

Regards and thanks.

 

tibar

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well the worst news today, the claim has arrived with a claim number and from Salford Court. I was very confident up to yesterday as nothing had arrived, I was ready to post the news and go on the attack at the weekend, but now very peeved.

 

I have only just looked and it has not quite sunk in yet but there seems to be very little substantiated evidence included, no receipts or invoices for supposed work etc. Would this follow on? I have several more questions and I will post later.

 

Many thanks and regards as ever. tibar

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you need to acknowledge the claim and then submit a defence.

You have 12 days to ack and then another 12 days for the defence.

 

It only need to be bullet points at the moment such as defendant didnt enter into contract with claimant so no monies due.

 

I am presuming they are saying that you owe for a breach of contract rather than as a contractual obligation.

 

The short defence wording should take into account what the claim is about.

 

If they dont make it clear then you respond by saying that the claim has no deatil as to waht it is for and request it be struck out under CPR 16.4 for having no cause of action

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So good of you to reply, Yes the case file is very sketchy the allegation, if that is the correct word, is that I left the shop in a dilapidated state and that he has spent more than £20,000 restoring it. So I would think it would be classed contractual obligation.

 

The lease clearly states that were I to gave notice to leave (min two months, which I gave) the LL should supply to me, in writing, what his requirements are (regarding restoration) at least four weeks prior to my departure, he gave no such list of requirements.

 

I had already vacated the property before he engaged a surveyor, he then 14 days after I had left gave me the surveyor`s report which had no costings on it whatsoever.

 

I then undertook the work myself (he temporally gave me the keys back) even though I considered him pedantic as he shop was in very good order.

 

He then took the keys from me, changed the locks and had a parking barrier placed outside the shop.

I am almost sure he did no further work.

No receipts or invoices have been included with the claim, it is as if he has just conjured a figure out of thin air.

 

I had very expensive marble tiles fitted at my own expense (approx 5 yrs ago) which are still in place plus a new WC was fitted two years ago, again at my expense.

 

It beggars belief that he ever spent even a fraction of what he claims.

The shop was a showroom for kitchen units and fittings, I would not have lasted ten minutes if the shop was half as bad as he is indicating.

 

I am still trading, just up the road. It is most certainly a very personal issue.

 

The surveyor report has a great deal wrong with it that I would value your opinion of but I will digest it more and re-post if that is OK with you?

 

Many thanks again, I most certainly value your input. -- tibar

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I would add that if the LL had followed the correct procedure regarding the lease and submitted a list of requirements four weeks before I vacated I would have engaged my own surveyor. As it was I had already left and I was in the process of working from a new venue. I did not even consider the possibility that he would do what he has done. Thanks

 

Another point that I would value advice/opinions is the Surveyor`s Report.

It would appear that the surveyors first visit to the shop was two weeks after I had vacated.

 

How would he know what the condition of the shop was when I first occupied it (it was, incidentally, far better when I vacated)? How could he compare and what is the criteria? Would he just follow what the LL tells him?

The LL is probably a regular customer as he owns quite a lot of property.

 

I have now replied to the court and I have a further fourteen days.

I would value any help.

 

As previously stated, the lease has a clause which states that the LL should have give me one months notice in writing of any reinstatement he required but he did not give notification.

 

There is a further clause that states " References to the reasonable opinion of the Landlord shall in case of dispute be capable of reference to an independent adjudicator to be appointed by the parties or in case of dispute by the President for the time being of the Law Society and whose decision as to the reasonableness of the Landlords opinion shall be final and binding on both parties except as to either manifest error or any error of law"

 

Does this mean that he should have suggested or even required me to go to mediation and the fact that he did not would damage his case? Plus the fact that he gave no written notice, or any notice whatsoever, of his requirements until fourteen days after I had left.

 

I really value your advice and opinion and I would be most grateful if you could let me have your views.

 

I am now becoming desperate and I would really value ANY help or opinions.

 

Perhaps I am not explaining things very well in my earlier few posts.

 

I still have several questions.

 

I have studied as much as possible and I now feel I might have cause to have this case struck out or even considered Vexatious, any opinions, help or suggestions on procedure would be most welcome.

 

Site Team: I would be grateful if you could suggest any way that I could attract more replies.

 

Many thanks and regards. -- tibar

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  • 3 weeks later...

Site Team are aware of your request tibar and will get back to you.

 

Regards

 

Andy

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