Potential Dispute regarding Refurbishment

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Kam Naqvi
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Dear All,
I am having an issue with one of my tenants and I need some advice on that.
I have let my 5-bedroom HMO to student tenants for 11 months from 01 September 2015 to 31 July 2016. Since it is a single AST agreement, all the tenants are collectively responsible to pay the monthly rent, although they have evenly divided the monthly rent among themselves and pay it via 5 different standing orders every month. They have already paid their 10 months’ rent, while the final month’s rent is due on 1st of July 2016.
For day to day communication with the tenants for any issues and concerns on either side I have established a watsapp group and have included all the 5 tenants in it.
The house in question also has a basement which is inhabitable at the moment due to excessive condensation and mould, therefore I keep it locked so it remains inaccessible for the tenants. In March 2016 I contemplated upon the idea of doing some refurbishment work in the basement to make it habitable via damp proofing, installing a new staircase and an additional shower room. After taking quotation for the work from the builder, I approached the tenants through watsapp messaging to seek their permission to allow the refurbishment work while they are in the property. All of them unanimously gave me the permission to allow the work to happen in June 2016. Based on this consent I engaged the builder and booked him to start the work from Week Starting 20th of June. There were no further communications with the tenants after that.
Since the work is due to start from next week, yesterday I again communicated with the tenants on wattsapp group to give them the heads up for forthcoming works. Almost sending that message I received a phone call from the father who is also the guarantor of one of the tenants named J (name changed). He said that his son is currently not living in the property as he dropped off from the University months ago and since then he has been paying rent on behalf of his son only to fulfil the tenancy agreement. He further asserted that he will not allow the refurbishment unless I forgo his son’s part of final month’s (July) rent (£325). I explained to him that contractually his son along with the other tenants collectively are contractually bound to pay the monthly rent for 11 months and his son along with his other housemates already gave me the permission in watsapp messages to carry out the work in June before the end of tenancy. I also assured him that since the work will be done in the basement there will be minimal disruption in rest of the house. In response to that he rejected the watsapp communication as a binding agreement by asserting that his son is not mature enough to see the underlying issue of disruption in the house as the builders will be accessing the house through a single entrance.
As J is not even living in the property it is quite clear now that his Father is trying to avoid paying the rent and making the refurbishment as an excuse for doing so. I have checked with my builders to see if the work can be postponed until August for which the answer was negative due to their other commitments.
With above in perspective my questions to you are as follow.
1. In my view I needed permission from the tenant not his Father (who is his guarantor) and therefore father shouldn’t be speaking on his son’s behalf. Is that correct?
2. If I carry out the refurbishment work and J doesn’t pay his part of the rent as mentioned by his father, can I or should I deduct it from the holding deposit at the end of the tenancy?
3. Would the tenancy deposit agency allow me to deduct the deposit based upon the above described illustrations?
4. If the tenant or his father decide to take the issue to the court, would watsapp messaging will be regarded as a plausible evidence to defend my position in the eyes of court?
5. Would the court allow his father to represent his son for this issue?
Any suggestion over and top of the answers to the above questions will be appreciated.

18/06/2016 15:55

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