The Key Place and Copper Theft 1st Jan 2016
Some tenancies run smoothly, others less so. This is one such tenancy.
We let out a flat in Midlothian to a well referenced tenant, Mark, who was in full time employment. He paid his rent on time and looked after the flat well. A few months into the tenancy Mark missed a rent payment. We called him to ask why but couldn’t get hold of him. Then, a few days later, the downstairs neighbour (who is also a tenant of ours) called the office to say that there was water coming through his ceiling from Mark’s flat. He also said that Mark seemed to be removing the water tank from the flat.
Myself and my manager went to have a look, and, under the circumstances, decided to call the environmental officer at Midlothian Council to see if he would come too. The 3 of us rang the bell and Mark answered in his boxer shorts! We went into the hall and found copper tank carnage. He had ripped the copper tank out, along with all of the pipework. The bath was full of bits of pipe, connectors, insulation etc. Mark claimed that he was trying to fix a leak. We suspected this wasn’t true! He was pretty agitated at us being there.
We took a look around the flat. Mark had removed every single door and had them leaning against the wall. He claimed he was fixing them too. There was a lot of copper piping stacked up in the bedroom, although we weren’t sure where this came from.
We needed to call the plumber and so went outside to do so. The environmental officer asked us if we had seen the firearm in the bedroom! Well at that point we decided to stay outside and called the police as well. When the plumber arrived, he went up to the flat with the environmental officer, turned the water off, assessed the damage, and left.
At some point later the police attended the flat and along with the firearm found a large bag of cannabis resin. They could clearly see the vandalism and suspected as we did that Mark was planning on selling the copper tank and pipes, and probably the doors too.
We needed to work out what to do next and decided to take legal advice. The tenant was very insistent that it was our duty to provide a habitable flat and we should therefore repair the damage. However he had caused the damage and so legally we were not responsible for putting it right. The conflicting views led to a stand-off.
Although we had served Notice to Quit, the vacate date was some time off. We asked the tenant if he would leave as there was no water, however he continued to occupy the flat (although we were unsure if he was actually living there). After a number of weeks, it became clear that Mark had abandoned the flat. This meant that we could take it back, sort it out and re-let.
The whole incident ended up going to court. We had been summoned and so went along, however Mark pleaded guilty on the day, and was locked up. It turned out that he had lost his job and had got into drugs and money difficulties. There was no point in the owner going to small claims as Mark had no money so the owner would be throwing good money after bad.
There is a happy ending to all of this though, as the flat is now let to a lovely tenant who we think is unlikely to try and run off with the tank!