Retired Tring couple fight for more time after being served alleged retaliatory eviction notice

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A retired couple from Tring are pleading with the local authorities and not-for-profit bodies to assist after they were served a Section 21 order.

Anthony Nicholls and Maxine Gant, were given two months to leave their home in Tring – and believe their eviction is linked to issues raised with the home.

Anthony, 66, and Maxine, 58, who are renting their property in the town, now have less than a month to find a new place to live.

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And the couple, who are asking to be given four months more to get their lives in order, believe their eviction is connected to issues they raised regarding mould building up on the walls of the property.

the mould in questionthe mould in question
the mould in question

They say the mouldy walls were reported to the landlords, who do not believe the issue is theirs to deal with.

It is the assertion of the landlords that the damp and mouldy areas of the property are linked to insufficient heating and ventilation and therefore not their responsibility to deal with.

The landlords were allegedly told about the black mould gathering on the walls in the one-bedroom home in March this year and then again in writing a month later.

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Potentially damp and damaged walls are especially concerning to Anthony who is dealing with ongoing health concerns he says can occasionally leave him bedridden.

The reported black mouldThe reported black mould
The reported black mould

Anthony says he has a chronic illness which affects his immune system and ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

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It was after the landlords’ refusal to look into removing the mould that the couple decided to contact Dacorum Borough Council.

"Within a very short space of time of the council contacting him", he issues us with a Section 21,” Anthony said.

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On 8 June, Anthony and Maxine were given two months to vacate the property they have lived in since February 2017.

But Landlords Anthony Dowie and Karen Merritt, who refused to comment on this story, dispute the claim that the couple were issued a section 21 notice, saying that the couple’s contract was up in two months time.

This newspaper has seen documentation titled Section 21, which was sent to Anthony and Maxine and also signed by the landlords.

Maxine said: “It's a lot of stress on both of us. We've had sleepless nights. The way we've been treated is terrible."

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The couple felt they had no choice but to contact the local media based on conversations held with caseworkers representing Citizens Advice and Shelter.

Both organisations declined to comment on this case as per their policies, but have clear guidelines on what represents a retaliatory eviction which is available to the public.

Shelter’s retaliatory eviction criteria states it is when: “A landlord serves a section 21 notice after a tenant complains about poor conditions and the local authority serves a relevant notice”.

Shelter believes this type of eviction is invalid when it relates to an improvement notice in relation to a category 1 or 2 hazard, or an emergency remedial action notice.

A Shelter’s advice page continues stating:

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“A landlord cannot serve a valid notice where all the following steps apply.

“Before service of the section 21 notice, the tenant made a complaint to the landlord or the landlord's agent in writing about the condition of the property, including the common parts.

"The tenant made a follow-up complaint to the local authority about the same, or substantially the same, issue.

"As a result of the tenant's complaint, the local authority served a relevant notice on the landlord.”

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Citizen’s Advice lays out similar instructions regarding Section 21 order evictions, which read as follows: “Your landlord has to keep your home in a good condition and do repairs if you need them.

“They can’t make you leave your home just for asking for repairs to be done - your landlord has to follow a proper eviction process if they want you to leave.

“If your landlord tries to evict you because you asked for repairs this is known as ‘retaliatory eviction’. You might be able to challenge a retaliatory eviction. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if your landlord tries to evict you for asking for repairs or you’re worried about asking for repairs.”

This newspaper has seen correspondence between a Citizen’s Advice housing advisor and a Dacorum Borough Council official, calling the landlord’s attempts to fix the mould issues, “inadequate and unsuccessful”.

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Also, the advisor refers to the landlord’s actions as a “clear, revenge eviction” labelling the incident as a “sorry state of affairs”.

A spokesperson for Dacorum Borough Council told sister papers The Bucks Herald and Hemel Gazette on July 22: “We are unable to comment on individual cases but we our Private Sector Housing Team work have been working with the tenant to provide advice and support in respect of their concerns, due to concerns raised a referral has also been made to our Homeless Prevention Team and the services will work collaboratively to support the resident.”

In conversations since then Anthony said that he has received little correspondence and support from the council since.

The couple remain in limbo finding the current housing market a difficult one to navigate, especially on such a tight, unexpected deadline.

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Discussions have been held between the two parties on potentially arranging a conditional extension to the eviction, but the couple remain reluctant to sign the agreement.

The landlords refused to comment on the record, but have intimated to The Bucks Herald and Gazette that they believe it is inaccurate and misleading to refer to the eviction as a Section 21 order.

The landlords state the couple were told their eviction is linked to the end of their tenancy.

This newspaper has seen documentation suggesting the landlords believe the mould is the responsibility of the tenants as it has been caused by ventilation issues relating to how the tenants live.