A destructive tenant who caused more than £17,000 worth of damage and accrued £10,000 in rent arrears from a Salford property was slapped with a hefty fine and Possession Order on Tuesday.
Julie Flesh, 44, a tenant at Antares Avenue in Lower Broughton was ordered to pay £27,100.01 to cover the cost of the rent arrears and the damage to the property, and to vacate the premises in the next 13 days at Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
Salix Homes, which manages 10,500 homes across Central Salford, sought legal action against Flesh, who abandoned the property in July 2009 and went to stay at a caravan in Cheshire and with her sister in Salford.
Flesh, who had been a tenant at the three-bedroom property since December 1999, had failed to inform Salix Homes that she was no longer residing there.
District Judge Harrison told the defendant: “The property has been trashed as a direct consequence of your own breach of the Tenancy Agreement.”
The property was found to be in a severe state of dereliction with damage totalling £17,435.
Salix Homes rendered the property inhabitable and the extensive damage included holes in the roof, structural damage and severe damp, with the electricity metre also bypassed.
During the two-day trial Flesh admitted she had not lived in the property since July 2009 and claimed to have given the keys to her sister, Victoria Flesh.
Her sister said she’d then given the keys to an anonymous third party who she allowed to live at the property, but refused to tell the court who the third party was.
The court heard how Greater Manchester Police raided the property in October 2010 and found remnants of a cannabis farm; however no criminal charges were ever brought in connection with the cultivation of drugs.
Flesh denied any knowledge of a third party living at the property and claimed she was unaware of the existence of a cannabis farm – saying that when she had last visited the property in July 2010, it had been in good order.
This was refuted by District Judge Harrison, who said the third party would have been living in the property at that time.
He said: “In July 2010, on the balance of probabilities, the property would have been damaged and even if it had not been damaged the third party would have been seen.
“I have come to the conclusion that the defendant was well aware of the occupation of the property and the damage to the property.”
The court also heard how Flesh was in breach of her Tenancy Agreement by failing to live at the property, by allowing an unauthorised third party free access to the house, by failing to prevent the cultivation of drugs, by allowing damage to the property and by failing to pay her rent.
Under the terms of the Tenancy Agreement signed by Flesh, all tenants are responsible not only for their own behaviour but the behaviour of other people living at the property and visitors to the property.
Flesh has paid no rent for the property since February 2011 when her Housing Benefit was stopped, after Salix Homes alerted the benefits agencies that she was not living at the property.
A total of £9,665.01 in rent arrears has been accrued – the highest of any social housing tenant in Salford.
Flesh claimed during the hearing that she had not paid the rent as she couldn’t claim Housing Benefit, but Judge Harrison did not accept this.
He said: “An obligation to pay rent is a contractual obligation which the tenant is liable. She has given me no good explanation as to why the fact that she couldn’t claim benefits should be a reason to excuse her obligation to pay rent.”
Sue Sutton, director of customer and neighbourhood services at Salix Homes, said: “This has been a long, drawn out and complex case which we are glad has finally been brought to a conclusion. This case involved several breaches of tenancy which Salix Homes takes very seriously.
“The property was found in a severe state of dereliction and was in fact the worst abandoned property we have ever had.
“There are currently more than 13,000 people waiting for social housing in Salford and owing to the actions of Julie Flesh, this three-bedroom property has not been lived in for four years – denying a family a much needed home.”