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Traumatised students pursued for unpaid rent

A Kent landlord has come under attack for pursuing unpaid rent from three students “too traumatised” to return to their house after finding their friend dead inside.

Werner Toogood runs the Student Lettings Agency in Canterbury which has about 200 properties housing 500 student tenants. He let a house in Sussex Road, Canterbury to four students for the 2013/14 academic year.

But on 11 January 2014 one of the students, Robert Chavda, 21, was found dead in his bed at the property having suffered a brain haemorrhage after taking the drug MDMA.


The other housemates who found his body needed counselling for post-traumatic stress and claimed they had been too upset to continue living in the house.

Traumatised, the students asked Toogood to find them alternative accommodation, but he was unable to. They were instead rehomed together by Canterbury Christ Church University and given counselling.

But Toogood is demanding they pay the remaining five months of their contract, taking a claim for £6,529 to Medway Civil Court.

Three of the students offered to pay Toogood three of the remaining five months of their tenancy to terminate the contract, but he refused. One student paid in full to avoid court action.

Toogood also offered the students and their families the chance to sublet the rooms in the house in order to fulfil the contract, but they declined.

Toogood told the court: “The fact is that the building is still there. The circumstances have not changed. It was not our circumstances which changed, but the tenants’. Had the building fallen down, it would have been a different argument.

“We did what we could, but unfortunately we did not have any spare accommodation.

“It was the tenants’ responsibility to pay the contract, but after various conversations we received a letter saying they were no longer going to continue with paying the rent.

“The offer was made for three months, but it was rejected because it would have left it fallow for three months.”

The court heard how Toogood had written to Chavda’s parents offering them a two-year repayment plan on their son’s outstanding rent, but later waived the debt.

In September 2014, he sent the surviving students a solicitor’s letter which sparked the civil action against them.

The court heard how the students and their parents claimed Toogood had started renovating the property after the students left – implying he accepted surrender of the property had taken place – but still pursued the unpaid rent.

District Judge Simon Gill adjourned the case and will present his judgement later this month.

Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.

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    I agree with the landlord especially with student lets.. Once you've missed the initial intake its nearly impossible to then relet. People need to take responsibility, if their fellow student was into drugs then they should have done the right thing and reported it.. Ignoring it wil cost them the rent and inconveinience

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    Why does this silly website run remorselessly anti landlord stories?

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    @Steve Willett - you've presumably never lived in shared accommodation. Often Students are unknown to each other before the house share and have no idea what the others get up to in their personal lives.
    As for reporting him, are you telling me that you've reported every single person you've ever met that may have broken the law ?

    Personally I think this is what gives landlord's a bad name. An ethical landlord, in such tragic circumstances, would simply make a claim for the amount he was out of pocket (i.e interest on any loan), not the rent, which includes an amount of profit.

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    It's just parenting too. The parents should be reprimanded for teaching their kids to shirk their responsibilities (a sad reality of our age I'm afraid). Ok, it's really unfortunate someone died in those premises. But business is business! Just like most airlines don't refund ALL your money if you've missed your flight for whatever reason, the same should be true for Landlords. Yes we get a bad press, but mostly it's unfair. The vast majority of Landlords are decent, hard working and upstanding citizens.

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    Mr Siddiq most landlords are , but you are heartless and Godless , I hope my children don' ever have to rent from you!!

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    To pursue the parents of the deceased student for the rent is a bit much and I am glad the landlord has seen sense and given up on this point.

    For the remaining students it's a different story I'm afraid. Yes, what happened is traumatic and yes, it is not their fault. But it is not the landlord's fault either. Yet for some reason, he's the one who should be expected to take it on the chin.

    He offered to allow the students permission sublet if they did not want to return to the property so he's going some way to finding a compromise. What more do they want?

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    Difficult story and hope we don't have to deal with such matters in our BTL properties. What ever stand the landlord takes in this matter, he stands to loose either way- unfortunately!!


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