Tenancy Agreements – Ask Sharon


 

Tenancy agreements

  ASK SHARON

Scroll down to find the advice you are looking for. Most recent questions and answers are listed first.

Statutory perodic tenancy

I have a single mother on housing benefit who has been a tenant for 18 months; it was originally a 6 month AST, now converted to a statutory periodic tenancy. She has asked if her boyfriend can move in. I told her I needed to reference check him and a new 6 month ast agreement will have to commence. Also she needs to talk to housing benefit people. Is this correct or is there a better way for me? I know I am going to have to give them 6 months assurance under the new ast rather than the more flexable periodic contract that is operating now.

You are obviously happy with this tenant or you would not be asking the questions. That said, I would be dubious, given the very temporary nature of many modern relationships to end very quickly, to give him any rights in the property just yet. He can move in, if you give your permission, without being given rights. Before you give permission for him to move in, still do the full reference checks – he could have been the neighbor from hell in another property and you would not want him in yours, if this is the case. Yes, housing benefits must be notified that he is lodging there and this will almost certainly affect the benefit your tenant is receiving, so this must be sorted out asap. You may need to check with housing benefits that they have done this. I always err on the side of caution and I think in this case, following the lead of the council gives you a get-out but keeps your tenant with full rights. Tell her that if she was in a council property, they would expect him to live with her 12 months before he could be given legal status in the property and that you operate on the same lines. If things go wrong, she can tell him to go and her security is unaffected. If things work out well, in 12 months you will have confidence that this is going well and can then give the tenancy agreement. Until then, you have the flexibility you seem to value.


Who should sign?

I am lucky in having very good tenants who have been renting from me for three or four years. I renew them every year with a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.

As there are two tenants and my husband and I jointly own the property, we have all four of us been signing it, with a witness. The property is some distance from my home and I wondered whether it would be in order for just two of us to sign, or whether it could be signed by post?

Your two tenants must both sign, as this makes them ‘jointly and severally’ liable, which gives you better rights should you need to recover a debt. I would hesitate to change what has been in place for a while and which has worked well for you, but if you feel happy to just have one of you to sign as landlord, I cannot see that would make much difference to anything. The main thing is that both tenants sign. Remember though that if the tenancy now goes in the name of one landlord, then you have to ensure that he or she is the one who signs official notices and the like. If you do this, be very clear with the tenants who they should contact if needs be.


Appropriate agreement

I was given agreement that is titled 6 month assured shorthold tenancy even though I live in one room with my son in a house that I have shared with the landlord since 1 June. I feel she might want to evict me because she works nights and my son who is one is very noisy in the day. What rights do I have as a tenant and if I needed to go to the council would this be seen as a settled accommodation. (pay for bills between us and pay rent with housing benefit).

I am sorry, but I don’t think this is a tenancy, it sounds like you are a lodger, living there under licence. You have the right to reasonable notice, but possibly, nothing more. However, if she has given you an agreement, she may perhaps feel she is bound by what is in it, even if legally, she is not. She must have been aware that a one year old would make some noise, and if she has made no complaint, try not to worry about it. However, I think you should perhaps look for somewhere where your child can be himself without you worrying about the landlady.


One sided break clause

I am four months into a twelve month contract (ending March 2010). I changed jobs in June and now work really long hours so want to move closer to work. I have asked my landlord if I can be released from the contract early as there is no break clause. I have offered up to two months’ notice for him to find another tenant or to stay until one is found. There is a six month break clause for him to exercise but not for me.

Please will you clarify my position? Can he force me to stay?

As you don’t say what your landlord responded to your requests to be released, I take it he did not agree. Write to the landlord stating your wish to take advantage of the six month break clause, which gives him just about two months’ notice. State that as he is bound by the 1988 Housing Act (amended 1996) which states that the tenancy cannot be ended before the termination of the tenancy, the one sided break clause would appear to be an unfair contract term. See what response you get. If it is still unsatisfactory, see the Office of Fair Trading/Trading Standards and get their opinion on it.

I would also say that whilst I would always fight for landlords, landlords should also try and be fair with their tenants. If you leave at the end of six months, having advised him you intended to go, allowed him access to show the property to prospective tenants etc, he would have to go to the small claims court to hold you to the agreement. At that point, you would point out the unfair contract term, have copies of the letters you have written to the landlord etc. He would have to provide proof that he had tried to find another tenant and provide copies of newspaper adverts, applications received etc. The court is unlikely to decide you should still be responsible for the rent if the landlord has not done what he should.

However, never sign an agreement for such a lengthy period if it is likely you will not settle. You must have changed jobs within days of moving and you would have been better waiting to move until you knew where you would be working.


Tenancy extension

I have used the assured shorthold tenancy agreement for a 6 month initial tenancy. The actual term I outlined was from your excellent site and written as, “6 months commencing on xxxxx and ending on xxxxxxx and any period of holding over or extension or continuance by statute or common law” As the tenant wishes to continue on a monthly basis, does the above wording allow the agreement to continue unchanged, or do I need draw up a new agreement, or can a one page extension notice be sufficient with both parties signature and date?

I think this covers you to allow the tenancy to continue as a Statutory Periodic Tenancy, to which an assured shorthold tenancy automatically converts at the expiry of the tenancy.


Placing the responsibility on tenants

With my girlfriend I recently started a 6 month tenancy for an unfurnished property. This afternoon I took another look at the tenancy agreements and spotted a clause which stated: ‘If any appliances supplied by the landlord break down, it is not their responsibility to replace/mend the appliance’. Also, the small print stated: ‘Note. If the property has electrical items such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, TV, radios, microwaves, fridge/freezers, dishwashers, dryers and such like, the tenant is responsible for the maintenance of such equipment and any repairs necessary their tenancy’.

This sounds out of order to me and i have never heard of a landlord expecting a tenant to repair their own equipment. As far as I am concerned, if the washing machine breaks down it should not be my responsibility to fix it, I don’t own it and have rented the property with it. I would never have signed this agreement if I had seen these clauses earlier. It may be a standard clause they put in to cover themselves and in practice they don’t actually honour it. But I am uncomfortable with this.

Am I now legally obliged to repair any equipment provided? Is there any cooling off period in which I can challenge this? What should I do, so that I do not have to replace/repair equipment?

You should really have read the agreement before signing, but you are quite right – if equipment breaks due to wear and tear, there is no responsibility on you to repair. If the washing machine breaks because a child puts a brick in (it could happen, that is not fair wear and tear and would be the responsibility of the tenant. An unfurnished tenancy probably means there are very few appliances provided, but if there are, such as built-in cooker, washer etc., it is the landlord’s responsibility. As you are obviously sensible tenants, you would probably wish to get this sorted before a replacement or repair arises, so:

Write to the landlord, note the appliances he or she has provided and state you have taken advice on this point and would like some reassurance that provided the equipment is kept properly, you expect them to be repaired/replaced, should that be necessary.

If the landlord is obdurate, then I am afraid you will have to be quite assertive and state that you will take advice from the Office of Fair Trading/Trading Standards or Housing Aid or even Shelter as you believe this to be an unfair term.

Any of these actions are likely to make the landlord feel quite miffed, so be prepared to receive notice and look for somewhere else at the end of the tenancy – then read the agreement before signing.


When is a renewal a renewal

I have rented my property to a couple for the past year on a 12 month term with 6 month break clause. In advance of the term ending I told them that I would be happy to renew the agreement. I sent them a tenancy renewal agreement to this effect, which they signed and returned before the end of the tenancy period. The only change I made was to small reduction in rent to take into account the current state of the market.

During this time I had a good valuation on the property and am willing to sell should I receive an offer near this amount. I have told the tenants of my intentions and have placed the property on the market.

I am now rather confused about the legal position in which leaves both myself and my tenants. I live out of the country and have been relying on an agency.

Since I did not countersign the tenancy renewal agreement, am I correct in thinking that the tenancy is now legally a periodic tenancy, and that I am able to give two months’ notice and they are able to give one month notice? I am worried that I did not inform the tenants of the change in circumstances until after the new term had started, by which time they had paid their first month’s rent at the new level. Is there any way that their paying the first month’s rent could have enacted a new 12 month term contract?

The agency has now issued the tenants with a new draft of the tenancy renewal agreement, which includes a two month break clause on either side. Assuming they sign this, and it is back-dated, will everything be covered?

I look at how a court may look at this, should a dispute arise, or should your tenants not be happy to sign the most recent agreement. I think a court would look most sympathetically at the tenants, given that they did what was required and signed the first agreement they were presented with. They paid the first month’s rent in good faith.

If I was the tenant, I would probably feel that the second agreement reduced my rights and disturbed myr quiet enjoyment of the property, given that if the property is now up for sale, there will presumably be a board put up and I may be asked to allow viewings.

If the tenants are happy to go along with the new agreement, fine, but I think they may not and only a court could then decide on the validity of an agreement you did not sign.


Responsibility for fire protection

I am a landlord but this question is about my step son who has rented a furnished flat for six months. The wall-mounted heaters in the flat were not working. During an inspection visit the landlord’s agent advised him to use a portable convector heater supplied with the flat.

Last week he left the portable convector heater turned on while out. On his return some hours later he found the heater had caught fire and the carpet was burning. He put out the fire himself but there is now damage to the carpet and extensive smoke damage to the walls and furnishings.

The agent says the fire and the resulting repairs are the responsibility of my step son. The firm says common sense dictates he should not have left the heater on when away from the flat.

My argument is that it was an accident. The convector heater was supplied by the landlord. No operating instructions were supplied and the tenancy agreement has a clause stating that: ‘the landlord covers accidental fire risk’. Surely this was an accidental fire.

Further my son relied on this clause when deciding not to take out contents insurance.

Who is responsible? Please advise.

As a result of this we realised we did not have adequate insurance cover on our own properties so have now taken out landlords’ contents insurance including accidental fire risk. We are now in the process of demanding that our tenants take out contents insurance.

Please remember that my work is with landlords. If a tenant approached me and said ‘it was an accident’, I would feel I had to say that that was unfortunate, but it is still your responsibility. The clause in the agreement is interesting – but I wonder whether the landlord’s interpretation would be that he or she covers unavoidable fire damage which was not caused by the tenant’s own actions.

I am afraid I think your son was responsible – he should not have left the heater on.

Not to take out contents insurance on the basis of the clause seems a trifle short-sighted – a flood could have caused the same level of damage, he could have been burgled. I do not think it is appropriate to try and apportion blame because of a lack of insurance on the clause.

I think the steps you have taken with your own properties would indicate that you know that your son left himself at risk. I think I would try and negotiate with the agent along the lines that the wall heaters should have been working. Perhaps an agreement to pay half each would be the best you could manage.


Partial continuation

We issued a shorthold tenancy agreement to a couple who have now split up. The fixed term of 12 months has expired and we have been continuing on the basis of a periodic tenancy.

One half of the couple wishes to stay and we are happy with that. Can we just issue a new contract in his name only to supersede the original, or do we need to give notice to bring that one to an end?

Provided there is agreement on both sides that one leaves, I cannot see that you need to give notice as the one who has left should have given you notice anyway. I would always advise that you confirm anything in writing, provided you have a forwarding address. However, if there seems some disagreement between them, serve them both a notice. Whatever the circumstances, issue a new tenancy agreement in one name. It may not apply, but be aware that if your tenant now or at some time in the future needs to apply for local housing allowance/housing benefit, he will be limited to the single person rate, so ensure he can afford the rent on his own.


Selling rental property

We have put our let property up for sale – our tenants are aware of this and have not complained since we have given verbal assurances that we will give them at least one month’s notice as soon as we have a buyer. The six month tenancy runs out at the end of September. How can we document this?

Just a letter confirming that the original tenancy has expired and has therefore converted to a statutory periodic tenancy from the date of expiry, to run on month by month, should be sufficient. Just as a point of interest (and law) – your tenants have the right to 2 months notice – if they are happy with one month, fine, but should they be unable to find alternative accommodation and approach the local authority, they will be told this is an illegal eviction.



Guest or joint tenant?

One of my male tenants who has an AST has allowed his male friends to stay with him for over a year since the break up of his marriage. Originally this was meant to be a temporary arrangement.

The guest pays the food bills and contributes towards other running costs but my tenant assures me he receives no rent because he is aware he cannot sublet. The tenant has been advised that this situation cannot continue indefinitely and my preference is for a joint tenancy agreement to be drawn up. Is this the best way to legalise the position for all parties and is there a limit to the rate of rent increase I am allowed to imposer to reflect two persons living in the property?

This is quite interesting but also tricky. My feelings are that there is a rent for a property, based on facilities, size etc., but not necessarily on how many people are living there. For example, in the area I am familiar with, a rent of £100 per week would be standard for a two bed property. If only one person takes it, then the rent is still £100. Local Housing Allowance will only pay £80 for one person, but that is irrelevant to the rent the landlord wants.

Unless you feel the rent you charged the one tenant was discounted because of the fact it was sole occupancy, I do not see that you can ask for anything more than a standard, cost of living increase which your original tenant should expect after more than a year. The additional costs associated with two people living in the property are being met through increased utilities charges.

The arrangement the tenant has made with the lodger may not be “rent” as we know it, but I think a court may believe that it constituted rent anyway.



Wanting to end the tenancy early

I am currently renting out the property I used to live in. A friend is managing the let for me.

The initial 12 month tenancy came to an end a few months ago. In my absence, my friend renewed the tenancy for two years (at the time he was unable to contact me because I was out of the country).

This is not OK. My discount rate mortgage ends soon and the rent will not cover the mortgage.

I have two options:
1 Move back into the property myself, or
2 Run up mortgage arrears and possibly allow the bank to repossess the property.

There is no equity in the property and I can’t remortgage and am having some financial difficulties.

The tenants have been good tenants and pay their rent on time, which makes it worse. I know this is my fault and feel terrible but don’t know what to do. Can I end the tenancy early?

I will of course refund their deposit in full, give as much notice as possible and could possibly give them, say, a month rent free by way of compensation?

This is unfortunate, as you cannot legally regain possession at this stage, without the tenants agreement. I think the best thing you can do is discuss it with the tenants honestly. Tell them the options you have, explaining that the worst scenario is that the property will be re-possessed which will leave them homeless anyway.

The steps you are prepared to take, with refunding the deposit, a month rent free, excellent reference to the next landlord, may be sufficient to persuade them to move out voluntarily. If they are not prepared to leave, I really do not know what you can do. I think the fact your friend gave them a two year tenancy makes it worse – they may have felt they were settled for quite a lengthy period. Negotiation is your only option. Is it worth speaking to your mortgage company, to see if they will allow any leeway with the discount mortgage rate, though I know in the current financial climate, that may not be an option. Best of luck with your tenants.


Flexible notice

My Tenant gave one month written notice, but stated that this may need to be extended as she may not be ready to vacate by then. Her tenancy dates run from the 27 to 26 of each month and the rent is paid calendar monthly.

She did not vacate the property on the 26 May and actually vacated on the 9 June and therefore extended her notice into the next rental period.

Am I therefore entitled to charge her for the whole month (27 May to 26June) or is she only liable up to 9 June? It’s just that it seems unfair as we didn’t have an exact move out date and we had a tenant to move in who was then put off as we couldn’t give an exact date to move in.

It depends how long it took you for a new tenant to move in. If they moved in before 26th June, then she was liable for the rent to that date. If it was later than that, then you are entitled to the full month, and could even claim to the date the new tenant moved in, though you may struggle to get it.

When she did not move on 26 May, I think you should have asked her for a new months notice and then there would be no argument. Tenants must realise that the law protects both parties and putting it in writing and then not acting on it negates the notice given, in my view.



Age restrictions

I would like to rent my two bed semi detached house to my daughter who is 17 years old and her friend who is 18. Will my daughter be able to sign the tenancy agreement if she is under 18? What options do we have if she can’t sign if underage?

Also, I understand that as the property will have only two occupants and I therefore don’t need a landlords licence and can just rent on the basis of being the landlord and us all having a tenancy agreement. Is this correct?

Lastly, I need to have the electrics and gas appliances tested and signed off with a landlord’s certificate. Is this correct?

A 17 year old cannot be bound by the terms of a tenancy agreement as she is not of a legal age. I cannot see any reasonable option for you. Were you letting to someone of 17 unconnected to you, you would ask for a guarantor who would sign the agreement, stating that the property was the residence of …………….only. Clearly, you cannot do this.

No, you do not require a licence for two occupiers though it would still count as a House in Multiple Occupation.

You must have the gas appliances and system inspected by a Corgi registered tradesman. This is a statutory requirement and must be done annually. There is not, at present, a statutory requirement to have the electrics checked, but it is good practice and, of course, you would want to ensure that your daughter was safe. If you have it done, it won’t be needed for a further five years.


Gardening

I am new to letting out property and have a query in regards to gardening. Who is responsible for the general upkeep of the garden, from lawn mowing to weeding? If it is the tenants’ responsibility, whose responsibility is it to provide the gardening equipment from lawnmowers to gardening shears and digging equipment?

It is generally down to the tenants, and should be included in the tenancy agreement. I think the upkeep of the garden must be discussed fully at the start (or even before). If you are letting your property unfurnished, then your tenants obviously has been established before, so may have the appropriate tools. If you are letting it furnished, then your tenants may not have the means to buy their own tools. Also, I have not seen your garden! Did it used to be your pride and joy? If so, and it must be with the tenant’s agreement, you may feel easier looking after it yourself. If the worst comes to the worst, it may be better providing the cheapest lawn mower than giving the tenants an excuse not to look after the lawn.


High rent lets

Can I use an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement for a let with rent in excess of £25k pa? What are the consequences if I do or what do I use instead?

I am afraid you cannot use this type of tenancy agreement – the feeling seems to be that a tenancy attracting this amount of rent does not require the protection afforded by an assured shorthold tenancy. I would advise that you seek the advice of a specialist solicitor in drawing up an appropriate agreement.



A year less a day

Thank you for your wonderful questions and answers on Residential Landlord. I find them invaluable.

Many tenancy agreements for 12 months state that the tenancy is for a period of twelve months less one day and I wondered what the ramifications of this are?

Also I now wish to grant a tenant an 18 month agreement with a one way break clause after 12 months for the tenant. How is best to proceed i.e. type of tenancy agreement.

Thank you for your kind comments, it is nice to hear that I am providing what landlords want.
The tenancy agreement length is very interesting. I believe that the ramifications are that it is important that the tenancy does not go into another rental period. For this reason, when advising landlords, I usually advise that they use months and dates, so: one year tenancy issued, beginning 1 January. I would write on the agreement that it commenced 1 January, rent payable on 1 of the month, tenancy to end 31 December. A s.21 notice would be issued 1 November, to end 31 December and a court order would be applied for after 31 December.

I think the other point, about an 18 month tenancy, seems unnecessarily complex. I would be inclined just to do a 12 month one and then let it run on, if the tenants did not wish to break it. However, an 18 month tenancy could be issued, with a clause added (it can be a different sheet, provided it is attached and you and the tenant both signing) stating that after 12 months/one year, the tenant can exercise the break clause. However, what is actually in the agreement only counts if there is likely to be a dispute. As you have already agreed that the tenancy can be broken, do you really need it? Hope that makes sense.


Additional signatories

A tenant to whom I would like to rent my property has a poor credit rating. Would it benefit me if I asked his parent to sign the agreement or not?

Provided he is over 18, he should sign his own tenancy agreement. What I would definitely do is ask his parents to be guarantors. Get a good deposit (you can ask for up to two months) and protect it, of course, with one of the Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes. If the parents stand as Guarantors, make sure they have the means to pay, should you find your tenant leaves arrears or damages. They should be home owners and be in full time work. To be honest, I would generally be cautious about a tenant with poor credit references, but you say you would like to rent to him, so presumably he has impressed you that he will be a good tenant.



Lodging agreement

I am hoping to rent out a room in my house. I am the home owner. The lodger will have a bedroom that is furnished with a bed and will have access to all living areas, bathing areas apart from my bedroom. I would like to draw up a lodgings agreement and wondered if you could advise me on what this needs to be written into it. Would you advise that a deposit is asked for also?

You can write in what you want, but include rent, when you are likely to want it increased (i.e. annually), what payment arrangements are, how much notice you can give, what is included in the rent, how you cover payment of bills (is it included in the rent or are you going to split them), specify the rooms he has access to, whether there is any facility for him to have overnight guests or whether that is forbidden. There may also be specified prohibitions, like no smoking, no pets etc. I would always recommend that you ask for a deposit, a month seems to be the norm.



AST v periodic

My wife and I are new to letting and we’re confused about what to do at the end of assured shorthold tenancy agreements. Do we have to keep renewing them at six monthly intervals? If not, are they automatically converted into statutory periodic tenancy agreements?

One of our agreements actually expired last November: has this already been automatically converted, or should we propose another six month agreement starting now? We’ve seen one agreement drawn up for another landlord who says it ‘intends to create an assured shorthold tenancy’ and yet the term is ‘for a period of six months and thereafter monthly until determined by notice in writing from either party’. Is this kind of hybrid agreement legal? If so, does it have any disadvantages from a landlord’s perspective?

Any tenancy which is for a fixed period and ends, but continues without a new agreement, automatically becomes a statutory periodic tenancy. The way I always used to explain it is that if I was a landlord, I would be quite happy with statutory periodic tenancies, as it would mean I would only have to give two month’s notice and could recover the property. If I was a tenant, I would want greater security than a periodic tenancy could offer. It is worth discussing with your tenants, whether they want agreements every six months (or perhaps every year after the tenant has lived there for six months and there has been no problem). I think the agreement you mention is OK, but the wording is unnecessary as it automatically converts. Can’t think of any disadvantages.



Corporate landlord

Can you tell me if there is a different residential tenancy agreement for company landlords (rather than individual landlords), i.e. do these still follow the same terms of either assured shorthold or assured tenancy agreements?

Provided the company is offering private rented accommodation on the same basis as a private landlord, working on his own, there should not really be any difference. Few private landlords would offer assured tenancies, but a company registered with the Housing Corporation as a Housing Association or Co-operative, might. However, it is difficult to say from the brief details you give me whether there are other implications. If in doubt, see a solicitor.



AST duration

Can you have an AST over 12 months? I have been told you can’t but have seen some AST’s for two and three years.

The landlord can issue an AST for up to seven years, I believe. However, I would never advise a landlord to issue a tenancy for that long. Six months to start and then a possible 12 month renewal, or allowed to converted to a statutory periodic tenancy and run on, but not such a long AST – the reason being that a tenant is difficult to evict if they do not do anything really bad in the tenancy, like lengthy rent arrears.

Also, the landlord may decide to sell the property or want to move a relative in, which would be impossible if a tenant has a degree of security for rwo or three years.



Contents Insurance

I own a property that I have just let out. The agents I am using have suggested as a term of the contract my tenants must have contents insurance. Is this an acceptable thing to do? Can the tenants object and indeed not take the insurance out?

I think it makes good sense to have this, and as it protects them more than you, why would they object? Anything you have in the property should be covered by your own insurance, so carpets, curtains, any appliances etc. However, if they choose not to insure, how would you know? If you discovered it, you would probably not be able to evict on that ground, as it would be discretionary. A court is unlikely to feel that it is reasonable for you to go for possession on the basis that they have not done something which safeguards their own valuables. Just a thought – the insurance would not have to come from a company which the agent receives commission from, would it? If there is any connection, it is even less likely that a court would find in your favour and may find it was an unfair contract term.


Ignoring terms

I have a property let through a letting agent.

My tenants have not asked my permission to hang pictures, install sky, change some of the fixtures, as in change and add net curtains etc. Some of these have damaged the exterior of my property.

I was under the impression from my contract drafted by my letting agent, the tenants needed to get permission from me beforehand. Obviously this is not the case as my letting agent has said they can do whatever they want as long as they make it good at the end of tenancy. Is this right?

What is the point of having a contract? It does not sound as though the contract is worth the paper it is written on and is more to protect the tenant as opposed to the landlord.

Is there anything I can do? They have signed a two year tenancy with a break out clause after 12 months. They have only been at the property for three months.

Also the contract says no pets, but on a recent visit fish have appeared. Are these classed as pets? Again should they have said anything to me?

Your agent seems remarkably cool about tenants doing things they should not – his experience should tell him that the likelihood of the tenants doing what is required to put the property back in order at the end of the tenancy is quite low. I would prefer that six month tenancies are given, with the option of extending.

I think you are tied to these tenants. Check the agreement – does the break clause apply to both sides, you and the tenants? Often it is the option for the tenants only, but if you can break it, tell the agent that the contract will not be continued after one year unless you are satisfied that certainly the external damage is repaired before the renewal date.

I have to say though, that I would be very surprised if you can break after one year, as the ground you would be using is section 21, if there is not another available ground, which would be difficult when on the face of it you have a two year contract.

The contract is meant to apply to both parties, but it is very difficult to obtain possession on the grounds you have mentioned, in that breaking the terms of the agreement other than rent arrears, is a discretionary ground and would require a court to feel that it was reasonable for you to want possession. Net curtains may seem not very reasonable, particularly if they go to court and say ‘We were committed to this tenancy, it is for two years and we wanted to guard our privacy/hang pictures, make it into a home’. I think you are going to have to bite the bullet and leave it to the agent.

I thinkit would be stretching it a bit to say the tenant has broken tenancy agreement by keeping fish. If your tenant went to Trading Standards, they would almost certainly say this was an unfair contract term. Dogs and cats leave hair, possibly odours and maybe even worse. Fish cannot come into the same category.



Cooling off period

I had a room available for rent and a guy came round to view the room, liked it and we signed the contract which specified the minimum tenancy would be three months.

He didn’t give me any money and said he would give me the deposit and a month’s rent in a couple of day’s time. But he rang me later and told me he had changed his mind and didn’t want to move anymore. So, although we signed the contract, he hasn’t moved in, doesn’t have the keys and hasn’t given me any money.

Is there a cooling off period after signing a tenancy agreement? Does he have to honour the contract?
People like you or I would say this was a contract and would feel bound by it. Unfortunately, he clearly does not. Even with an assured shorthold tenancy, there is no cooling off period, and even if an agreement is signed, most landlords appreciate that if a prospective tenant changes his mind, there is little they can do about it, though some may keep a week of the deposit to cover re-advertisement costs or loss of rent.

Even after the tenant has moved in, if he changes his mind and moves out, the only way a landlord can be recompensed for failure to keep to the contract is via the Small Claims Court, but even that is unlikely to result in compensation. It is far more likely the landlord would have to provide proof of what he has done to get a new tenant, obviously no compensation being payable when a new tenant moves in. So sorry, I don’t think there is a lot you can do.


Position as guarantor

I helped a friend by acting as a guarantor on a 12 month tenancy agreement at £ 330 per week with a break clause at six months with one month notice. After exactly five months minus 1 day, I asked the estate agent acting for the landlord if I could break the tenancy agreement as a guarantor. Their answer was a very clear ‘yes’ and no ‘buts’. So I did. Then two weeks later the estate agent came crawling back saying it was all a misunderstanding and the landlord did not accept it, claiming that the landlord said only the tenant could invoke the break clause. Obviously I disagreed, pointing out the advice they gave me. It is now two months later and we have not had any formal conversation about this.

The contract clearly stated that three parties were involved and signed the agreement and that each party could break at six month given one month’s notice.

If this came to court what would be my chances?

I really would have to see the agreement to give any kind of advice on this. However, I would generally say that unless the agreement clearly indicates otherwise, a tenancy agreement would be between a landlord and tenant and that the guarantor is not, strictly speaking, party to the tenancy. I think you need to discuss this with your friend. I think (and as I say, without the agreement I cannot be certain) a court may feel that the break clause was to benefit your friend and that you had agreed to be a guarantor for a 12 month tenancy.


What sort is needed?

I have just bought my first property in London. It is a furnished flat that I am going to let. What kind tenancy agreement I need? Is the one they sell in WH Smith good enough to use? Would that guarantee my rights as a landlord?

Yes, this should be quite adequate. Your local landlord’s scheme/accreditation scheme may also provide a tenancy agreement, or you could download a free outline tenancy agreement from this website. Whichever route you chose, I would advise that you read the agreement carefully and add any clauses need to cover anything that has been omitted but is needed in your own circumstances – for example, the right to make regular inspections; the requirement that notice be given when the tenant intends to leave the premises empty for longer than 14 days, the right to end the tenancy in the case of suspected abandonment by serving a 28 day Notice to Quit; agreement that any goods left in the premises after the expiry of the tenancy will be kept for seven days and then disposed of; and confirmation that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.


Change of heart

Providing all sums paid to date are refunded, can I as a landlord go back on a signed tenancy agreement before the prospective tenant has gained occupation?

For a contract to be effective there must be an offer, an acceptance and an exchange of value. So if a tenancy agreement is offered, accepted and money accepted, there is a legal liability in place on both sides – after all there is a rental liability from the date the agreement starts.

Tenants may have invested time and money in finding a suitable let. So simply saying sorry is unlikely to wash. Unless the tenant agrees for some reason (a financial incentive perhaps) to accept cancellation of the agreement than I think he or she could argue that any attempt to stop him or her moving in amounts to an illegal eviction.


Permitted viewings

We have had a tenant in a property for the last four years, with whom we have had a good working relationship. He has given a month’s notice with 12 days of his tenancy still remaining.

Last week I conducted viewings with prospective tenants, with the current tenant present, and he stated that no viewings can take place without him being there. The property is completely empty and he is now living elsewhere so I feel that this is unreasonable.

I have more prospective tenants lined up to view, however the tenant works nights and is not always available (in fact telling me that no viewings can take place until next week, at a time to suit him) he is adamant that as he is still paying rent, no one can enter the property.

I would like to know what my rights are. The tenancy agreement states that that the tenant should: ‘permit the landlord or the Landlord’s agents at reasonable hours in the daytime within the last twenty-eight days of the tenancy to enter and view the property with prospective tenants’.

I have never come across this before, and usually tenants allow us to show people around whilst they are still living in the property with it fully furnished.

Could you please advise of the best solution, I have tried ringing the tenant but he will not answer the telephone. I sent him a text advising that we cannot put off viewings until Monday, and he texted back saying we could not enter.

This seems to be the week for awkward tenants! I am in total agreement with you – this is unreasonable. However, agreeing with you does not really help the situation as the tenant is still paying the rent and is choosing to be obstructive. Although the tenancy agreement he signed does say that viewings should be allowed, he has nothing to lose now by refusing to allow it. Is it worth the unpleasantness if you decide to let people view it without him? He could certainly allege that this is harassment, if he takes the matter up with Shelter or a Housing Aid organisation. I would try and talk to him and see if you can reach some kind of compromise, but if not, bite the bullet and wait until his tenancy is over.



Formalising agreement

I have been renting out a property for the past six years. The original agreement – an assured shorthold tenancy – was with a group of tenants who were young professionals and all friends. Amongst other things, the original agreement specified that the rent was payable monthly, the agreed sum being for the house as a whole, with a maximum of five tenants at any time.

Over the years, the original group of tenants has changed one by one, and by now none of the original group lives at the property – each time a tenant has left the remaining tenants have found another suitable person.

This means I have not entered into a written contract of any kind with any of the current tenants.

Recently, one of the tenants left, giving one month’s verbal notice as has been the pattern over the years. Previously, in such situations the remaining tenants have continued to pay the full rent for the house, even if there have been less than the five maximum tenants in occupancy at any given time. At present, two of the remaining four tenants have been at the property for over a year, and two others have been there for nine months.

With the prospect of yet another new tenant arriving, I feel it would be useful to formalise my agreement with the current set of tenants. Can I do this with a statutory periodic tenancy, based on the original tenancy agreement dating from 2001, or do I need to provide them with an assured tenancy? Although I am more than happy to give the tenants two month’s written notice of requiring the property, I would like to avoid giving them an assured tenancy as I am currently undergoing major changes in my personal life and may well wish to recover the property before the end of a six month term.

You cannot, legally, recover the property before the end of a six month term. The only tenancy that you would be advised issuing would be an assured shorthold tenancy; you can issue this for any period, three or four months, but there is no point as you cannot recover possession unless the tenancy has run for more than six months. The current situation is fine, but should you wish to evict because you want the house back, you would need a ground as you could not serve a section 21 as the tenants there now are not listed on the tenancy agreement – you must have a tenancy agreement with your tenants’ names to use a section.21 accelerated possession procedure to evict.

I think the best thing you can do is issue a six month tenancy to your tenants and hope that if you have to get possession before the end of six months, they agree to it.



Revised rent

We had a tenancy agreement (not assured) signed by the tenants and landlord, and witnessed. Four years later our landlord scribbled out the rent amount and wrote in a figure that was double and a new date. He says was the rent due and is trying to recover the difference between it and what we paid even though we have since left. We never saw the revise agreement or signed it until we had left. This seems like forgery of a legal document to me. Where do we stand?

There is a legal process for raising the rent – if the tenancy agreement does not specify that rent will alter on the anniversary or every one or two years the landlord should complete the form ‘Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent under an Assured Periodic Tenancy of premises situated in England/Wales (see Residential Landlord, landlord forms) giving one month’s notice. If this process did not happen, you were not liable to pay an increased rent.



Sale of Rented Property


My parents have rented a house for over 40 years. It was originally owned by a trust but on the death of the remaining trust member it was sold to a private company. My parents were informed that it was going on the market at some point and they asked to be told the details as they were interested in buying it. The property was sold without their knowledge and now the new company are seeking rent increases. Is this allowed and do my parents have any rights over a sale of a property they are living in?

As they had specifically asked to be notified of the sale, in order to consider it themselves, I think they might be advised to discuss this with a solicitor – many will give a free or cheap consultation and they would know whether there was any case to answer. Generally speaking, I would not expect a tenant to have any rights over the sale of a property, other than those provided by law that as Rent Act Protected tenants, they have the right to remain in the property. The difference with your parents, if there is one, is that they had felt they were in a position to purchase and would have liked first refusal, but were denied this opportunity.

When it comes to rent increases, they have a right to be given notice and to appeal to a rent officer if they believe the rent being asked is not fair.



Separating tenants

My tenants, who moved in three months ago with a six month assured shorthold tenancy agreement, are splitting up. The woman and her children would like to remain and she says she will be able to pay. I am reasonably confident that this won’t be a problem, but have been advised to get a financial reference from her bank and to request further deposit for her. She would like to be issued with a new contract, and in theory I am OK with this, subject to financial satisfaction.

The question I now have is regarding the six months of the AST – I assume that if I send her a new contract, it starts again at six months from date of signing. I understand that it must be at least six months and that I cannot change the form of contract offered to her. I lived in the house in question for four years, and there is a possibility, albeit quite a small one, that my partner and I might wish to move back into the house this year. To start a contract over again would prevent us doing so until the end of the year. If I must offer her a new contract, it doesn’t seem fair that my choices are limited by my tenants’ decision – what if I needed to sell the house or was having some kind of housing crisis and really needed to move back? Is there any way round this, other than insisting the contract with the partner’s name must stand?

I think you need to re-asses your intentions about letting. If you want to rent the property out as a business, then you must be committed to this. By issuing a six month tenancy you are committing to the tenant for this period of time. If you wish to sell the property in this time then the property would have to be sold with a sitting tenant.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you are being fair to the mother of a small child knowing you will only want her to stay a short term? It may be fairer to the tenant to tell her your concerns, and let her make the choice of whether she wishes to live there under those conditions.



Sitting tenant contract

I am buying a flat with a sitting tenant. What should I do regarding the current tenancy agreement?
(1) Should I change it now or wait until it expires (we are talking about a 6 month agreement with one month notice thereafter)?
(2) Can I just keep the initial agreement even after the end of the six month period?

You can keep the initial tenancy agreement, however this is not advisable. I would recommend issuing a new tenancy agreement once the current tenancy ends – meaning that if you had to serve notice through court then at least the details of property owner match on both the tenancy and notice. At the expiry of your agreement the tenancy converts automatically to a statutory periodic tenancy, which runs on month to month. However, you would still be bound by the rules for ending an assured shorthold tenancy and to give appropriate notice if you required possession.


Unsigned AST

I have a property and inherited a tenant upon purchase. I have been receiving rent based on a six month assured shorthold tenancy which, however, remains unsigned. Is the unsigned AST binding as I now wish to take possession of the property and I am unsure how I stand.

Collecting rent on a regular basis means you have enforced the original tenancy agreement, not creating a new tenancy. If that agreement was entered into before 28 February 1997 you may use a s21 Notice Seeking Possession. The fact an agreement is unsigned will make little difference as a tenancy was created by the acceptance of rent.

 



Notice requirement

Last year I rented a flat for which I had a six month agreement that expired on the 28 October. Although I stayed on, I was told by the letting agent that I did not need a new contract.

It is now four months later and I wish to leave. I have been told that I need to give two month’s notice which is what I would have needed to give during the tenancy period. It contains no reference to notice periods after the contract has ended and both my landlady and I understood that I only needed to give one month’s notice.

I had been having a few problems with my neighbours who were also renting from the same letting agent and was not taken seriously. I now believe that the letting agent will try to withhold my deposit if I do not give two month’s notice.

Both my landlady and I are unhappy with the service the agent provides. Do I need to give two months notice and what do I do if they try to withhold my deposit?

Be pleasant but firm – in civil law, you are not required to give more than one month’s notice and even though you agreed to two months under the agreement, I think the letting agent would find difficulty, even with the agreement, to hold you to what could be seen as an unfair contract term. Take the agent to the small claims court if it tries to withhold your deposit, and complain to its governing body.


Mice mayhem

With my partner I signed a six month tenancy agreement to rent a flat. Since, we have had loads of problems with the landlord and the property, the latest being that the flat has become infested with mice.

Before this, we had intended to stay on as tenants and renew our contract and were told by the landlord that we could do this by giving him a letter at the end of the tenancy explaining that we wished to continue renting on a periodic basis. Now, of course, we simply wish to leave.

It states in our contract that we have to give a month’s notice before leaving, so for that reason the landlord says he can keep our deposit. My argument is that the reason we want to leave so soon and are unable to give a month’s notice is because the mice problem got worse and the property is not in a habitable conditions. We reported the mouse problem and the landlord who simply told to contact the council – although I believe he should have dealt with the problem himself.
Another problem was that I had a chest infection caused by dampness in the property. We had radiators but the gas fire was not serviced by the landlord so we didn’t use it – the landlord was advised by his contractor but never actually had it serviced.

I am very annoyed and feel cheated of the deposit because we are only having to leave so soon because of the conditions of the place.

Is there anything we can do – such as report the property, and do we have any rights in this matter concerning the mice? The landlord also made what I consider to be racist remarks and wonder if this is something we should take up also?

If you consider that the landlord has racially abused you, you must report it – it is a crime. Speak to your local authority which may be able to assist you to take action.

I agree, the landlord should have taken steps regarding the mice, but having said that, if he is too idle, then do it yourself. Speak to Pest Control. Mice are fairly easy to get rid of and there all sorts of things you can buy yourself which can help.

The condition of the property sounds disturbing and well worth reporting to Environmental Services. If they agree with you about how bad it is, you have a good case to make in the small claims court should the landlord refuse to return your deposit.


Consent to let?

I own a leasehold studio flat and the company that I pay ground rent to has issued me a letter saying that I need their permission to let out the flat. It has also included a bill of £117.50 for administration – checking to make sure that my insurance is valid for letting. It also wants to know what kind of tenant I have in there. I’ve never heard of needing permission to let a flat from the leaseholder before. Am I obliged to give the company information about who it is that I let to? Surely that’s none of its business?

The other thing is, at the moment, all the flat owners in this converted house (there are four units in what used to be a large house) get their insurance through the freeholder’s broker. The premium is for the entire property and the four of us share a quarter of the whole amount. Do I have to go by that or can I look for my own insurance?

You should check your lease both about your right to sub-let and also what it has to say about insurance. It is likely you will require permission to sub-let from the freeholder. You will also need consent from your mortgagors.And you will also need to ensure that your insurance company has no issue with you letting the property.


Informal sub-letting arrangement

I have been renting a property in Scotland for nearly two years. In the first year I had two six month tenancy agreements after which there was a verbal agreement with the landlady who was happy for me to stay as long as I wanted. I also agreed with the landlady that I was responsible for the property and I was allowed to let the other two bedrooms as long as the property is kept in clean and tidy condition.

I have recently got a new house mate and she wants a six month contract for her own peace of mind, but I am concerned that the landlord could decide to sell the property and issue me two month’s notice.

What would you advise I do with regards to sharing the house with others and also ensuring that I do not inadvertently break any laws even though the landlord agrees to me sub letting?

I think you will have to ask the landlady to issue your sub-lessee with a tenancy, or confirm in writing that she is happy for you to sub-let. As you only have two months security of tenure, I think she will need to issue you with another six month tenancy, to ensure the new comer has some security.


Reneging on a verbal agreement

We have been living in a flat for many years, and have been good tenants. When our landlord recently said he would like to rent out the house as a whole, we said we wold be happy to take on the whole lease. The landlord agreed verbally and an assured tenancy of 12 months was to be signed. We were all due to sign the lease in a few days.

In the meantime, we have spent many weeks interviewing for new flatmates and have invited the chosen ones to move in.

However, the landlord has now told us he has received news from overseas of a ‘personal disaster’ which means he has to sell the house immediately. He will not tell us what the disaster is.

We have now been put in the very awkward position of telling the new flatmates the news and reneging on our verbal agreements with them!

It turns out that one of the new flatmates is going to move in anyway for a few weeks, but the landlord is making that person sign a lease for the short few weeks.

My question is – is this right? I mean, the Landlord is the one kicking us out! The new flatmate has nowhere else to go, as their moving in date had already been agreed upon. And the poor new flatmate has been thrown into a terrible situation which is completely out of his hands.

I suspect the landlord is not telling us the truth about his personal disaster and has simply decided to sell the house. Do we have any rights regarding him reneging on our verbal agreement?

Without knowing when you moved in, I don’t know what security you have – if it was before February 1989, you may have quite good security, so check that – the landlord may not be able to evict you.

However, assuming it is post this date, it appears the landlord is in order to do this, provided he gives you legal notice. With regard to the new flatmate, the landlord can give a tenancy agreement for as short a period as he likes – but he will not be able to use a section 21 Accelerated Possession procedure to evict if the tenant has not lived there six months and refuses to go, though he would be better taking the weeks the landlord is offering to find somewhere else and move out, rather than prolong what will become an unpleasant situation.


Assured longhold lease

I have been living in rental accommodation for approximately 17 months. My tenancy agreement is headed ,’Assured longhold lease’ and was originally for five years ,with six months notice wanted by the landlord.

The landlord wanted me to leave last September because she said I had caused considerable damage to the property. I asked her to explain and it seemed it came down to damage to a shelf in the kitchen caused by one of her own dogs that we were caring for at the time. She told me I had one month to get out. Two weeks later she wrote me another letter saying that we were now renting on a monthly basis.

I now want to move out and rang her and said I wanted to give her one month’s notice, to which she verbally agreed. But when I called her again she said that we had to revert back to the original contract and I now have to give her six month’s notice.

I don’t know what to do as I really want to move out. I have somewhere else to go. But do I have to give her six month’s notice, or just month ? She says she will sue me if I leave before six months is up. Can she do this?

She can try, but I think six months is an unfair contract term – civil law says landlords have a right to expect one month’s notice from a tenant. I can’t see this getting further than a solicitor perhaps writing to you – but see trading standards and get an opinion from them.


Six month break clause

Our tenants signed an assured shorthold tenancy agreement under part 1 of the Housing Act 1988. I quote from the agreement itself: ‘A term certain of 12 months from 24/06/2006. A Six month break clause applies. Each party must give one month’s notice to terminate the tenancy at six months. The tenancy cannot be terminated before six months’.

The tenants want to move out and are willing to give a month’s notice. In our understanding, if the six month break clause was to apply they should have given notice at the end of the fifth month and not now. And that they are liable for the next six months as per the ‘term certain of 12 months’ and would have to find tenants in order to get out of the contract.

We want to be certain that we are correct before we communicate this to our tenants who will give the notice in a week’s time. We are holding their deposit and there will have to be deductions made in lieu of furniture damaged beyond usual wear and tear (cigarette burns on sofas and the like). We also have in mind to keep the remainder of the deposit in view of the beaching of the notice period as this is totally inconvenient for us financially. If we had to find new tenants the costs of redecoration and refurnishing would be burdensome at this point.

Your tenants have signed an agreement which states the tenancy can only be ended at the six month point, not after, so you are correct. However, if they went to the small claims court, how reasonable would it appear when you would have ended it on 24 December, but find ending it on 24 February inconvenient? I would let them go when they want, but that is up to you. You can legitimately deduct from the deposit what you consider fair for damage, though hopefully, the tenants would agree to this. If you want to hold something back for breach of agreement you would have to be prepared to argue for this in court. Certainly advertising costs could come out. NEVER allow your tenants to get new tenants – there have been enough letters to this column to know that does not work – you need to interview and feel happy with the new tenants – the old tenants are hardly likely to be concerned whether they will pay the rent!


Giving notice

I have two tenants in my flat, and one wishes to leave. They both understand and accept the ‘jointly and several’ issue, and realise that the second tenant will have to pay all the remaining rent or give notice and leave too (unless the second tenant finds someone else of whom I approve – I would be prepared to go this route which I know the remaining tenant would prefer).

They signed a 12 month fixed term contract which is just coming to the end of its first six months. No notice period or break period has been specified in the agreement. I therefore assume the statutory one month for tenants and two months for landlords apply.

Notice has been given to me tonight by voicemail and I understand this would apply from the next rent date (rent is payable monthly).

Two questions:
1. Am I correct in thinking that my tenant’s one month notice was not given until one week into a rental month, her rent commitment is for seven weeks rather than one month? Given the tenants will be leaving before the end of the contracted period I feel entitled to take as much notice as I can legally get.

2. Given no notice period was specified in the contract, and no break clause, are the tenants entitled to give notice at all, and are they therefore liable for the rent for the remaining six months? Or do their statutory rights entitle them to give one month’s notice after six months irrespective of the agreement.

I realise that you would probably recommend coming to a compromise, as the tenants can just up and leave if they choose, but I feel that the tenant who has not given notice would like to stay and would be even more keen to find another friend to rent with if I had the right and enforced the contract – and that the second tenant might change her mind and stay if this were the case (or at least stay until a friend was found). In any case we discussed the 12 month term at the outset and they assured me they would be there for at least 12 months.

1. Yes, the notice period should really be from the rental period date, so she should pay for the next seven weeks. But if the remaining tenant gets someone who wants to move in, you would not expect two lots of rent – the chap who wants to stay would be better getting someone as soon as possible.

2. The tenants have a right in civil law to give one month’s notice, though this would not release them from the terms of the agreement – which stipulates a 12 month tenancy. I am not aware of a right to an automatic break clause after six months, if they have signed for a year.


Sitting tenant

I have recently purchased a house with a tenant living in it. I was told by the previous landlord that I need a new tenancy agreement, due to change in ownership. The tenancy agreement would be a six month assured shorthold tenancy, this is also what the previous agreement was.

The tenant has been in the house for 18 months. By creating a new tenancy agreement does this mean the tenant looses the right of only having to give one month’s notice and also myself as the landlord the right to give two month’s notice for the tenant to leave?

A new tenancy agreement only confers the same rights as the old one, in this case. It is a statutory requirement for you to give two month’s notice; the tenant cannot sign that right away. Civil law requires a tenant to give one month’s notice, but in practice there is little a landlord can do if the tenant just ups and leaves. I’d be inclined to be amenable about notice periods – two weeks is better than none.


Taking over from letting agent

I live and work abroad and have been letting my house through an agent for the last two years. The agreement has been a disaster from the start.

I wasn’t paid anything for the first five months, even though the tenant had paid her rent on time. The agent eventually paid me the arrears and it was OK for a couple of months, then payments became sporadic again. It culminated in the agent owing me five months rent which he eventually paid, but only after months of telephone calls and emails and bounced cheques.

The agent has now ceased trading and I am now in the UK for four months. The agent has waived any right he had for any notice to be served and is quite happy for me to deal directly with the tenant. I have met with my tenant and she too is happy to deal with me directly. The agent has withheld (up to the time of writing) my tenant’s deposit. My questions are:

Do I need a contract with my tenant? Can I insist that my tenant gives me a deposit? She is a reasonable person and has kept the house in very good order, but this situation could obviously change. What are my responsibilities as a landlord to my tenant? For example, she has presented me with a list of problems and I am unsure which ones I am obligated to fulfil.

It is a statutory requirement under the Housing Act 2004 that tenancy agreements be in writing, and you should issue one with your contact details.

Obviously you should get a deposit, but your tenant would be justified in feeling she has been badly treated if she does not get the deposit back from the agents, so she can give it to you. I’d discuss it with her – she should take the agents to the small claims court, and when she gets it back give it to you, but ask for a small sum as a good faith payment until that happens. Your responsibilities are:
– to ensure that the structure of the building is sound;
– to keep installations for the heating of space and water in good condition;
– to keep sanitary installations in good order;
– to ensure that any furniture provided meets fire safety regulations.

Without knowing details of the problems it is difficult to be precise about your obligations. A recent problem I heard of was that the toilet was blocked. My initial reaction was that the landlord should get it cleared. Further investigation showed that the landlord had had it cleared only a few weeks previously, and the plumber had said it was because newspaper had been used instead of toilet paper. Being much thicker, it was causing blockages. My advice under those circumstances was that the toilet should be cleared, but the tenant asked to pay for it, paying a small weekly sum if necessary.


Flat for sale and visitors everyday

My landlord is selling the flat that I rent and has asked us to allow in visitors and real estate agents. As a results the flat is visited nearly everyday while we are at work so we do no feel at home any longer. We have a shorthold tenancy for 12 months and three months are still remaining. So can we refuse these daily visits? And if so, until when?

It may be important to add that we knew the flat was on sale when we moved in but this was supposed to be a quick sale with sitting tenants to an investment company that would carry on renting.

I think it is the last paragraph that may prove difficult. I would generally say that for your personal security and privacy, viewings should only take place in the final month of the tenancy. However, you state you knew it was for sale, so presumably agreed to some viewings taking place. I think you need to discuss with the owner and tell him how distressing you find this situation.

Could the viewings be restricted to only one day a week? It really is a question of mediating with the landlord.


Recurring problems

My husband and I have been living in our rented flat for over six months. Our lease is for 12 months. There have been many disappointing elements of the rental including mould, appliances not working, and water and heating problems. So after months of recurring problems and unsuccessful solutions we have decided it would be best to leave. The problem is that our landlord (who lives in Amsterdam) feels that he has been more than fair with us saying that he has sent workmen to fix the problems.

We have asked to end our lease early but his response is that as he has done his best he would send bailiffs to collect the remaining six month’s rent should we move out. Basically, he has threatened us into staying. Is this legal?

This does seem extreme, but technically the landlord is entitled to hold you to the tenancy agreement.

Under normal circumstances, I would expect him to have to take you to the small claims court and they would look at what notice you gave, and what steps he has taken to find a new tenant so as to mitigate his loss. I say ‘normal’ because if he is in Amsterdam and may therefore have genuine problems in getting a new tenant and could make a case on this basis.

If the property is still in bad repair, Environmental Services may put an order on it, which would force the landlord to have the work done. If it was unfit for human habitation the small claims court would have to find in your favour. It might be worth offering to pay for advertising during the notice period, and to allow viewings, if this would help him to re-let.


Jointly liable

My boyfriend and I share a house with two other people. It is a privately rented house, and the landlord lives in Canada. The property is managed by an estate agent.

We moved into the house at the beginning of August 2005 and have a joint fixed term tenancy (of a year – extended for another year), with a break clause allowing us to give three months notice.

Recently our housemates have both changed, and one of them has turned on us and is causing my boyfriend and I a lot of misery. We find it impossible to remain in the house over the weekends if she is there. She often brings her boyfriend to stay, and we have overheard him threatening to beat my boyfriend up. We have no idea why the relationships have disintegrated so suddenly, but we would like to break our contract and move out. We have contacted our letting agent. The firm told us: ‘Any notice given must be in line with the original tenancy agreement. We set out below the relevant clause: The landlord agrees that the tenant has the right to terminate the tenancy after the first eight months by giving the landlord not less than three months notice in writing to end the agreement.

‘The notice is to be sent by first class post and deemed delivered two working days later; or delivered by hand and deemed delivered the next working day; to the address shown in clause 27.01 or the last known address of the landlord.

To avoid any doubt between the parties it is agrees that the notice cannot commence any earlier than second day of January 2006 and cannot expire any earlier than first day of April 2006. The notice must expire at the end of a relevant period, being the day before the rent normally falls due’.

This letter also warned us that ‘you are all jointly and severally liable under the terms of the tenancy agreement’, and that notice to break the agreement ‘is only valid if all the sharers give notice’.

According to the agent ‘one or two persons cannot give notice to bind the whole group – all of you will remain bound unless all agree to give valid notice and leave’.

However, the agent conceded that two of the four would be able to leave if this was agreed between the four tenants and the remaining two wished to stay on and could afford the rent, or if two new people wanted to move and agreed to take on the rental commitment.

We are desperate to leave, and the atmosphere in the house and the stress caused is making me very ill. I am very underweight because of it, and am constantly ill. We feel like we are being forced to stay in our room while they are there.

What are our rights? Can we break the tenancy without the others agreeing? We have read a great deal of information on this, but it all seems to contradict each other.

Generally speaking a joint tenant cannot end the whole tenancy – if one tenant simply leaves, the tenancy devolves on the remaining tenants, who are jointly and severally liable. So you cannot say to the agents ‘we are leaving; therefore we are ending the agreement and the others will have to leave’. My concern is that you signed an agreement that seemed to indicate that you were happy to be tied into something without the flexibility. However, you could argue that this was an unfair contract. It may be worth speaking to Trading Standards. Try and discuss the situation reasonably with the agents – they cannot expect that you will stay in a property where there is any risk to yourselves – and threats of beating up would indicate a risk. The agents may be more helpful than you expect.


Early end of tenancy

I moved into a two bedroom flat with a friend earlier this year. The lease is for a period of 12 months with a break clause at six months (notice of two months at month four). We are three months into the agreement and for a number of reasons my friend and I are unable to continue living together. This is an amicable agreement (so far!) and I would like to do the right thing by both my friend and the landlord (who lives downstairs). Although I am the one moving out and effectively breaking the agreement we are both in agreement that this is the best solution.

I would like to move out sometime within the next month and have just paid my rent for this period. There is a possibility that we have found someone to take over the balance of the lease (another friend) but if this does not happen we will obviously need to find a replacement. As I said it is very important to me to do the right thing by everyone involved but I also need to safeguard myself. I would like to know where I stand and what I am legally permitted to do/not do.

Ideally we will find someone to take over the remaining period at least until the break clause can be utilised. If I am able to do this will my name be removed from the lease completely and the new person placed on the contract? I would hope this is the case as I do not want to sub let the room and find myself liable.

Can the landlord or my flatmate refuse this option? Is a new lease required or will a simpler document suffice effecting the change of one tenant and no other amendments? I have not informed the landlord at this time as I did not want her to worry and was hoping to go to her with the solution already in place but I am not sure if this is the correct procedure.

The important thing here is – was it a joint tenancy? If so, then your leaving would break that tenancy. I would hope that if you went to the landlady with a new tenant, that she would gladly issue a new tenancy in the new names. What she may not want is someone moving in for two months. I think you also need to be clear that you are asking the landlady for approval before you offer the flat to anyone – you and your friend were presumably interviewed, references were asked for – she would need to interview anyone who is moving in. Yes, the landlord can refuse the option, but is unlikely to, if you approach it properly. Your flatmate can also refuse, though it is difficult to see why, if it is a friend and your parting of the ways is amicable. If you cannot get agreement, then I am afraid you will have to stay put until the six months ends, but I think your landlady will probably be amenable.


Landlord selling: tenant buying

I recently renewed a 12 month contract with my landlord only to find out by letter two weeks later that she planned to sell the property. I was offered it at a reduced price. However, as I don’t want to buy this house, I am still in contract until July 2007. Had I known that the property was going to be sold, I would have asked for a six month contract.

I am now in a position to buy a house and have seen one I would really like to buy. However, I have a problem in that I am in a contract until July of next year. There doesn’t appear to be a ‘break’ in the contract and I am worried being charged for rent until July.

Is there any way out of this contract? It seems unfair that the contract would have been cancelled had I bought the house but because I am not it will continue on. And had I been told of the selling of the house when the contract was being renewed, I would have only asked for a six month contract.

Is there any way of getting out of the contract early?

I think you’ll only do it by goodwill and sadly, quite a lot of landlords want a tenant while it suits them and can be quite stroppy when it doesn’t suit. She would have to take you to court to hold you to the contract and I think you could then argue that this had made you unsettled as you were not aware that she was selling when you signed the contract. I’d try and negotiate it with her.


Leaving early (again)

My flat was originally let to my flatmate and me. A year later she moved out and my boyfriend moved in, taking over her lease and sorting out everything with the letting agency. Originally our lease was for six months, however I asked for that to be changed and the leaving date was put back five weeks.

Things were going fine until we finally found a flat that we were interested in purchasing. When we made an offer and heard this had been accepted I notified the landlord in writing, saying we would now be leaving two months earlier than planned.

The landlord was fine about this and said that the flat would be put up for let on the website and we would be liable for the rent until anyone moved in. This I understand completely.

However, although this happened two months ago, the flat has only just been advertised.

We have asked the landlord if he would agree to keep the deposit in exchange for releasing us from liability for the rent after we move out. Can this work?

We feel the landlord has not done anything to try to let the flat. I have done a lot of the work which I don’t necessarily think is fair.

I think the landlord may very well agree to this, but I feel he has probably not acted as fairly as he could. For example, if you left and asked for your deposit back and he disagreed, you would be within your rights to go to the small claims court. They would accept your rental liability, but would also be expected to look at what steps your landlord had taken to re-let the property, which sounds to have been very few. If, however, your landlord does not accept your offer and you move, then he would have to go the small claims court route and you would make your case as you made it in your question. Good luck!


Gas and electricity

I have them on Tenancy Agreements with a Resident Landlord – should I change them to Assured Shorthold Tenancies in any case?

I have four tenants in my property under separate assured shorthold tenancies (I bought the contracts from W H Smith) which automatically continue after the initial fixed period. By 1st Feb 2007 all of these tenants’ fixed terms will have expired.

When I initially started letting the property I also lived there as a resident landlord, so I included all bills (except phone) in the monthly rent. However I have since moved to the USA.

About six months ago I gave the tenants two months’ notice that I would no longer include gas and electric as I no longer lived there and could not regulate usage (electricity bills had more than doubled). They were very unhappy about this as nobody wanted to take the bills in their names (they did not know each other before moving in) so I agreed to keep them in my name, but only if they would agree to pay proportionately more if the bills increased again. They all agreed to this by email.

Now my latest bill shows the gas has also more than doubled. I notified the tenants that from December they would have to pay the increase, as well as £30 each, for the September to November quarter.

At least two of them are refusing to pay for last quarter but I feel I must insist they are responsible for their gas and electric going forward to avoid future headaches like this. I am happy to reduce their rents by the amount currently included for bills and can give them two months’ notice of the change, but how am I best to go about this to avoid more conflict?

As I said, their contracts are off-the-shelf types which actually state tenants are responsible for all bills on top of the fixed rent, but I have based the inclusive nature of the contract on goodwill (although mine is now running out!). Can I withhold the owed amount from their deposits when they leave, and how could I prevent them withholding their last month’s rent to guard against this? In the meantime, should I draw up new tenancy agreements?

I think you should make it very clear to anyone who is not prepared to pay the appropriate sum that you will serve them a two month notice seeking possession. I am afraid it would depend very much on what your receipt said about what the deposit was held for and whether you can make a deduction from the deposit – service bills are not usually included. I think the only way you could stop the tenants withholding the rent for the last month is to appeal to their goodwill – which appears to be lacking at present!

Yes, prepare new tenancy agreements – I would have preferred these were done when the arrangement changed. Any new tenants must get individual bills in their own names, so you may need to get new meters installed. Then, if a tenant leaves a debt, he will be pursued by the energy companies – as it stands at present, you could be left with a debt and little chance of recovery as the bills are in your name.


Partner moving in

I have been renting from my current landlord for about 10 years. In the past two years my partner has moved in and is using the address as his official address. I have a single tenancy agreement and would like to continue with that arrangement, with my partner simply splitting the household bills. However, my landlord is keen to place us on a joint tenancy agreement, saying that if we split up, my partner may have squatter’s rights. Is this correct? Would it not be the case that a joint tenancy agreement would be a greater liability for the landlord?

Am I entitled to stick with a single tenancy agreement?

Squatters have no rights, unless they have lived in what was an empty property for a very long time- not the case here as you have a tenancy. If you decided to move out and your partner remained, the landlord would issue a Notice to Quit as he is there under licence only ie with the permission of the landlord. A joint tenancy makes you both jointly and severally liable for the rent, so he could pursue you both, if you leave rent arrears. If one of you decided to terminate the tenancy, then it would end it for both of you anyway. The only thing to beware of is to ensure that there is no fraudulent claim is made should one of you become unemployed.


Inspection visits

I have a tenant who moved into my property in 1994 without any formal tenancy agreement. He now refuses me access to view my property at any time.

Do I have the legal right to inspect the property, given that I can provide some 24 hour’s notice? .How should I progress this with the courts? Solicitor’s letters have been to no avail.

This is quite tricky as if your tenant will not allow you in, it is difficult to insist, even though you are doing what is required by providing notice. As it was 1994, the tenant has an Assured Tenancy, so has greater security and it would be difficult to threaten eviction without a proper ground. Do I take it he is not allowing access for gas safety inspections? If so, he is putting himself at risk and also you –failure to inspect gas appliances and obtain gas safety certificates is taken very seriously. As you have already done what would be recommended, ie got a solicitor to write a letter, I think I would contact Environmental Services and have a chat with them. They can almost certainly enter the property and ensure that there are no outstanding repairs and also ask about the gas safety.


No written agreement

I moved into my part furnished flat on 9 December 1989 and was give a rent book, after six months the rent book expired and I was not given a new one, so I just carried on paying my rent in the normal way. I did not sign an agreement and the landlord lived upstairs, however my landlady is now in a nursing home and her daughter has asked me to sign a six month tenancy agreement. Where do I stand? I have been told that I am a sitting tenant, please can you advise me.

I would say you were an assured, rather than a sitting, tenant. This does give you considerable security in law. You should not sign a new six month tenancy agreement, which would almost certainly be for an assured shorthold tenancy, with little security and the right to evict you after six months. My only concern is whether you actually have a tenancy, or a licence. If you shared any facilities with the landlord, you could be classed as a lodger.


Early termination

I have a group of tenants who signed up on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

This was done in June for a tenancy which did not actually begin until 1 September 2006 and deposits by all five tenants were paid.

Before the tenants moved in I received a letter from one of the tenants stating that she would not be returning to University and therefore would not be receiving her student loan. Therefore she would be unable to afford her part of the tenancy.

The other four still wish to continue but do not agree to pay her portion. I did have her parent sign a guarantor agreement. Please can you advise whether the tenancy agreement and guarantor agreement is enforceable even though the tenant did not move in before the official start of the tenancy.

If this was a joint tenancy, the other tenants are jointly and severally liable – they cannot, therefore, take it upon themselves simply not to pay her portion. They are liable, until they, or you, get another tenant. Whether the tenancy agreement and guarantee are legally enforceable is another question. If it went to court, the departing tenant could make a case along the lines that she gave you plenty of notice – and what steps had you and the other joint tenants taken to get another person in place? I’d try and speak to the other tenants and see if you can get any kind of compromise in place.


Lodger notice

I have a lodger with no written contract. She pays me at the beginning of each month for the month in advance. She has been with me for one year. I have just given her one month’s notice to move out. Given that she has paid for the month the day before, does my notice period still stand in that she will stay this month and have a couple of days into next month free of charge.

Am I within my rights to issue the one month notice at any time? There would be no money owed as she will not have to move out before this month is over.

A lodger has few rights and one month’s notice is generous. If she is not happy, I cannot see that she can take it anywhere – she is a lodger, not a tenant. Obviously it is better to end on good terms, but that should not mean she stays longer than you wish.


TV trouble

My partner and I moved into a rented flat in March and signed an agreement for 12 months through a letting agency. We paid six months in advance and a month’s bond.

We have had nothing but trouble!

Firstly, one month after we moved in a TV show rented out one of the flats (there are eight in the building) and has filmed here approximately twice a week from 8:00am till 19:00pm. The crew totally take over the property. They have vans and catering vans inside the car park so we have to ask if we can go out – and if we are out we cannot get back in!

About 20 people wander around. The garden is communal but we have not been able to use it at all as we are not allowed to walk past the area they are filming. We were not asked if we minded the film crew coming or advised of this at the time we took out the lease.

Secondly, the boiler blew up in June – we advised the rental agency immediately as we had to turn the water off at the mains as it was flooding the flat. They took two days to send someone out. In all this time we had no water and they refused to put us up in an alternative accommodation (or hotel).

When the plumber came out he fixed the fault temporarily but we could not get any hot water without turning the heating on full – and then the water was erratic, luke warm to freezing. We phoned six times in all and were told each time that the plumber was coming that day… needless to say he did not arrive. It took two months him to fix it properly!

We then had a burst pipe (the plumber suggested it was something to do with the afore mentioned blow) – so had no water again for three days as this was flooding through to the flat downstairs.

The fire alarm was ringing in the building and I called to let the agency know – they advised there was nothing they could do as they didn’t know which flat it was… this went on intermittently for five nights.

We all have an allocated parking space – on numerous occasions our space has had someone’s car there – the rental agency claim they can’t do anything about this.

Our first six months are now coming to an end and we are at our whit’s end with the thought of staying here any longer.

Can you please advise if any of the above would constitute a breach in our terms and conditions and where we need to go from here to end this nightmare?

I would say there appear to have been several breaches so arrange a meeting with the agents, try and negotiate about the situation but, if no movement on their part, see a solicitor. I think if you politely say that you are at the end of your tether and if you can’t reach an agreement you will seek legal advice because of the breaches in terms and conditions, they may be happy to discuss.


Notice period

I have a couple of tenants in a property with an annual tenancy agreement in force which continues in a two month ‘roll-on’ basis from 25th of the month with a minimum two month’s notice.

I wrote giving the tenants two month’s notice that the rent would increase and they have written to me four times disputing that the increase is not in line with other properties in the area. This is contrary to the evidence that I have collected myself. They have now intimated that they wish to leave and for certain reasons I am minded to terminate the agreement in any event.

I am inclined to them less notice to leave on 25th the month after next, which would be less than the two month’s notice stated under the agreement but I anticipate that this will cause me to receive further letters of dispute and that it would be better to cut my losses and give a full two month’s notice. Whilst I have no wish to take legal action, would sticking to the 25th be considered unreasonable in court?

Despite having let out this property for over 15 years, I have never had to terminate an agreement and would appreciate some advice as to how to word the letter. Can you help me with this please?

Sorry, I am not sure what you are asking. Are you going to give them a section 21 notice giving a full two month’s notice and following the tenancy dates? You can always say you will release them early, if this is what they wish. The section 21 can be hand written, but must use specific wording along the lines of:

Dear………..

Re: Tenancy – Tenants Address

Your tenancy of the above mentioned property expires on ……. I will not be renewing your tenancy and therefore ask that you accept this letter as Notice Seeking Possession.

As specified in the 1988 Housing Act, section 21, I hereby give you the two month’s notice as required commencing on ……..(same date as above) to end ………………I will contact you two weeks before the end of the Notice to discuss the arrangements for the hand over of keys and for inspection of the property.

Please do not hesitate to contact me, or the Housing Aid/CAB or a Solicitor if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Yours sincerely,


Leaving early

The two month notice period on my flat ends on the first of next month. I have had a call from my tenant who now wants to move out on the 15th of this month. I don’t have a problem with that, but am I entitled to receive a full months rent for the current month, or do I have to accept only two week’s rent for the first two weeks? The rent is paid per calendar month.

Also I am concerned that after speaking to the tenant and advising him that I must seek advice on this matter, he may move out on 15th anyway but not surrender the keys until the notice expires – leaving the property empty for two weeks, which I would not be happy with.

You are entitled to be paid for the month, as the tenancy is monthly and civil law says you should be given one month’s notice. However, as you rightly say, if you insist on it, he could leave the flat vacant. He may move anyway and not pay you for the final two weeks. I would suggest that as far as possible, you stay on reasonable terms and, if need be, accept the two week’s notice, or reach a compromise at three weeks.


Singapore solution

We are currently living in Singapore. Earlier this year we gave our UK tenant notice that we would be unable to renew his tenancy agreement when it expired as we were putting the flat up for sale. The letting agent is the same company as the selling agent.

A couple of weeks ago, at our request for an update, the sales person in charge of selling our property advised us that he had had four viewings. He gave us names and their feedback, but none had put in an offer. However, our tenant advised us after this that the first viewing was just about to take place (after six weeks on the market). We subsequently found out (after numerous telephone calls) that the four viewings we had been told about were fictitious (our tenant works from home and was justifiably upset at the thought that the agent had brought prospective purchasers around without his knowledge). The branch manager has told us that action will be taken against the sales person who consistently lied to us, but obviously we have by now wasted two month’s selling time. Our tenant has not yet found another place to rent, so we are happy for him to stay on a month by month basis until we find a buyer.

How do we protect ourselves legally in this instance? Do we need to issue a new agreement? We are proposing that as soon as contracts are exchanged to buy the property, we should give the tenant two month’s notice.

Are we obliged to pay any more commission to the letting agent in this instance? Their terms and conditions state that if the tenancy is renewed, we have to pay them 7.5 per cent commission plus an agreement fee. Also the agent is holding a six week security deposit. Should we ask for this to be returned to the tenant at the end of the tenancy, and should we then ask the tenant for one month deposit to be paid directly to us? The tenant has been very reasonable and we are in regular email contact, but I worry that he may take advantage of the situation.
Also, has the agent’s sales department broken any rules of the NAEA by acting dishonestly? The agent concerned is a very large national company. We want to instruct another agent to sell the property as the eight week sole agency has passed. We are required to give 14 day’s notice or they can claim commission on the sale even if another agent sells it. Can the other agent start to advertise the property before the 14 days is up? We need to sell the property as quickly as possible.

I would leave things as they are with regard to the tenancy. It can run on monthly, as it automatically converts to a statutory periodic tenancy. With regard to the agents, I’d check with their governing body, though they appear to have accepted that one of their employees has behaved dishonestly and are taking steps.


Pet ownership

Can I lose my flat if I have a dog?

What does your tenancy agreement say? If it says no pets, you could lose your flat. Discuss it with your landlord, try to persuade him the dog will be small and no trouble. But if he says ‘no’, I think that must be the answer until you find another flat.


Too many tenants

I recently rented out my first buy to let property to two men. However, I have now found out that there are six adults living in the house plus a small child. I know that this is not right, what can I do?

Arrange a meeting with your tenants. If this is a short term situation, a few friends staying for a few nights, fine, but otherwise – they are putting their tenancy at risk. Make it clear you will evict if the situation is not sorted out. Sounds as though the property is overcrowded – it may be worth discussing this with Environmental Services.


Early termination

I recently moved into a property on an assured short hold tenancy agreement of six months. As per the agreement, I need to give the landlord at least two month’s notice before vacating the house, and I cannot give the notice till the completion of four months. All my communications till now have been with the property agent and I haven’t met or spoken to the landlord. I have been living in the property for just over a month now.

Due to an unexpected change in my job situation, I have to move to another city by the end of this month. I informed the agent about my situation and offered to pay him the next two month’s rent in advance after vacating the house but he is adamant that I should pay for the entire six months unless I can arrange for someone to take my place. And even the agent does not seem to be interested to find a new tenant. When I asked if I could speak to the landlord directly, the agent refused saying the property agency handles the property on behalf of the landlord.

Even if I am forced to pay for the entire six months, can I keep the keys without paying for the council or other utilities as there is a clause in the agreement that the property cannot be left vacant for more than 28 days? Or should I insist to speak to the landlord as I feel he may agree to my offer?

I cannot see the benefit of your keeping the keys unless you think it is possible that you may wish to return to the property. You have made what sounds like a very reasonable offer, to pay for the next two months. If the landlord wanted to take you to the Small Claims Court, he would have to prove that it was reasonable for you to have to pay rent to the end of the tenancy. Two months should be more than enough to get a new tenant.


Girlfriend tenant

My son is buying a house with the help of a family loan to cover the deposit. He will be paying and be responsible for the mortgage while his girlfriend, who is moving in with him, will share most of the running costs, such as council tax, fuel, water rates, food and the like. He is also expecting rental payments from his girlfriend which will offset some of the mortgage expenses. The question is, should this rental agreement be formalised and if so how should this be undertaken?

I would recommend drawing up a formal contract. However, be aware that this is a two way street and that if the relationship were to end, by proving there was some financial help towards maintaining the property, your son’s girlfriend may have an equitable claim on the property if it were sold. I’d get any agreement drawn up by a solicitor – if she is a lodger, she has far fewer rights, but then, they could not really be considered as a boyfriend/girlfriend.


Joint tenants

My question concerns whose responsibility it should be to settle outstanding rent in a particular set of circumstances.

A daughter and mother signed a joint tenancy for a large flat in August 1973 The initial period was for three years after which the agreement stated that it would then roll on monthly, with a month’s notice either way.

Obviously the 1977 Rent Act nullified our right as landlords to give a month’s notice to vacate other than in the circumstances of default by the joint tenants on the conditions of the agreement.

The daughter moved out in 1979 and was removed from the Rent Register in 1999. The mother continued to pay the regulated rent regularly. However, no new tenancy agreement was drawn up.

The daughter, usually with her children but sometimes without, stayed overnight with the mother once or twice a month for the next 26 years. She did not use the property as her main residence, except for about a month between 2000 and 2002.

When the daughter divorced her husband she requested a letter to the court confirming that she was no longer our tenant. The manager at the time did this, although did not check the legal position before doing so. I think he probably did this because he was concerned that the joint tenancy might be brought into the divorce case and the daughter obliged to move back in, thus extending the period that the tenancy would remain regulated.

The mother died in the summer of 2005 leaving rent for the month she died owing. Subsequently delays in probate meant the property was not available to re-let for at least two months, while a contractor had to be paid to remove her chattels.

However, the executor has told us payment of the resulting debt is not a priority and that in any case he is holding back paying out debts as the Department of Work and Pensions has some interest in alleged overpayments to the mother.

The executor is of the opinion that a joint tenancy still existed when the mother died and that therefore if we are not prepared to wait to see if there is any money left after administration and payment of priority creditors, we should be looking to the daughter to pay the sum outstanding. However, he agrees that if a joint tenancy did still exist then we become a priority creditor.

I bit long winded I know, but the question is: does a joint tenancy still exist, and if so is there any precedence of law on this matter, or can you direct me to someone in the know?

A solicitor must look into this matter for you. A court presumably accepted the letter written at the time of her divorce, stating she did not have a tenancy. A condition of a tenancy is that the property was the only or main home. The fact that she paid regular family visits does not mean it is her main home; in fact, she must have had a main home elsewhere, which must be a matter of records somewhere – land registry if an owner-occupier, housing benefits if she was a tenant. But I am afraid my advice remains the same – speak to a solicitor.


Deposit retention

We recently let a property that had been newly renovated. Most of the contents were new.

The tenants moved out after five months. On inspection of the property a number of things were damaged. The most notable damage included:
• A badly scratched stainless steel hob.
• Red ink stains to a new mattress.
• A dent in door of a new fridge-freezer.
• Badly stained wooden radiator cover.

We are uncertain what is considered fair in terms of retaining deposit monies for such damage. These items can still be used but the damage is irreparable.

Get out the inventory you took at the beginning of the tenancy. If everything in that was noted as new, you have a case for discussing it with the tenant.

The badly stained radiator cover does need re-doing – charge for materials and time – rubbing it down, re-staining.

Red ink stains – how bad? If it is the odd pen mark, you should be able to minimise that, again with a bit of effort and use of specialist stain removers – charge for the cost of that.

The hob and the fridge freezer are more difficult, but again, I would discuss. If brand new, you will have the receipts. There would probably be a re-sale value, but obviously decreased by the damage – so charge them accordingly.

If you have a good, clear inventory, then your tenants should not be able to argue that you have made deductions from the deposit.


Landlord selling up

Our landlord recently told my wife and I that he would not renew our tenancy agreement when it expires as he wants to sell the property. He gave us the first refusal to buy but we were unable to get a mortgage. Consequently we started to look for a new property to rent.

Having found a suitable property we paid £250 towards the legal checks. However, our present landlord said we must give two month’s notice, although he said that if we allow viewing straight away and he agrees a sales as a consequence then we can move out before the two month’s notice period is up. As a consequence it looks as if we will lose the new property since the agents have indicated they will not wait.

I feel our landlord is being unfair as it was not us that wanted to leave. Do we have any option but to comply with what the landlord wants?

Why is the landlord saying two months notice? The civil law requirement for a tenant is that one month’s notice is given. Is he getting confused because he has to give you two month’s notice? If you give one month’s notice and move, he would have to take you to the Small Claims Court for the final month’s rent, but I cannot see that this would be successful, given that normal notice is one month. However, check your agreement, ensure you did not agree to give this much notice.


Furnished or unfurnished?

I am about to let out my first property. Does it matter if the property is let furnished or unfurnished to the extent that one or the other would give me more protection?

With regard to protecting your position, I don’t think there is much in it. I usually suggest that wherever possible landlords be flexible about furnishing, depending on the tenant. However, many landlords I work with are now only providing carpets and curtains, as there is less opportunity there for theft or damage, so it really is a matter of choice. However, whatever you have a responsibility for replacing or repairing anything in place when the tenancy commences should it subsequently break down.


Road rage

My girlfriend and I have moved into a nice first floor apartment, but it has turned out to be very noisy at night when an amazing number buses, trucks, and service delivery vehicles use the road below our windows, which are surprisingly thin and ineffective at mitigating the noise.

Although the road was busy, it didn’t seem unduly so when we inspected the place (during the day). In fact the estate agent said the traffic died down after business hours.

I have not been able to sleep properly and I cannot concentrate at work. As a result I do not want to stay in the apartment for another night, let alone six months.

The tenancy agreement has a standard 12 month term with a six month termination clause, but we really want to move out ASAP. I have paid the first month’s rent plus a £1,000 bond and intend to talk to the estate agent about our position but do not expect him to be very sympathetic. Is it reasonable to give one month’s notice and then move out. And if so should I expect to get my bond back? Do they have the right to keep my bond if I leave the place in absolutely perfect condition?

I am so sorry that you are having these problems. It is always a good idea to visit a prospective property at different hours of the day to ensure that this kind of situation does not occur.

However, back to the problem – your landlord could hold you to the end of the tenancy, but few in my experience think it is worth it. Try and discuss with him, along the lines that you are really sorry, but the noise is affecting your health, and you do not feel that the environment was correctly described. Tell the landlord you would like to give a month’s notice and are happy to pay the rent for the notice.

I think the landlord might reasonably ask you to cover the cost of advertising to get a new tenant. If he refuses to return the balance, after legitimate deductions, of the deposit then you would have to go to the Small Claims Court. Try and discuss it in a pleasant manner – you may be surprised. You could suggest that secondary glazing may reduce the noise for future tenants.


Resident lodger

I am trying to find a tenancy agreement for a resident lodger. I need a simple, straightforward document which just gives the basics and is preferably free. Can you help or advise on further actions?

The cheapest agreement is the one you write yourself and should be fine, provided the lodger is living in your property with you in residence. It need only be very simple, along the lines of:
(your name) agrees to (lodgers name) living at (property address) from (date) to (date). The rent is (amount). The notice required to end this agreement is.(need only be reasonable, so could be one week or one month). The agreement entitles (name of lodger).to use of one bedroom with lockable door and have shared use of the bathroom, kitchen and lounge.

Add a sheet with any restrictions you may wish to impose – no smoking, no pets, perhaps even no overnight guests. And add something about the arrangement regarding bills.

You could also add something about rent arrears resulting in immediate notice being given.

You both need to sign the agreement. Get a witness and both keep a copy.


Long staying tenants

I have been told that a different type of tenancy agreement is needed for tenants who have been living in my properties for over three years. My solicitor says I need only renew every six months indefinitely. Can you tell me who is correct?

It has also been suggested that I would have problems evicting a tenant of 12 years or so. But again my solicitor says this is incorrect and that providing the tenant has signed an initial (not even a current) assured shorthold tenancy, it is perfectly possible to go down the normal eviction route. Again, who is correct?

Your solicitor. I would always recommend a first six month assured shorthold tenancy. At the expiry of that, you can either re-issue, or let it run on as it converts automatically to a statutory periodic tenancy. I always say that if I was a tenant, I would want the agreement re-issued as this gives more security, but as a landlord, I’d let the agreement run on. In the past there may have been difficulties evicting long standing tenants, but this should not apply in the case of any tenancy that commenced as late as 1994.


Moving abroad

We are moving abroad for a few years and want to let our house. There is apparently no problem with the rental to mortgage value ratio. However the annual rental income will be above £25K which our agents tell us is the maximum that an assured shorthold tenancy will cover. The mortgage companies we have spoken to require this kind of tenancy.

Are there mortgages which allow renting on different kinds of tenancies: given the number of homes around to let at over £500 per week I’m sure this must be a common problem?

Think your mortgage company here are being a bit shortsighted in insisting on this type of tenancy. I suggest you discuss this with a solicitor who is an expert on housing law, and who should be able to come up with an option for you.


Notice periods

We have been tenants in our flat for just over a year. The first one year assured shorthold tenancy expired at the end of May. We subsequently signed a second (new) shorthold tenancy agreement that covered the next year (starting 1 June).

All of the terms in the contract were the same and the second contract made no reference to the first.

One of the terms was that two month’s termination notice could only be served after an initial six month period of the tenancy. Again, this clause was also in the second contract.

Now, our landlord wants to sell the flat and we have been given two month’s notice – but this is only one month after we signed the new agreement.

Where do we stand? Could we refuse to move out until this six month period has finished?

This was a new tenancy agreement so the landlord is bound by the law and should serve notice to end when the tenancy does. However, the situation is likely to become unpleasant if you insist on staying to the end. I would discuss it with him, on the basis that this is an invalid notice, but that you are prepared to move out earlier as soon as you find somewhere, and would he like to offer some compensation for the inconvenience you have been caused? If things get really unpleasant, then this notice could be construed as illegal eviction and your local authority/housing aid would want to know about it.


Quite enjoyment

I have rented a house in Islington in which to live until my wife has our child in July. We normally live in Istanbul and I shall travel back and forth in this period.

We rented this from a local agent and before paying nine week’s rent in advance (as agreed) plus the equivalent of four week’s rent as deposit, we asked for assurances that work going on inside and scaffolding outside would be finished before we moved in. These were given.

But when we moved in the scaffolding was still there. We called the agent to find out when it would be taken down, and were told it would be ‘any day’.

The next day an engineer appeared at our window saying outside work would begin very soon and would last eight to 10 weeks – the duration of our tenancy.

I contacted the agent again and was this time told the firm was not aware of this but that there was nothing in the contract to stop the landlord going ahead with such work.

I have paid a lot of money in advance so that my wife could wait for the baby in peace and comfort. Now it seems she will have to endure scaffolding and workmen outside the windows for the whole period of the tenancy – with all the noise, dust and other inconvenience.

Can you please advise on what to do? What are our rights?

I would say that this property was let on a false premise and therefore suggest you should be released from the agreement. If the agent does not agree to this, and all the money returned (excluding rent for the period you have lived there), you should see a solicitor.


Who pays for the agreement?

I’m just about to let out my property and was wondering what the law states when it comes to who has to pay for the tenancy agreement.

I have a possible tenant about whom I am uncertain since before she has even moved in she is quoting laws and regulations to me. I would like to make sure I’m on a sure footing afore I go ahead.

I would generally expect the landlord to pay for the agreement, and let’s face it, for £1.50 or so, is it worth arguing about? You can buy a blank agreement from a good stationers or legal stationers, various landlord associations have them available to members, or you can download a free outline agreement from this website (http://residentiallandlord.com/tenancyintro.htm).

A tenant that knows the law should know what her obligations are, so that may not be a bad thing, but email what she is quoting and I will let you know whether I think these are things you need to worry about.


Age limits

Can you tell me if there is a minimum legal age that someone has to be to take out a tenancy agreement?

The reason being is that I rent a property out to a woman who at the start of our agreement had a 16 year old daughter, her daughter is now just short of her 18 birthday and the mother is giving me notice that she will be leaving but her daughter wants to carry on living there and will take out a new agreement with me. Is she old enough to do this?

Her father, who does not live at the property, will be assisting her with the rent so I should be OK from that point of view, although it will be more of a risk than before.

A 17 year old can take a tenancy, but conditions of the tenancy could not be enforced. Also, as she is under 25, any housing benefit would only be paid at single room rent – so there will be a hefty shortfall. Dad helping is great – but does he realise the commitment he is taking on? Get him to sign a guarantor’s form which clearly states that this is not time limited and you will pursue him for any rent debt.

Also, be very firm with the girl – give a six month tenancy, be quite plain that there is not only the rent, there is the issue of tenant like behaviour, that you WILL evict if there are any complaints from neighbours.

I am afraid I think this is a considerable risk – even if she is the best 17 year old in the world, living alone does make her vulnerable to friends taking advantage of her, and a burglary could leaving her feeling very unsafe and abandoning the property. Take a good deposit from her and get rent in advance – let the father see what he is really taking on. You may say mum paid no rent in advance and a minimal deposit – that does not mean that is what you take from a high risk tenant.

Sorry if I seem hard on a youngster, but that is what parents have to do when young people go to University, I don’t see that it is different for the young person that either parents don’t want at home or who say they are ready to be independent.


Partner moving out

At the end of January my partner and I both signed a 12 month contract for a property we renting.

My partner has now told me he is going to move out. Can he do this as his name is also on the agreement? Will he still have to pay his half of the rent, as if not this leaves me in a sticky situation money wise?

He has said he will give the landlord a month’s notice and pay his half of the rent for the last month, in the meantime he will be moving all his belongings out of the property. He refuses to hand over the keys to me.

Surely he cannot keep hold of them and enter my home as and when he pleases when nothing in there would belong to him, or can he do this if he pays for a further month?

Will the landlord take him off the lease with a months notice, or will he still be liable to pay for the remaining months of the agreement?

If your partner leaves and relinquishes his half of the tenancy, that effectively ends your tenancy too. The landlord could try and hold you both to it and expect rent to the end of 12 months, but few landlords would do this.

The procedure would be that the landlord should end the tenancy and offer you a new one – but you cannot afford to take it, so I would suggest you give notice too. The other option is that the landlord lets it run on after your partner leaves – but this makes you liable for all the rent, as under your agreement your will be ‘jointly and severally liable’. Although you could stay for some time, because the rent arrears ground to end the tenancy would take some time to accrue, it would leave you with a hefty debt and no chance of a good reference from your landlord, whereas a good reference may help you get another property. I would have a frank discussion with the landlord and see if you can reach some agreement on leaving or if he thinks you are a good tenant he may feel he can accept less rent for a while and let you take your time about moving, or even keep the tenancy on yourself.

With regard to the keys, I think these should be given to the landlord, not you, and as long as he is paying rent, he has a right to access the property – though why he would want to is beyond me. Is he perhaps just making a point whilst he removes his goods?


Giving notice

I have bought a house and wish to end my tenancy of rented property on 16 of June 2006, but the agreement states that the notice period starts from the rent day. This means my notice period will start from 3 June and end on 2 August. Will I be liable to pay the rent for the remaining period – that is from 17 June to 2 August? Is the tenancy agreement with two month’s notice period a fair agreement?

Well, you did sign the agreement. However, in civil law, a landlord is entitled to one month’s notice, so two is perhaps a lot. Yes, you are expected to pay rent to cover the notice period. I think I would approach your landlord, saying you believe this is an unfair contract term and will pay rent until 2 July. The landlord could then try and take you to the small claims court for the remaining month, but you would make the same argument there – unfair contract term, could not afford rent and mortgage, and so on.


Vacating a room

On 2 January I rented a room from a lady who owns her own house and I live with her. I signed an agreement and we both had copies.

My first question is: do both the landlady and tenant need to sign as in this case it was only myself who signed?

There was no contract period. Basically I could stay as long as I wanted. I recently decided to give my landlady one month’s notice. However, she is saying that the contract said I must give four week’s notice from the date I pay the rent – which would effectively adds another two weeks.

I have lost my copy of the contract so cannot check that this is what is said. I have asked her three times now for a photocopy of hers to check that is what I signed for. She has refused three times. I believe I am within my rights to see the contract. I have told the landlady that I will leave anyway unless she can show me that the contract states otherwise.

If I have indeed signed up to give the notice the landlady claims, then that is fair enough and I will delay leaving. But if there is no signed contract where do we both stand?

She is threatening to take me to court. It is only over two weeks rent of £75 a week!

She has told me that if I don’t have a written contract then no one knows how much deposit I paid. I think she may be trying to deny how much I paid her so she can avoid giving it back. However, I do know the amount involved as I have the proof I paid her it when I moved in.

It appears you are a lodger and therefore have minimal rights. The landlady has to give you ‘reasonable’ notice, which could be as little as a week. It therefore seems unfair that you should have to give her a month. From the details you give, she seems to be applying rules that apply to tenants rather than lodgers.

I would suggest you might let her take you to court, if indeed she carries through with her threat. Write to her saying you have no intention of reneging on the agreement, but that you require a copy of the agreement. If she still refuses to give you one, then the copy letter forms a basis of your defence.

I think the veiled threat implied in telling you that nobody knows about the deposit you paid is really unpleasant and I sincerely hope you paid by cheque so you have the written proof of what she received. Keep the rent card safe and let her go for it – I don’t think she has much chance. I would suggest her failure to sign actually invalidates the licence agreement, so I think you stand a very good chance of winning this one.


Non Housing Act agreements

I have a tenant moving into a house paying £3,000 per calendar month. This is makes it a Non-Housing act tenancy agreement and I am having problems in finding a suitable form of agreement. Can you assist me with this in any way?

I am sorry, I am afraid I have no experience of properties of this calibre. I think you need to speak to a solicitor.


Fixed term agreement

I currently rent premises. The lease was granted for a fixed term of six years expiring on the 1 July 2006. I am keen to renew my tenancy agreement however my landlord feels he can obtain a higher rent if he carries out improvements to the property. His plans are at an early stage and he does not wish to start the necessary works for another year or so. Please could you help me with my legal position and any procedural steps I could take.

This sounds like commercial premises to me, which is outside my area of expertise. However, my common sense answer is, can you have a new agreement, with a break clause after one year and a rent increase clause to come into effect at the same time? Really needs a solicitor with expertise in this area.


Wanting to leave early

Moved into flat next to train tracks and can’t sleep.

I have just moved into a flat next to a set of railway tracks and find I cannot sleep at night due to the noise. At the time of moving in the landlord told me the noise was not going to be a problem.

I have asked the landlord if it was possible to put in double glazing but he does not want to do this as he feels it would be an eye saw.

I am currently bound to a 12 month lease with the option of giving notice and moving out after six months. I wanted to know if I have to stay in the flat for the six months as per the lease, or can I move out earlier.

Technically speaking, the landlord could hold you to the six months, though few landlords would. If you moved out, the landlord could take you to the small claims court, which would want to know what steps he had taken to find a new tenant. If he had made a reasonable effort but found nobody then it could well be found that he is entitled to the rent.

I think you need to discuss this with him further. Double glazing should not be an eyesore and is used widely for almost all types of windows. Would he consider secondary glazing, which would have the same effects of reducing noise. If he really won’t do anything, you could put it in writing to him, stating that he let the property when it is unfit for its purpose – and that you will seek legal advice if he does not attempt to rectify or release you from the agreement. It may have no effect, but in that case, discuss with a solicitor.


A paying guest?

Recently, my landlord evicted me without notice. I had to leave the day he asked me to go.
He is a residential landlord, I received housing benefit to pay my rent and I used to sign the cheque for him to place in his account.

I had no rent book, no contract and he said that I was simply a paying guest which meant I had no rights. He said he could ask me to leave and I would have to go if that was what he wanted. He said I wasn’t a tenant, simply a paying guest which meant he didn’t have to give me a rent book or contract.

Has he broken the law?

I am afraid you had very few rights as a lodger, as you were there by permission of the owner. However, you were entitled to ‘reasonable notice’ and same day does not seem to cover that – although there are some circumstances in which the landlord could reasonably feel that your staying in the property another day was unacceptable (I am talking here of serious misdemeanours). If there was nothing like that, I suppose he has broken the law. But your rights were so minimal that I don’t think you could get a solicitor to take action on such grounds. Discuss it with your local housing aid department, Citizens Advice, or law centre.



Running a business from rented property

Does a tenant of a residential property need to get a licence from the landlord before he or she can register the rented property address as the registered office of a limited company at Companies House?

It depends whether you are simply using the address as a registered office – somewhere official mail to the company is sent – or are using the property as a place of business. If the latter you will certainly need permission from your landlord, who will probably refuse. There may be planning considerations, other residents to take into account, and insurance cover to be amended.

If the former, I would still tell the landlord what you want to do and give assurances that you will not use the property as a place of business and that you will re-register the company’s registered address when you move on.



Payment method

Can a landlord insist that rent is paid in cash?

Please assume that the tenancy is an AST, and that the agreement is silent on the point.

The background is that my daughter is a tenant under an AST; she has been paying the rent by cheques which she left with the landlord’s duly appointed agent. The landlord has now fired the agent, and is trying to collect the rent himself – and has suddenly declared a preference for cash!

It would be dangerous for my daughter to collect such a large cash sum and carry it about in the street, and I want to insist that cheques delivered in time and which clear are perfectly legitimate. Can you advise?

I understand your concerns for your daughter, but I think the landlord can insist. She, of course, need not comply – but would almost certainly get a notice from the landlord to end when her tenancy does. In this day and age, when personal security is such an issue, it seems ridiculous that the landlord wants to put her at risk, but some landlords do prefer cash, because cheques can bounce – perhaps he has had a bad experience with someone. That does not help your daughter.

The only chance is by discussing your concerns and trying to reassure him that the cheques are going to be ok. You could try saying you will stand guarantor for her, but your daughter of course may feel that this is saying she cannot be responsible for herself, which clearly she is. Sorry.


Change in assignee name

We currently lease part of our building to another company, and I have received a ‘licence to assign’ advising me that they are changing their company name, and requesting ‘that we assign the whole of the premises’ to the new company name, for the residue of the term. They have also attached an authorised guarantee agreement for signing by ourselves, and the old company.

Is this something that we should be signing?

This is a commercial lease, so I cannot say, though my gut feeling is that assigning the whole of the premises could put you in an awkward position. This is something where you really need a solicitor to advise of the implications. I know that will have a cost implication, but so could signing away your rights in the premises – if this is in fact what you would do – or a guarantee.


Adult son living at home

I am letting a three bedroom house on an assured shorthold tenancy to husband, wife and one son aged 22, in full time employment and living at home on a permanent basis. Do I include this son on the tenancy agreement or will he be a licensee of his parents?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of including him on the tenancy agreement, and would your answer be any different if he were in full time education living partly at home and partly at university?

A joint tenancy, whether for two or three people, would make them all ‘jointly or severally liable’ for the rent. So if mum and dad stop paying the rent, you could go for the full sum to the son. However, as presuming they are living amicably, if mum and dad were unable to pay, the son may very well assist them anyway.

The big issue, I would think, would be if you decided to evict them, for example, because they are not paying the rent. If only the parents are tenants, you would issue one notice in joint names and they would be expected to leave with their son, who would have no right to remain. If the son is also a tenant and has rights, it could get messy if he continues to pay some part of the rent (though any party to a joint tenancy ending the agreement ends it for all – but tenants may not be aware of this).

I think I would keep the parents’ joint tenure allowing the son to live in the house as their guest. My answer would be the same if he were at university. I would be less happy about a joint tenancy including a student, who technically could be said still be dependent on his parents. Also, a tenancy should be a tenant’s ‘only or main home’ and students are generally at university and therefore living away for say 32 weeks of the year.


Commercial or residential?

Is the renting out of a flat above a shop to an individual who does not hold the lease on the shop a commercial or a residential lease? The complete property is a commercial one.

My initial reaction is that it would be a residential property, but then wonder what the last sentence implies. If Environmental Services have been involved, ensuring that it meets all required standards for a residence, then it would be residential. A close relative has what is a small factory in a converted pub. He fitted out the first floor as accommodation and, with the agreement of Environmental Services, let the rooms out. The building is commercial and has his name outside, but the accommodation is residential and let as an assured shorthold tenancy. Hope this helps.


Notice to quit

We let a property on an assured shorthold tenancy that runs from July 2005 to July 2006. The rent is paid quarterly in advance.

We received a letter from the tenant on 20 October 2005 stating that he wanted to give one month’s notice to quit. My understanding is that any notice to quit has to be given in writing and start from the next rent date. Therefore does this mean that we should have been given notice to quit for a rent period (the next rent date would have been 1 January 2006) meaning that the leaving date would be 30 March 2006 – or can the tenant give written notice to quit at any time?

Depends on the wording of the agreement, but if it says so, then yes, notice should be from the rent period. I think you are right to feel aggrieved – this is clearly someone only wanted a very short tenancy, as they have given notice to end less than the standard six months. However, civil law, states the tenant is only required to give one month’s notice, and I think if you look at why notice is asked for (to enable a landlord to get another tenant), it may be difficult to prove it was necessary to have three months notice. Your option is to go to the small claims court for any sum you feel is due to you, but you may need to prove that you have done what you could to get a new tenant and therefore minimise your losses and the sum you would look to your tenant for.


Example needed

Where could I find examples of tenancy agreement?
How can I carry out searches on possible tenants to make sure they will pay their rent?

Residential Landlord has a free tenancy agreement you can download. The link is on the home page.

You can also find tenant referencing firms listed in the ‘selected suppliers section of Residential Landlord (link also on home page). I would also take references, from the last landlord and the one before that – the one before is unlikely to lie to get rid of a bad tenant if they have already gone. But remember that nothing and nobody can guarantee that your tenants pay the rent, because something unexpected can happen to the best of tenants which means rent looses its place in their priority hierarchy.


Renewing a tenancy

In two months our tenants will have completed a year’s tenancy. I am about to write to see if they would like to stay on at the same rent. If they do want to stay, do we just re-issue a standard assured shorthold tenancy agreement? And if so, what happens about the initial six months extra protection on a standard assured shorthold tenancy, which shouldn’t really be applied to them as they’ve proved their worth over the last year?

You don’t really have to issue another tenancy agreement, as the current tenancy will automatically convert to a statutory periodic tenancy – which I always think suits a landlord very well as it does not commit to a specific tenancy term and can be terminated giving two month’s notice at any time.

If your tenant wants more security, you could issue a tenancy of six months, one year or even two years. However, bear in mind that even the best tenant could be biding his time and may well lapse at some stage. I’d stick with statutory periodic, without a new agreement or, if the tenant insists on a new agreement, issue for a year again.


And father moved in

I have let my property to a family of four on an assured shorthold tenancy for six months. The AST is on one name. When I visited recently I discovered the property is now lived in by six people, including the father who has come from overseas plus a husband to one of the daughters.

Before signing the AST, the family where adamant that only four people would live in the house, and I took their word. The AST states that it the house is a single private dwelling.

Where do I stand. The AST is for six months Would I be able to change it in on the rent day, and confirm who else is residing at the property, with full names and increase the rent at the same time on the AST?

You can issue a new tenancy agreement and raise the rent if you wish to, though if housing benefit is involved, the authorities would expect that the rent would stand for 12 months.

Is the property big enough to cope with a three-generation family of this size? If there is no over-crowding issue, I would issue a new tenancy but probably keep it in one name – additional names give rights to more people and that could become complicated should one or more of them get their own place.


No written agreement

Around 1992 I let a friend move into my unoccupied house at a nominal rent – which I always had problems in collecting. Some 18 months ago the tenant became unemployed and I now receive the rent from the housing benefits department.

I have never had a written tenancy agreement and I would now like to sell the property to buy myself a property to retire to. However the tenant is reluctant to move.

Can I serve any sort of legal notice to gain my house back?

I have heard of this sort of thing happening so often – you let to a friend so think a tenancy agreement is unnecessary. Unfortunately, in 1992, if there was no written tenancy agreement, you actually gave your tenant an assured tenancy, which offers far greater security than an assured shorthold tenancy.

You can only end an assured tenancy with one of a number specified grounds. Is the tenant eight weeks in rent arrears? If so you could use ground 8, a mandatory ground, which involves giving two week’s notice. Grounds 10 and 11 also refer to rent arrears but which are discretionary grounds,

If you cannot cite rent arrears, you may struggle. If you have something that shows that you used to live in the property as your main home and that the tenant was aware of this when he moved in, you may be able to use ground 1, but you must have something in writing. Ground 1 applies where a landlord or his spouse has at some point occupied the dwelling as his or her only or principle place of residence and now wishes to move back in.

The only other option would be to discuss it fully with the tenant. Whilst a nominal rent must have been attractive whilst he was working, now he is on housing benefit it should not be such a struggle to find somewhere else as he will not be looking for a comparable rent. Tell him you’ll give him a reference, help with removals and the like. Ask him if there is anything you could do which would persuade him to leave (though be careful not to intimidate) – it may go against the grain, but if he asks for a few hundred cash to pay another deposit, this may be worthwhile to you.


Notice periods

I had some tenants that were staying at my property under an Assured Short Term tenancy agreement which was to expire on the 16 February. However, after an informal conversation on the 16 January the tenant requested an additional month – which I agreed to, although nothing was put into writing.

On 2 January the tenant sent me a text message saying he now planned to terminate the contract on the original date (16 February) – hence leaving me only two weeks to find alternative tenants.

Should I have expected a minimum one month’s notice and therefore can I assume this commenced on 2 February when I received the text? Or does the original termination date of the 16 February stand? If it is the former can I deduct the additional rent (from 16 February to 2 March) from the deposit?

Hate to say it, because you were doing the tenant a favour, but this is why all such discussions should be confirmed in writing. Ethically, yes, you could take the extra two weeks from the deposit, if you are unable to find a tenant to move in within a day or so of the tenant vacating. However, if you do this, and your tenant takes you to the Small Claims Court, is the tenant likely to agree that the conversation took place extending the tenancy? Am I too cynical to suggest such a possibility, perhaps not? I would try and discuss and reach some form of agreement – possibly one week from the deposit? That way there would be give on each side. If you cannot reach an understanding, then deduct the two weeks and see if your tenant wants to pursue it – but bear in mind, courts can be sympathetic to tenants who make themselves appear as victims.


Basic agreement

I am a tenant and my lease is very basic. By basic I mean that the terms of the lease are as follows:

1 Rent
2 Deposit
3 Council Tax
4 Electric
5 Gas

There was no date of entry and no length of tenancy. Now the landlord has served a simple notice to quit in the way of: ‘please leave my property within one month’.

As I live in Scotland, I was wondering how is my tenancy seen under the Housing Act? Where do I stand with this landlord?

I would speak to your local housing aid or Citizens Advice as although the law is different in England, I do not believe that it is so different that this would be sufficient notice. Certainly, under English law, I would want to know how long the tenancy had run and one month would not be considered adequate notice without a ground (reason) for evicting.


House up for sale

Our landlord wants to put the house we rent up for sale before the end of our tenancy.

My wife and I have six weeks left on a one year tenancy (during which we have been model tenants). Today, my wife was called by an estate agent, acting on behalf of our landlord, who stated that he now wanted to put the house on the market immediately. This would involve erecting a ‘for sale’ sign outside the house and the agents showing potential buyers around the house while we are still living there (and paying rent).

We believe this to be a gross infringement of our liberties as tenants of a house that is still our home, not to mention more than a mild inconvenience, especially as we have a one year old daughter. We believe the landlord should wait until we leave before he makes any moves to sell.

What is your opinion and where do we stand legally?

Whilst you state you have six weeks left to run on the tenancy, if your landlord has not served you two months notice, you have at least two months in the property. I would always try and suggest that landlord and tenant treat each other with consideration. Sadly, you do not appear to have had that from the landlord.

Discuss calmly and reasonably with your landlord. Advise that you would have no objection to a notice in the garden for say the last month of the notice period. If you felt able to allow viewings in the last two weeks, I think that would be showing consideration to your landlord. The ‘for sale’ notice would almost certainly reduce your privacy – it is not unknown for people to peer through windows to get an indication of whether they want to view. Hopefully, you can reach an understanding but, if you find yourself unable to do this, tell the landlord he will have to wait until you vacate, after he has issued legal notice.

You must have been good tenants, because I would never risk tenants being in a property I was selling with vacant possession – I’d be worried about what they would say (or do!) to put a buyer off!


Who may rely on break clause?

I have an assured shorthold tenancy for a fixed term of 12 months. There is a with a break clause under the tenant’s section after six months, which I thought applied to both the landlord and tenant. But now we want to terminate so that we can sell the property, the tenant, who is a lawyer, says we cannot do this as the break clause only applies to him.

We have given two month’s notice to terminate on 21 April, (the tenancy commenced on 22 October 2005) – which will mean the tenancy has run for six months). The tenant wants to stay for eight months.

The problem is compounded because the tenant, to whom we gave a full month’s rebate, was very reasonable about the inconvenience caused by recent necessary subsidence work done. But we desperate to sell.

My question is, does the Housing Act allow for possession after a six month period even the tenancy agreement is for a 12 month fixed term?

The relevant clause in the tenancy agreement reads: The Tenant hereby agrees with Landlord as follows: To give the Landlord or Landlord’s Agent two month’s written notice if they wish to terminate the Tenancy Agreement at the end of the Fixed Term (ie: on or before the 21st August 2006) or if they wish to terminate the agreement after 6 months (ie on or before 21st February 2006).

Whereby it is agreed as follows: This Agreement may be brought to an end in accordance with the provisions in Section 5 to 12 and Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 or in accordance with
the provisions of Section 21 of that Act as amended under the provisions of the Housing Act 1996.

I am sorry, but I think this wording does only relate to the tenant ending the tenancy. You need to consult your own solicitor, but I think it is unlikely your tenant has signed something that would give you equal rights to end the contract.

You are therefore dependent on the grounds to end the tenancy, but again, your tenant will be aware of them and unlikely to give you the necessary reason to end the tenancy. You could try and negotiate, ie viewings in last month of tenancy, board up, but if he refuses, I don’t think there is much you can do. Also, though he has told you he wants to stay eight months, if he changes his mind, he has the right to stay until the expiry of the tenancy and a court orders possession. If this happens, serve him two month’s notice to end when the 12 month tenancy ends.

 



Termination of contract

We have a tenancy agreement with our landlady for one year with a six month break clause. The year long contract ends on 30 April 2006. However yesterday she gave us a letter each (there are four of us) saying that she was giving us two month’s notice to move out as from yesterday’s date (January 17) – so we have to be out by 18 March.

Is she entitled to give us notice to leave? Can we leave before the two month’s notice without incurring any penalties? The tenancy agreement is signed by all of us tenants, however the landlady has never signed it. Does this mean that we do not have to abide by the contract terms?

The tenancy agreement should have been signed by the landlady, but the fact she has accepted rent has in itself established a tenancy agreement.

The law has changed and she can give you a notice from any date, though I would be inclined to ask her to honour the tenancy dates, which would mean the notice would end on 30 March.

Without reading the agreement, it is difficult to say, but my feeling is that as the landlady did not act to end the first six months, you are entitled to believe the tenancy will run to 30 April and she is therefore quite possibly not entitled to terminate it early. I would say you are holding the cards in your hand – she clearly wants you out. You believe she is not entitled to ask you to go before 30 April, but if you find somewhere, may wish to leave before 18 March. I would discuss openly and pleasantly with her – be prepared to leave early, not fuss about early termination, and suggest she agree accept a short notice period from you. Good luck.


Passing on a tenancy

I moved to the flat I currently share with one other person in April 2005. The agreement was that I stay for six months, with the option to extend to one year automatically. I have now decided to move and, in order to be fair to my landlord, I have arranged for another friend to move in and pay rent until the end of my contract (April 2006).

The problem is that, at the end of the contract, the friend who will be moving into the property would like to have the contract roll one month at a time (probably until July 2006 or so). However my landlord has said that the only option he will allow will be renewal of the contract for a further six months from April. Is this correct?

I have read on your website about something called a ‘statutory periodic tenancy’ but I don’t know how this works or whether it is applicable in this situation or not.

A statutory periodic tenancy occurs where a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy ends and a new contract is not given. The tenant retains the limited security which a shorthold tenancy gives, which is that should the landlords wish to evict he or she must serve two months’. This really does not apply in this case. If it did, the tenancy would remain in your name, and mean the landlord could come to you for rent. And in any case, as you would not be living there, you would not have a legal tenancy. If you and the other person living there had a joint tenancy, technically speaking, this ended when you relinquished. In that case, the solution is simple – the landlord should issue a new joint tenancy to the original tenant and your replacement. If you both had separate tenancies, the landlord should issue a new six month tenancy to your friend. This would mean that if your friend decided to stay beyond July, the contract could convert to a statutory periodic tenancy and continue on a month by month basis.


External duties

Are their any legal requirements for landlords/agents to keep the gardens and external appearance (for example painting) in good order and in keeping with the adjacent property?

Landlords and agents have a responsibility to keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair, making sure it is weatherproof and does not pose a threat to health and safety. I would always recommend a landlord or agent to have a programme of painting/decorating – perhaps internally every three to five years, externally seven to 10 years.

Gardens would generally be the responsibility of the tenant and good landlords would make sure that the gardens are kept neatly. I think the tricky bit is ‘in keeping with the adjacent property’. Not being aware of the situation, it is difficult to say, but if my adjacent neighbour chooses to have stone cladding or the front rendered purple – nobody on earth would force the landlord to do the same. I presume it is not such an extreme, that the landlord’s property is the one that is causing some concern, rather than a desire to see all houses as nicely matching. If the landlord’s property looks in a bad state and is obviously deteriorating, Environmental Health may be able to help, though probably not if the problem is only cosmetic.


Tenancy came with business

I have just taken over a business, above is a three bedroom self contained maisonette, with garage and parking space. An assured shorthold tenancy is in place – the six month term is due to expire in late February.

I offered the tenant a new tenancy agreement for a further six months but with increased rent as the lease payments have just increased also. The tenant has refused to sign and said I should give him two months notice – although the tenancy runs out next month anyway. What shall I do?

The legal process for raising the rent is to propose a rent rise in writing, or on a special form. However, it does not sound as though your tenant is being pernickety because it has not been done correctly, simply not prepared to pay more. Although the tenancy ends next month, you will still need to give a full two months’ notice. You can write this yourself, stating ‘two months’ notice given under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (amended 1996) from…………….to expire……………. If you remain in residence after that date, it is my intention to obtain a court order granting possession of the property’. You should also include a paragraph advising the tenant that he can obtain legal advice or see Citizens Advice.


Protected tenancy

My mother owns a property in the north of England in which a protected tenant lives. This tenant usually often lets the rent run to eight weeks in arrears and then settles at the last minute.

As my mother is an overseas owner can she legally remove the tenant so that she can sell the property? She is being advised by her real estate agent that the property would not sell with a protected tenant in residence or at least would not sell for its market value.

To gain possession your mother would have to evict using case 1 – that the tenant was in breach of rent or other obligations under the tenancy agreement. The difficulty is that the court would have to look at the ground and also the reasonableness of possession being sought.

The tenant is presumably fairly mature – protected tenancies must have started before 1977, so we already have someone who has been a tenant nearly 30 years as a minimum. Your mother wants possession because the tenant regularly pays the rent late – and a case could be made this creates financial difficulties for her. But perhaps your tenants will say he or she has simply become forgetful and always pays when reminded. If such an argument where made I am not sure how certain you could be about gaining possession.

You could offer the tenant suitable alternative accommodation, if this is feasible.

If you really want the tenant out, I think you need to consult a solicitor who specialises in housing law, who will be able to advise you about the likelihood of success.


When four became six

I have let my property to a family of four. The assured shorthold tenancy agreement, which is for six months, is in the name of one person only. However, I have discovered there are now six people living in the house; the tenant and his family plus his father who has come from overseas and a husband to one of the daughters.

Before signing, the tenant assured me that only four people would be living in the house. The tenancy agreement states that the property is to be used as a private dwelling.

Where do I stand with the tenant? The tenancy agreement is for six months, so would I be able to change it in on the rent day so as to confirm the full names of those living at the property – and increase the rent at the same time?

A tenant is entitled to have guests stay on a short term basis, which may be what daughter and husband are doing.

You don’t say when the tenancy started, but if it has already run for some time, I’d leave it until it is coming to the end. Two months before it ends, meet with the tenant, ask what he wants to do. If he intends staying in the property, are the other adult males staying too? It may be that the daughter and husband will be moving out shortly. Whatever happens, draw up a new tenancy agreement reflecting the situation.

If you are not satisfied with the interview with the tenant, perhaps because you believe the house will be overcrowded, then serve two months’ notice and get them out.


Landlord showing house

I have recently purchased a house with my partner and we have just handed our notice in from the place we are currently renting. The agency wants to organise viewings for future new tenants. I have no problem with the principle but we both work full time and have a dog that stays on his own in the house while we are at work (the agent knows about the dog).

We both finish work at 5pm and have said viewings should be after that time. However the agent refuses to arrange viewings after 4pm.

I have suggested week ends but the agent won’t do week ends either.

I have suggested we show people round ourselves after 5pm, but the claims she wants to meet people to evaluate them.

I suggested lunchtime, which is the only other possible time I could make, but the agent said that if we did not allow her into the house when we were not at home we would be refusing her access. She said she would go into the house anyway when we are not there if it wasn’t for the fact that she is scared of the dog’s reaction. She suggested I take the dog to work or leave him in the car – which is not possible for obvious reasons.

My question is, has she got any rights to come in without our permission when we are not in the house? And can we refuse the agent access to show the property to new tenants? Our tenancy agreement is really vague on that and only mentions a three days notice but nothing clear.

The agent does not have he has not got the right to enter without your permission and would be foolish to do so – if anything went missing whilst she was there, she would be held responsible.

I really don’t know how to take this one forward. You appear to have been fairly open about viewings; it is she that is being obstructive. Is there a shed or a garage where the dog could be left for a few hours? Is there anybody who would look after the dog in the afternoons, to allow the agent to enter the property (although by arrangement and with your permission).


Cooling off period

I have recently signed a six month assured shorthold tenancy agreement. This is for a furnished room in a shared house with a letting agency in Southampton.

When I viewed the house I must admit I was in a hurry to get to a meeting at work and didn’t take too much in, just the general dimensions. On attempting to move in, none of the keys supplied to me by the letting agent would fit. Upon knocking on the door someone let me in. He didn’t challenge me as to who I was and walked back to his room.

I found the whole house to be totally disgusting, including the communal areas. It is unsanitary (I would go as far as to say a health risk), and untidy. The ‘furniture’ is falling apart and is certainly not useable. There is also a smell of damp in the room.

Totally horrified I turned on my heels, walked straight back out and booked into a local bed and breakfast. There is no way on this earth I will go back there and I really need to know if there is any kind of a cooling off period with tenancy agreements and how much money I am likely to lose as a result of not moving in? (I have paid a security deposit and two months rent).

I have never heard of a cooling off period in housing law – properties are usually in such high demand (yes, even the bad ones) that the landlord could have lost three, four or more prospective tenants, believing you had accepted the room.

You state quite firmly you will not go back, which makes it difficult as the situation should be addressed. I suggest your clearly and briefly write down your concerns: security, damp, unsanitary communal areas, poor state of furniture, where possible giving examples. Take a copy of this list and arrange a meeting with the landlord. Discuss it, along the lines that it was not the place for you, that you realise this is an inconvenience, but that you would expect the rent (less one week, say, to allow for a new tenant being found) and the security deposit to be returned.

If you have no success, it may be worth discussing with Environmental Services – they would normally only discuss with a tenant, rather than an ex-tenant, but may be able to take some action. You could also take up your case with the local Trading Standards department. Otherwise, you could try the small claims court, but you need some support for this (which Environmental Services may be able to provide).

In private renting, more perhaps than any other area, the phrase is ’caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware’ – should be headed by both landlords and tenants. Don’t ever do things in a rush, ask the right questions, and make sure you understand what you are signing.


Viewing rights and wrongs

My partner and I have been renting a flat for almost two years (agreement renewed twice) through reputable letting agents. The latest period is due to expire in late June this year and we have indicated that we are unlikely to be renewing for a further period as we are expecting to buy a property of our own in the near future.

In December last year we were advised by the agents that unless we committed to renewing for a further 12 months in June, they would commence marketing the flat and start bringing prospective tenants in to view (they do give notice of this in advance). We protested at this, on the grounds that the current period (12 months) was less than half expired and as an interim measure it was agreed on all sides that we would wait until mid January and review. We told the agents then that we would not be committing, and that the property could be marketed.

We want to be reasonable and understand the landlord needs to protect his investment, but would like to know what the statutory position is with regard to our right to enjoy the use of the flat – we are now facing the prospect of up to five months of prospective tenant visits to the flat. The agents are not above proposing visits at 10.30 on Sunday mornings, and my partner suffers from multiple sclerosis and is therefore, from time to time, confined to bed.

I cannot see that a possible five months of viewings will allow you to have ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your home. As you do not appear to have a great desire to leave before June, I think you should state that whilst you (perhaps) do not object to a board outside from March, viewings can only take place May onwards. I think this is fairer on prospective tenants also. ‘Sell’ your position to the agents – from May, you are happy for viewings whenever required, though I would be inclined to specify particular days.



Use of licences

I use a licence agreement for my tenants and want to know if as a result I would have difficulty getting possession from a court.

I really need more information to answer this – do you use licence agreements because you share your property with lodgers? If this is not the case, and your ‘tenants’ have exclusive use of properties, they may very well have tenancy rights, and therefore have greater security than would be indicated by a licence.

Of course, whatever their status, when you give notice they may accept this and leave anyway. The difficulty arises if you need to go to court and a ‘tenant’ makes consults Citizens Advice or Housing Aid Service and decides to argue the point.

In the case of lodgers, it is correct to use licence agreements, and there should be no problems if it went to court.


Premium leases

My agents have found a respectable blue chip company as a tenant, but it wants to rent on a premium lease whereby it will pay 13 months rent as a premium and £100 per year as a rent. I have never come across this in nearly 40 years of renting, and I am very uneasy about it. Do you know anything about it?

I am afraid I have never heard of this before, though have an idea that this may be some form of tax arrangement. I would suggest consulting a solicitor who has a knowledge of both housing law, commercial law and tax. I think where anything makes you uneasy the answer is to get the best help you can find. Hope it works out.


Ended by interim order

On September 1, my wife signed a six month assured shorthold tenancy agreement running until 28 February 2006. She paid 6 month’s rent in advance and £865 by way of security deposit. On 16 September 2005 Halifax Plc were granted an interim possession order against the property as the landlord was in arrears by several months with his mortgage repayments. On 31 October 2005 Melbourne Mortgages were also awarded an interim possession order against the property for the same reason. We have had no real feedback either from the landlord or his letting agent.

There have also been several other issues with the property (gardens not brought to a usable standard before moving in, landlord’s junk filling the garage, rat infestation in the garage) that have not been addressed by the owners or his agents.

On 1 December 2005 we issued a notice to the letting agent of our intention to vacate the property on 31 December, as my wife could no longer live with the threat of eviction notices landing at any time. We have been told by the agent that as there is no break clause in the agreement, we will not get back any monies, namely two month’s advance rent and the security deposit (equating to £2,115.00). The letting agent told us verbally, but refused to confirm in writing, that it held the advance rent payments in a ‘client account’.

My understanding is that once an interim possession order has been granted, an AST ends, meaning that after 16 September we were under no further legal obligation. Also we were not given any notice that the property was mortgaged, moreover that the property was in mortgage repayment arrears prior to signing and taking possession.

Is my understanding correct? Does the AST end upon the granting of interim possession orders?

You deserve a prize because it is very rare that I am completely stumped on a question. I have checked my usual sources and no joy. I think I would see a solicitor and discuss this with him or her. Then it’s the small claims court.

It sounds like you have a reasonable case. I’d get whatever support you can from the mortgage companies that have issued notices to show that it is not reasonable for you to stay. Very good luck.


Letting a room

I am currently looking to let one of the rooms in my own home. I need to know what legal documents I have to follow to do this. Do I just have to write a document and then get the tenant to sign it?

You will need to devise a licence agreement. A lodger has minimal rights – the essential one being the right to reasonable notice, which could be one week – but this is something to negotiate with your lodger. You should ensure the agreement states the rent, payment arrangements, how utility costs are to be divided, whether the lodger is allowed visitors, any prohibitions (like smoking in the house), which rooms the lodger may use. Make two copies, one for your lodger, one for you, and both of you should sign both copies. I would suggest you buy a rent book.



Changing payment terms

My husband and I are first time landlords and would like to know:

1 If the tenant wants access to the property before he moves in, at what point should the tenancy begin?

The only access the tenant should ask for before commencement of the tenancy would be in viewing or measuring up the property. If you are prepared to allow him to do this, fine, but have him do it in your presence. The tenancy should begin on the date you hand over the keys, having completed the tenancy agreement and received references and a deposit.

2 The property was fire damaged and was inspected by a Corgi registered engineer and I have a copy of the gas safety inspection certificate from the previous owner’s solicitor. It is dated April 2005 – does this cover me (is it transferable because it relates to the property and not the owner or do I need one of my own?)

Not quite clear on what stage exactly the fire and the fire safety inspection occurred. I would say that you need to get your own gas engineer to inspect and issue a safety certificate. Your new tenant has a right to see the certificate and it should be re-issued every time the tenant changes.

3 I advertised the property with a weekly rent but the tenant wants to pay by standing order every four weeks. How do I show this on the tenancy agreement – I have an agreement from a law pack but it only allows for weekly and monthly – can I alter the agreement with the tenants consent, to read every four weeks?

Yes, just alter it – I have seen many agreements where this is written in. Four-weekly creates no problems – it is the difference between weekly and monthly that some people find confusing.

4 Am I still required to provide a rent book if the rent is being paid by standing order every four weeks?

No you are not, but I believe it is helpful to have a very clear record of what you receive, when. If rent arrears accumulated, it can be helpful to have the details in a clear, separate record from bank statements.

5 In the law pack there is a notice of possession. Do I fill this out and give it to the new tenant at the beginning of the tenancy?

You can do so, and many landlords find this the easiest thing to do. My own view would be that this may make a tenant feel insecure and obviously, you have no weight if your tenant misbehaves – he may feel he is already bound to be evicted. However, many landlords feel that serving notice at the outset enables the process to be speeded up if problems occur.

6 Should I make a note that the deposit can be used to recover any losses including unpaid utility bills?

Yes, add a clause stating exactly what is covered by the deposit.


Renewal wanted

We have a six months lease (in Scotland) which is due to expire in February. The landlord has just issued us with a notice to quit but claims that we should not worry as we can renew the lease in February with no problems. However, if this is the case why would he issue us with a notice to quit?

Scottish Law is different to English law, but I cannot see why, two months before the end of the tenancy, a notice would be issued if the tenancy could be renewed without a problem. I would suggest you contact a Scottish Housing Aid, Citizens Advice or a solicitor to be sure about your position, which to me looks a little uncertain.


Parking places

We let a flat via a letting agent on a short tenancy agreement. The flat has one parking space and the possibility of parking another car within the boundaries. The present tenant has two cars and two works vans, one of which is used to store plaster and is untaxed.

Whilst we understand that the issue of additional cars will need to be resolved by reference to the tenancy agreement, we are unsure of how to go about enforcement of the agreement and removal of the untaxed vehicle (which is parked on private property belonging to all of the flat owners).

Enforcement of the agreement is generally by evicting at the earliest opportunity. I think you need to discuss this with a solicitor. If the untaxed vehicle was on a public road, the police could have it removed, but this is private land. Your agent should surely be addressing the issue – they let the property to someone who clearly needs far more land than the flat has. You do need to address this, before residents’ groups start to raise concerns.


Leaving early

I recently let a one bedroom flat to a tenant who now says she would like to leave. The tenancy agreement was to have run until next May. Where do I stand?

The difficulty is always – how do you make someone stay who doesn’t want to? I think you would be better trying to get her to give you notice which would allow you time to get a new tenant than trying to hold her to May. You could try taking her to the small claims court, if you know where she is moving to, but it would want to know why you were trying to hold her to May, and what steps you had taken to get a new tenant. Cutting your losses is your best option.


Reflex reaction

I own a property which was previously used as a commercial property but has now been converted to residential use. I have found a tenant who wants to use it as her main residence but because she is also a fully qualified therapist, she wants to practice reflexology treatment from the premises. Can you please advise me whether this would be allowed, or should be allowed by me, and if so what sort of tenancy agreement would be needed?

Check with a solicitor, as this could be considered a hybrid housing and commercial tenancy. If it is on a lease, the leaseholder may not be happy about a business being carried on. Better to get a solicitor to look at it.



Rent increase notices

Do you have a best practice template for a rent increase letter?

You can use the formal procedure on form Landlords notice proposing a new rent under an Assured Periodic Tenancy of premises situation in England (or Wales). Otherwise, write a letter (two copies – one for you and one for the tenants) with simple wording along the lines of:
Dear………., As you have lived in the property since………… and the tenancy has converted to a statutory periodic tenancy, I would like to propose an increase in the rent from………to……… ,to take effect from………….(at least month’s notice).
If you claim housing benefit, you should make a new claim noting this proposed increased.
Yours sincerely.
And attach an acceptance slip saying: I, ………….. ,accept the rental increase proposed by my landlord. Signed:…………………..Tenant

Make sure the letter is dated, and if the tenant is in agreement. If the tenant agrees and signs the acceptance slip, keep a copy. If the tenant does not agree, he or she should ask the Rent Assessment Committee to decide what the rent should be. This must be done before the date on which the new rent is due.


AST limitations

We have been offered a tenancy on a large house we own in Virginia Water, Surrey. The monthly rent proposed is £2,750 per month.

Is an AST the correct form of tenancy? I believe there are monetary limits that may apply.

I am afraid it cannot be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy as the maximum rental value is £25,000 – your property is considerably more. I would see a solicitor to ensure the correct agreement is drawn up.


Restricted use of property

In July this year I moved into a student let. We knew that the landlady’s daughter was still living in one bedroom (mine) but were told this would only be for a short while. Until she moved out I agreed to share a room with my boyfriend. A third student taking another room did not want to move in until October but agreed to pay a retainer of half rent.

The landlady’s daughter did not move out until the end of September. During the period I could not use the bedroom I intended on moving into, and we had to use the unoccupied other bedroom to store our belongings (the girl who had reserved the room also had her belongings in the room).

The landlady has demanded that my boyfriend and I both pay full rent for the months in which we were obliged to share. Her argument is that we do not pay for specific rooms, and that we had full use of the third bedroom.

This appears totally unfair, as the landlady was receiving rent for the third bedroom, meanwhile her daughter remained living in the house, restricting our use of the property.

Are her demands acceptable? We are on a 12 month shorthold tenancy, can we end this sooner if we so wish?

I am sorry, but the answer to this rests on your agreement. Without seeing it, I cannot be exact. However, I would say that the landlady quite probably is being unreasonable. The difficulty is that if you refuse to pay, she will deduct it from your deposit, though you could go to the small claims court to recover the amount involved.

With regard to leaving before the end of the 12 months, your landlady could take you to the small claims court to hold you to the tenancy. She would have to take reasonable steps to find other tenants for your rooms – but here is the problem – how easy will it be for her to get new student tenants in the middle of the academic year? If she can successfully argue she can’t, then you could be held liable. I know that does not seem fair.



Two tenants

Two potential tenants are interested in renting my two bedroom flat. They are happy to share the house but each wants a separate assured shorthold tenancy agreement. Are there any problems in this?

I cannot see a problem, as such. Each would have a tenancy agreement, presumably charging them half the rent each. If they had a joint tenancy, and either of them moved out, the other would be liable for the whole rent, as they would be ‘jointly and severally liable’. If one moves out with an individual tenancy, they would still only be responsible for their half of the rent. However, have you considered how you would get another tenant, should one vacate? The remaining tenant may make it difficult to let to someone else. Discuss this with them both, fully.


Unruly reasons

My partner and I have been renting a maisonette for 12 months. At the end of this time the landlord urged us to sign an agreement for a further year, so we did. However since then we have had continuous problems from noisy and unruly neighbours. We have therefore decided to move. We have obtained a mortgage and have found a nice quiet flat to buy.

However, when we contacted our landlord and told him of our situation he became very uncooperative. We have asked him if four month’s notice would be acceptable and give him enough time to find new tenants. But he says that because we signed for 12 months we have to pay for 12 months.

The landlord does not understand the reasons why we want to move or why my partner is getting very upset and feeling unsafe in what is meant to be her home. Any advice would be appreciated.

I think you need to discuss this with him fully. He needs to know, because his next tenants may also decide to vacate early because of the nuisance. Whilst I understand his wish that you remain 12 months, should you move out his only option would be to take you to the small claims court, when he would have to prove that he had taken reasonable steps to find a new tenant before the expiry of the 12 months. He may prove more amenable when you explain the circumstances, and also offer to do whatever you can to help him let the flat – by allowing viewings and/or having carpets cleaned, for example.


Nothing in writing

My landlady, from whom I have been renting for three years, is great and does not interfere at all. For my part I have been personally responsible for all maintenance and redecorating costs and have looked after the property as if it was my own.

However, I am a little concerned because my landlady’s circumstances have changed – she has remarried and moved away to another area. I’m afraid she may decide to sell up.

When I first started to rent the property I downloaded a short term tenancy agreement from an Internet site and signed and sent this off to my landlady. I have never received a signed copy back. We have agreed verbally that I can stay as long as I like, but as I do not have a written agreement I feel a little secure.

What are my rights? Can the landlady end our agreement at any time? And can I?

Your tenancy is almost certainly an assured shorthold tenancy that has converted to a statutory periodic tenancy. This gives you the same limited security as an assured shorthold. You do not, at present, need a tenancy agreement in writing. Unfortunately, the landlady can evict you at any time, provided she gives you two months notice. You have the same right to give her one months notice.

You sound like you have been a model tenant, as really, decorating and maintenance are her responsibility. I would be inclined to write her a very nice letter, perhaps suggesting that as her name will have changed, she may like to issue another tenancy agreement, perhaps after this length of time and such a satisfactory arrangement, issuing it for two years. There is always the risk that this may make her and new husband reassess the situation and decide to sell up, but you are clearly feeling very unsettled and insecure anyway. Knowing what she intends will probably be no worse than not.

 



Tenants asking for extra week

My tenants have asked if they can stay an extra week after my section 21 notice expires. They have given me a few problems but lately everything has been going well. If I grant them the extra week, does this invalidate the Section 21 notice and would a new one have to be issued with a further two month deadline? To avoid this could I agree with them informally (nothing in writing) that they may stay, making it clear that the section 21 notice period has expired and they need to leave otherwise I will apply for accelerated possession? Do I have to apply for possession immediately?

There should not be a problem about them staying an extra week. Obviously, it is a saving if you don’t need to go to court. The notice should not be invalidated – after all, a notice can expire whilst a landlord is on holiday! What matters is that the notice has been issued correctly and has expired. Leaving it a week or so before you go to court should be fine. Ask them why they want to stay – have they got another property to go to? If it is that they have nowhere, I would be very careful about how long you hold off going to court – a week at the most, as this could just be a delaying tactic and you end up with the costs of going to court anyway.


End of tenancy

After three years I am coming to the end of my current tenancy agreement. Out of the blue my landlord has indicated that he requires the property back . I am taking the residents’ association to court over the illegal removal of my vehicle and it appears there has been some correspondence between the association and my landlord. My car was in my parking space and off the road however the residents association got the council to remove the vehicle without my permission.

I also suffered a major flood in the flat, caused by faulty external plumbing, which damaged my property (I didn’t have contents insurance). Subsequently the bathroom and kitchen were half replaced but to a lesser standard than when I moved in.

I would like to know whether, as I have not received official notice to quit, do I have any rights especially as I did my landlord a favour by not taking him to court over the loss of my car?

Should I now also pursue the landlord over this and, should my landlord take me to court, can I counter claim for my losses from the flooding?

You must have legal notice from your landlord. I would expect him to use the Accelerated Possession Procedure, which requires a two month’s notice in writing.

I am afraid the other issues probably do not have any bearing on your security as a tenant and your rights to notice and I suggest you see a solicitor about these.


Right to hold photo shoots

Our agents have asked us to sign the tenancy agreement for a flat we are letting. This had already been signed by the tenants who have moved. However, they have added a handwritten clause giving them the right to use the flat ‘without payment of any royalty’ – the tenants’ words – for occasional photo-shoots needed to create advertisements for their fashion jewellery business.

We find this clause unacceptable and have not signed the tenancy agreement pending advice. Should we delete this clause and sign the agreement and ask them to approach us separately with more details of their proposed photo-shoots? Also, would these photo-shoots be considered commercial use of our private flat and, even if we were to agree to this, would permission have to be sought from the landlords of the block of flats?

This seems very odd and your agents should, surely, have advised the tenants that the agreement cannot be amended by them in this manner – you would not expect to change an agreement at the signing stage after a tenant had agreed to the property, why should they?

In the circumstances, I would not expect the agent to have given them the keys. However, if he has and they have moved in, a tenancy has probably been created. In that case, evicting them before the end of the initial tenancy could be difficult. As ‘royalty’ has been mentioned, it appears to me that quite probably the photos are being taken for commercial purposes, and yes, in that case, you probably would need to ensure that your own landlords would need to give permission.

I am a terrible cynic, but having lived in a property where the previous owner had ‘photoshoots’ of a questionable nature, I never quite believe situations are as innocent as they appear. Speak to the agents – if they have given the keys, contact ARLA, as I don’t believe this is acting in your interests. Speak to your tenants – you may be prohibited by your lease from carrying on any business from the flat, in which case they must stop the photos. Advise the agent that you are happy for them to leave before the end of the tenancy.


Limits on occupation and usage

I am a private landlord with nine properties. Within the terms of my tenancy agreements are the following terms, under the heading of ‘Limits on occupation and usage: ‘1) to use the premises only as a single private residence for occupation by the tenant personally and no other person whether members of the tenant’s family or not; and 2) not to assign sublet or part with or share possession or occupation of the whole or any part of the premises’.

I was successful when a couple of years ago I relied on these clauses to obtained possess. However, I have been told that they may now be considered to impose unfair terms because they could be said to prevent a tenant having guests stay and to have quiet enjoyment of the premisey.

As far as I could understand, when my solicitor drew up the deed these two clauses were included to prevent tenants allowing other parties to live at the rented address and thereby obtain rights of occupancy.

Can you say whether in your view these terms would be deemed unfair and whether a person living with a tenant [but not named on the tenancy agreement] can obtain rights of occupancy?

If your tenants are assured shorthold tenants, I cannot see how anyone could gain any right of occupancy. Someone may decide to stay after the tenant has left, which would mean you would have to get a court order to evict an illegal occupier, but not, as far as I can see, anything greater than this. I think it is possible that the Office of Fair Trading may deem these, as they stand, to be unfair terms – I think it was the Human Rights Act which brought this sort of discussion about this type of term. You could perhaps extend clause 1, to say ‘other than visits of a reasonable length by friends or family members’ or something of this kind. This widens it so it is clear that you are not trying to stop someone having visitors, only to ensure that tenants only live there from the beginning to the end of the tenancy.


No written agreement

I moved in with my new partner and let a friend of a relative rent my property. She has no tenancy agreement and is now three months in arrears with the rent and refusing to leave or answer the door. Three months ago I sent her a letter (handwritten) giving her 28 days to leave.

She has told me by phone that she has applied to the social services who have agreed to pay her rent (both that owing and future rent). She also said that the council has advised her that we cannot evict her.

Can I apply to the courts for possession because of the rent arrears and have a bailiff remove her?

At present there is no legal requirement to have a written tenancy agreement, though it is coming. The fact of her moving in and now having applied for housing benefit would indicate a tenancy has been established. I am afraid that the tenant is right, you cannot serve her notice by giving 28 days.

You need to ask a legal stationers for a notice to evict her using ground 8, that she owes eight weeks or more rent both when the notice was served and when it goes to court. This is a two week notice. You would then go to court for an order. If she still remains, then the bailiffs would go in.

Ground 8 a mandatory ground, so there should be no argument, but sadly, some magistrates are not aware of the law and may allow her to make a defence – in which case, if her housing benefit comes through, or she can provide evidence that it will, you may not win – though as I say, you should do really.


Moving north

With my partner I am thinking of relocating to the north of England to take up a job opportunity. However we have only been living in our present flat for one and half months of a 12 month tenancy agreement (with opt out after six months with one month’s notice).

Can we serve notice prior to the end of the six months so that we can leave at the end of the sixth month, or could we leave earlier still?

There should not be a problem about serving notice to end at the end of six months, as there is an opt out clause. Leaving earlier would really depend on the landlord. Some will be helpful in the circumstances outlined, others less so because of the hassle about getting a new tenant when they thought they had a settled tenant for six or 12 months. Discuss the matter with your landlord, be as helpful as you can, offer to pay for the advertising.


Joint tenancy agreement

My daughter is renting a shared house on a joint tenancy agreement.

The agreement, set up by a letting agency, is for an initial six months, thereafter becoming a ‘rolling contract’ of two months.

After nine months my daughter, who is unable to meet the high rent, has decided to move back home. She has written to (faxed) the letting agent giving the required two month’s notice. She rang up the next day to ensure that they have received the fax and to ask if there was anything else she needed to do. She was assured that it was fine, and there was nothing else she needed to do and the notice had been accepted.

The letter she wrote was in the singular – she said: ‘I will be moving out’. And at no time did the letting agency ask her if this letter was on behalf of both tenants.

It then became apparent that the agency had ‘assumed’ she was writing on behalf of both tenants because they visited the property to make an assessment with a view to re-letting the whole property. The remaining tenant thought this was quite funny and decided to play along with it for a while but after a couple of weeks told the agency that she wasn’t moving out at all.

My daughter was then told that the remaining tenant would have to sign another six month contract with a new joint tenant or she would be responsible for replacing my daughter with another joint tenant if she wanted to stay on. The other tenant is reluctant to sign a new six month contract because she may want to move out within a couple of months herself and has not been able to find anybody ‘she likes’ to move in.

The letting agency called my daughter – one week before she is was due to move out – saying that it is now her responsibility to find someone to move into the property and that her notice letter is void unless and until she does. Neither her rolling contract or the previous six month tenancy agreement mention anywhere that it is her responsibility to do this.

Where does she stand?

I am afraid the agents are in the right – legally her leaving a joint tenancy invalidates the whole of the tenancy. In a joint tenancy, the tenants are jointly and severally liable – therefore if the tenancy continues, the remaining tenant becomes responsible for the whole rent. The only question for me is whether they confirmed acceptance of the notice from her in writing (in a provable manner). If they did, then the issue has to be with the remaining tenant, not your daughter. If not, your daughter may find herself taken to the small claims court for any debt which accrues. She perhaps needs to discuss this with a solicitor.

 



Recompense for nuisance

We rented a one bed ground floor flat in Fulham for two years and moved out on 31 August last. For the last six to eight months of the tenancy, the landlord was refurbishing the upstairs flat, which he also owns. This involved erecting scaffolding in our garden (of which we supposed to have sole use) and at the front of the flat (in front of our sitting room window). The scaffolding in the garden meant that we could not use the garden.

The workmen undertaking the work were present on numerous weekends and on one Saturday came into our flat (while we were there) to link the electrics to upstairs. We had no notice of their arrival and they were there for roughly 45 minutes. On weekday mornings we let workmen in to look at ventilation shafts before we left for work.

We were only aware that the work was likely to be undertaken when we received a planning notice from the council. We had no verbal or written notice from the landlord that he wished to affect our enjoyment of the property in this way.

I cannot find any wording in the tenancy agreement that would allow him to enter the property for anything other than emergency repairs or for non-payment of rent.

When we complained about this breach at the time and also telephoned the agent at the time the electricians wanted to come into the flat on the Saturday mentioned above. He denies workmen were present at weekends excepting one occasion.

Can we initiate proceedings in the small claims court for compensation of rent, and if so how should we calculate the compensation? Does that fact that we did not complain at the time about the breach of enjoyment covenant prejudice our claim?

I think you need to discuss this with a solicitor who would be better able to advise on the likelihood of success. I can understand that this spoiled your summer in the property and why you would be thinking of compensation, but I think winning this may be difficult The argument could be made by the landlord that you allowed access, and that when the agent denied how much access had been at weekends, you did not put your complaint in writing. I think a stiff letter from you at some time whilst this was going on would have helped any case in the small claims court.


Living on the premises

We own three self contained flats in a converted house. We live in the ground floor flat and rent out the two others.

We need our tenant to renew her rental agreement but have read that the standard assured shorthold tenancy agreement from a self help pack is not suitable if the landlord resides in the same property as the tenant (and the definition of property includes living in self-contained accommodation in a converted house).

What type of agreement should we use?

I think you need a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau to advise you. It would depend how much of the accommodation was actually shared – though self-contained flats sound as though there may only be a common entrance. If the Assured Shorthold Tenancy was not appropriate, it sounds as though the ‘tenant’ is actually there on licence. I would see the solicitor that did the conveyancing when you bought the property – he should know on what grounds the tenants are living there and be able to point you in the right direction for the correct tenancy agreement. If it is not an assured shorthold tenancy I would draw up my own agreement.


What is the difference?

Could you please advise whether a periodic tenancy or a new tenancy agreement safeguards the landlord most when a tenant stays on after a six month’s shorthold tenancy agreement has run its course, and how long statutory periodic tenancies can continue safely?

This really depends on the stand point, do you want to safeguard your ability to evict quickly or encourage tenants not to move on? I always feel that if I was a tenant, I would want a new shorthold tenancy agreement, so I would have the security of knowing that provided I paid the rent and did not break the tenancy agreement , the landlord could not get me out in less than six months. On the other hand, as a landlord I would like a statutory periodic tenancy since I would know that provided I served two month’s notice correctly as required by law, the tenants could be evicted fairly quickly. Then again, if you are a landlord who is likely to be away for a few months and want to make sure your property is safeguarded, a shorthold tenancy agreement may mean that tenants are more likely to stay for the full term of the agreement.

There seem to be no restrictions in law on how long a periodic tenancy can run, provided an assured shorthold tenancy was issued to start with. Even so, I think I would want to review the agreement perhaps every year or every two years, simply because the rent would need to rise. I would re-issue a shorthold when the rent rises – though remember there is a legal procedure for this.


Lodger’s rights and wrongs

I have a lodger in my house who I believe has stolen money and IT equipment. Obviously I cannot prove this but when I mentioned to her that I had informed the police because of insurance purposes she totally hit the roof. This irrupted into a very abusive and volatile argument in which her boyfriend became involved and the police were called. All the argument and abuse was in front of my five year old little girl.

I told the police I wanted her out of my house that evening because of her bad behaviour and abuse. They told me even though she had shouted and caused distress to my little girl they could not advise her to leave. Unfortunately I had typed up something on paper which she has signed and have given her rent book, this unfortunately prohibits me from throwing her out as she has rights.

Please can you inform me of where I stand, what are my civil rights for removing her from home?

This is very difficult to answer without seeing exactly what you have put in writing to your lodger, but lodgers have very few rights in civil law – basically the only to be given reasonable notice. I don’t know what you put in the lodging agreement, but I would be inclined to write this lady a courteous letter, giving her what is reasonable notice – say, one week. Advise her that you are happy to give her a reference to enable her to find other accommodation and apologise for the misunderstanding. I hope that nothing you have written would change what is the normal procedure for a lodging agreement.


Flexibility required

My six month lease is expiring in one month. I have been in the property for two years and have previously extended the lease at six monthly intervals. I would like to stay on longer, but only on a month to month basis, because I’m waiting to move in with a friend who is in the process in buying a house. This could take up to another month or maybe two.

Now I read that I don’t have to sign a new contract and that it goes on automatically as a periodic tenancy. Is this correct and what happens if I move out and the landlord says he will not give back my deposit because I didn’t sign a new lease?

You are correct – a statutory periodic tenancy runs on without an agreement. If your landlord agrees to this, which by virtue of the fact he has either not issued a new tenancy or served you notice, I cannot see he has grounds to withhold your deposit. I’d discuss it with him. If he refuses to return the deposit, take him to the small claims court.

In my experience most landlords want to help their tenants and are not unreasonable. However, bear in mind that it makes it difficult for the landlord to find a replacement tenant if he is unaware when you are leaving. Give him as much notice as you can and be flexible when it comes to prospective tenants viewing.


Daughter’s rights

My mother has been a sitting tenant since 1943. I lived in this house from 1951 to 1976, and came back to care for my mother (who is 94) in October 2004. I have now placed her in a home but want to stay in the house. I have been told that since my mother is a sitting tenant, the tenancy will be passed on to me automatically.

Do I have a legal right to stay in this house once my mother is in a home permanently or do I have to negotiate a new tenancy with the landlord?

You need to see a solicitor to be quite sure about your rights. I think you would have a right of succession had your mother lived in the house until her death. But she has not, she has been moved – it is no longer her home. You have lived there less than a year and it is unlikely that the 25 years that ended 30 years ago will have much bearing – though I could be wrong. The landlord may look on that period as a reason to give you a tenancy, but that would almost certainly be an assured shorthold tenancy, with rent at or near the full market rate.


Property for sale

We entered into an assured shorthold tenancy for 12 months commencing mid July 2004. Two months ago the landlord told us he was selling the property when our tenancy ended and had placed it with an estate agent. There has been little interest and he has now had a change of heart. He rang us to ask if we would be prepared to continue to rent the property if he took it off the market. We agreed verbally to extend our tenancy for a further 14 months at the same rent.

We have now been waiting for a new rental agreement for some weeks. Although the existing agreement lapsed we were not concerned, as we believed we had a statutory periodic tenancy until the new agreement was in place. But now the landlord has changed his mind again and says he intends to put the property up for sale – again. However, he does not want us to leave until the property is sold. The term ‘having your cake and eating it’ springs to mind.

Am I correct in believing that the landlord must give us two month’s notice to quit but we can give him one month’s notice? Does this notice period run from the day in the month that the original tenancy agreement was signed – so if this is, say 14 June and the landlord gives notice on 16 June would we in effect have three month’s less two days to move out? And do we have to allow viewings for potential purchasers?

The answer to all your questions is ‘yes’. Whilst I understand why the landlord is acting like this, I am afraid that it appears he wants his cake and his halfpence. Notice must follow tenancy dates, and must be for a minimum of two months. He only has the right to one month’s notice from you.

I would say viewings in the last month of the tenancy are all you should be expected to agree to – but he is unwilling to give you notice to end the tenancy as he wants you there paying the rent until he has sold. Explain that your quiet enjoyment would be affected by viewings and refuse access unless you have had legal notice.



Change of owners

I am renting a property in which I have lived for three years and which has recently changed owners. At the outset I signed a six month agreement but this has never been updated.

I believe the new owners want me to remain as a tenant but I am unsure about what to do about signing a new tenancy agreement. Do I have any extra rights because I have lived in the property for three years, and would I lose these is I signed a new agreement?

You should sign a new tenancy agreement to ensure you have the landlord details for repair enquiries and the like. There have been no new rights enacted over the last three years and therefore you would lose nothing by signing a new agreement.


Moving out

I have rented a room in a house for a short period and I want to move out. I took the room on a verbal agreement only and did not pay a deposit. There was nothing said about notice periods.

Now my landlady is saying I must give at least a month’s notice. Is there anything in law which says I must give such notice?

I would prefer more details. Are you lodging in a property with a resident landlady? If so, only ‘reasonable notice’ on both sides is required – I would think one week would be reasonable.

If you are in a house without a resident landlady, but are a tenant in a house in multiple occupation, you are still bound by law which says she must give you two month’s notice (if no reason to evict is given) and you would be expected to give one month’s notice, though many landlords accept less.


‘Move out’ days

I’ve signed a contract for a minimum of six months which ends on 31 August 2005. The contract states that I have to give 12 week’s notice, but the landlady only has to give me one month’s notice. The contract also states that there are only three ‘move-out’ dates per year. If I chose to move out on one of these, say 31 October, I would have to give notice by the first week in August, for example.

Although as it happens I do not have a problem meeting this requirement, it seems rather restrictive to me. Is it legally binding?

The landlady here has switched things around! The Housing Act 1988 (amended by Housing Act 1996), which brought in assured shorthold tenancies, sought to give landlords maximum repossession rights, whilst giving tenants a clear warning of when landlords required possession. They did this by saying landlords had to give a minimum of two month’s notice and tenants should give landlords one month’s notice. You cannot sign away your rights, so the fact you have an agreement saying you can be given one month’s notice by the landlady is irrelevant – this would be an illegal eviction. The three months notice on your part and ‘move-out’ dates appear to me to be unfair contract terms and I would contact the Office of Fair Trading, if you have a problem, though hopefully, negotiation would clarify the situation with the landlady, who may not be aware she is acting in what appears to be an unreasonable manner.


‘Seamless’ requirement

My landlady wants me to sign what she is calling a ‘seamless replacement contract’. This states that we can move out of the room we rent at any time provided we have a replacement to fill the room who will to pay the same rent. I do not find this acceptable and haven’t signed anything to say I agree to this contract.

In the meantime the landlady has sent us information on where to advertise the room.

This sounds ridiculous to me and I would be interested in your thoughts?

Never heard of this one before. The landlady is obviously trying to make her life easier whilst at the same time saying she is happy to release you from the agreement early. This would be a very foolish thing for her to do – how does she know that the tenant you would happily take on would be a good tenant, someone she would be comfortable to talk and the like. Who takes up the references – you? Whilst as a prospective tenant I may be happy to give my future landlord details for reference, I am not sure I would be happy to give them to you! By all means, tell her you would assist by allowing viewings, putting the word out to friends, but the decision (and sorry, some of the work) must be hers.


Like for like

We have a property comprising a number of buildings, one of which is occupied under a protected tenancy, which we need either to sell or refurbish. We have had informal discussions about this with the tenants who have indicated they may be willing to move. In such circumstances we understand that we have to find ‘suitable alternative accommodation’ but we are unclear of the precise meaning of this. Does it mean like for like, which would be another flat that has a protected tenancy. The couple are elderly and we want to find a solution agreeable to all parties rather than end up in court. But so far all the local authority has said is that we have to issue a notice to quit before it will do anything.

‘Suitable alternative accommodation’ means a property of a similar size and security as the property of which you are attempting to gain possession. The description can also embrace location and distance from facilities. So a property in an area which is relatively flat could not be replaced by a property at the top of a hill, unless the tenant actually wants to live on the top of a hill (some people do!). The local authority should not need to get involved unless the couple are, because of their age, in need of a property which provides better support for them – say, sheltered or residential care accommodation. If that is the case, you should not need to serve them notice for their case to be considered for help.


Still liable?

I recently split with my partner, to whom I was not married, but with whom I had a joint tenancy. Although I informed the landlord that I had left because I was scared for my safety he refuses to take my name off the tenancy agreement.

Meanwhile, my former partner has no job and the housing benefit he claims does not cover the rent in full. The landlord has now telephoned me to say I am liable for the shortfall since my former partner will not pay the difference between the benefit he receives and the rent.

Please tell me if I am liable for any debt incurred since I left and if the landlord has the right to refuse to remove of my name from the agreement?

You need to put it in writing that you are relinquishing your part of the tenancy, keeping a copy yourself. The landlord can pursue you for the outstanding debt (as you are jointly and severally liable) until the date the tenancy is relinquished plus the notice period.

To force you to pay the landlord would need to take you to the small claims court – but if you have your letter of relinquishment and any evidence you have that you were in fear (for example police reports, presentation at Homeless Welfare, your doctor or hospital statements), I think it unlikely that in practice he would get very far.


Surrendering occupancy

My tenant gave one month’s notice to terminate a statutory periodic tenancy and paid the rent for the notice period but left two weeks before its expiry. The property was immediately re-let to a new tenant who moved in straight away. Is the first tenant entitled to a refund of rent paid for the two week’s he did not live in the property or does his leaving and returning the keys make the tenancy null and void?

The notice period is supposed to cover the time needed to find a new tenant. It would therefore seem a little unfair on your last tenant to have payment from both him and the new tenant for the same period. You can, of course, deduct any costs associated with getting the new tenant – for example the cost of advertising and drawing up a new tenancy agreement.


Left in the lurch

I have let my flat on a six month assured shorthold tenancy to a couple (not married). They both signed the agreement but the woman has since telephoned me (when the first payment was due) to say they had split up and he had moved out. However, she wanted to keep the flat going on her own.

Knowing she had no income (her boyfriend was the worker) I said ‘no’; I didn’t want a tenant reliant on housing benefit. However, she assured me she would get the money some other way and I allowed her to stay on.

I have not received rent for six weeks now, and have heard from the neighbours that there is heavy drug usage in the flat. Meanwhile the woman keeps fobbing me off with promises that she never keeps. Her former partner still has the main set of keys, but nobody knows where he is.

I’ve had enough. What can I do?

‘Heavy drug useage’ would almost certainly constitute some criminal activity, otherwise how would the neighbour be aware of it? You should involve the police.

With regard to what you can do, the answer is probably not too much at present unless your tenant is convicted of using the property for illegal purposes or is causing neighbours nuisance (which would probably take some time to get to court). However, as soon as the tenant is eight weeks in arrears, serve a notice using ground 8. It is a two week notice, at the expiry of which you would go to court to obtain a court order.

As you will be using a mandatory ground there should be no argument about possession being granted. Remember that as the tenancy is still valid as a joint tenancy (you have had nothing in writing from the male to say he is relinquishing the tenancy), the notice should be issued to both of them. You can also still pursue the man for the debt as they are jointly and severally liable.

Did you get referees for him, or any contact details for next of kin? You should not disclose information to anyone, but a courteous letter, asking if they know where the tenant lives and would they ask him to contact you, should be acceptable. You may find that if you point out to the woman that he is still liable as well as her, she may suddenly discover how he can be contacted.

His relinquishment of the tenancy will also effectively void it for her, in which case, she would become an illegal occupier.


Lifetime tenancy

I wish to let a house to my sister and brother in law on a lifetime guaranteed agreement, with the property reverting back to our estate on the demise of the surviving partner. I have a ‘tenancy agreement’ form but it appears to be for short term lets. Can you please advise me as how to proceed?

It sounds as if you are simply passing over a lifetime interest in the property. A lawyer would advise more fully, but I think the way to proceed would be to put the property into a trust in which your sister and brother in law have a lifetime interest with ownership reverting on their deaths.


Extended rights

I have had the same tenant in my property for four years, her 12 month shorthold tenancy agreement having been renewed annually. My tenant has done a fair bit of internal decorating at her own expense and I am happy for her to stay. However I am concerned that if the tenancy continues for much longer the tenant may gain rights that I am not aware of. Do tenants gain specific right to a property if they have lived there for a specific period? And can they demand that the tenancy to be renewed?

If you continue as you are doing, issuing new tenancy agreements, I cannot see that the tenant will gain additional rights. As the tenancy was set up in 2001, it is unlikely to be anything other than an assured shorthold tenancy, which was intended to allow landlords to have maximum repossession rights. Your tenant cannot demand a new tenancy, as failure to provide one would just result in the tenancy becoming a statutory periodic tenancy. However, whilst I think I as a landlord may feel that is convenient, if I were a tenant I would probably require more security. The best option is to discuss it with the tenant and ensure that you are both happy with either a new tenancy or a conversion to a statutory periodic tenancy.


Unjustified notice

I am in the third month of a one year assured shorthold tenancy. In a routine inspection by the agent, he told me the landlady wishes to evict me after the fourth month.

The reasons given were that there had been complaints about the noise I make – I am a video producer so admittedly there has been some noise but nobody has complained directly to me, only to the landlady without giving me the opportunity to respond.

Since the visit I have been very careful to keep the noise to a minimum.

According to the agent another reason the landlady wants me to leave is that she has seen letters addressed to friends in my post (these friends use my address when they are out the country) and believes I might be subletting. I am not.

The agent was clearly able to see that the one spare room in the flat only gets used by my daughter at the weekends.

I have now found out that the landlady has only shared ownership of the flat. The housing association which is the co-owner does not allow her to sublet. It seems she is scared that her letting of the flat to me will be discovered because of the noise complaint.

I have just settled in, I have done nothing wrong, the flat is spotless, and rent is paid on time. I am unwilling to move out before the 12 months is up. What rights do I have and what can the landlady really do?

This seems to be a very unfair situation. Before we go into what the landlady can do, we should consider what the housing association can do, which I think is the concern of the landlady.

The landlady must be breaking a covenant but without seeing what agreement she has, it is difficult to know what penalty could be imposed on her.

Regarding your own position, even if the landlady were to use the ‘accelerated’ possession procedure the tenancy would still have to run to the end of the 12 months. The landlady can try to evict using a discretionary ground for possession, when a court would have to decide whether it was reasonable to evict you.

With regard to the noise complaint, have you thought of sending a courteous and apologetic letter to your neighbours, saying you were unaware of the nuisance (because they had not contacted you) and reminding them that you have tried to keep the noise down since you became aware of their complaints? You can say that they can contact you any time to advise you that the noise is unacceptable and you will try and reduce it. Keep a copy of the letter. Eviction on ground 14 (nuisance to neighbours), generally requires a huge body of evidence and if you show you are trying to behave in a reasonable manner, I don’t think you will be evicted.


Lodgers or tenants?

We let two rooms in a flat where my partner also stays when she is working in a third room. All the facilities are shared, as are all the utility bills.

We now wish to let the third room, meaning my partner will no longer be in residence. Our question is, how will letting all the rooms in the flat change the tenancies of the existing tenants – will they change from excluded to shorthold?

You are correct – currently the people living in the flat are lodgers. If your partner is not in residence, they would become tenants and should have assured shorthold tenancies issued. The other implication though is that the house would become a house in multiple occupation, which may mean additional facilities (such as fire alarms and fire doors) will have to be fitted. You must discuss this with your local environmental health department.


Seeking security

I have been renting my flat for two years and my assured shorthold tenancy has just run out so that I now have a statutory periodic tenancy. As I know that I will be living in the area for at least another year I would like to renew my contract and move back to an assured shorthold tenancy because of the added security this would provide. Do I have any way of doing this without moving house?

This really by negotiation with the landlord. If he has renewed it previously, is it an oversight that it has not been renewed this time? Or is he perhaps not willing to tie himself into another year’s tenancy? I can understand your desire for the additional security, so try and discuss it with the landlord.


Wording of guarantee

We are letting a property to three young men – one of whom has been recommended to have a guarantor. What kind wording do I need to use in the agreement to ensure that if the tenant defaults on the rent the guarantor will be legally obliged to take over the payments?

You would add a clause to your tenancy agreement that ‘failure to pay the rent due will result in action being taken against the rent guarantor to recover the debt’, and you would draw up a simple guarantor’s agreement saying something along the lines of ‘I………….. agree to act as rent guarantor for………………… and understand that should ……………. not pay the rent agreed, the landlord……………… will pursue me for recovery of the debt.

It is worth down-loading the free tenancy agreement from this site which may have some alternative appropriate wording.

The guarantor may wish to insert a limit for which he is liable, and remember that a joint tenancy would make each tenant ‘jointly and severally liable’ – I think I would be unhappy as a guarantor if only one tenant was asked for a guarantor and I could be held liable for the whole debt.

Residential Landlord has a wording that can be used. You can obtain this by downloading the free tenancy agreement (see home page).

 


Creating a business tenancy

My father has a dilemma. He rents out garages/lock ups to individuals on a monthly basis. He uses a very simple tenancy agreement setting out the rights and obligations of each party. He is he is thinking of selling one garage but is concerned he has inadvertently created a business tenancy and will have to pay compensation to the tenant.

Basically the tenant has been renting the garage for about 10 years and during this time has been using it to run a successful business. My father has known about this for a long time.

The tenant runs electricity into the garage from his house and we believe he may not have been paying rates on the garage.

The tenancy agreement states that: ‘the tenant agrees with the landlord as follows: to use the garage only for the purpose of housing a private motor vehicle and personal chattels and not to keep or store in the garage any materials or substances of a combustible explosive or otherwise dangerous nature or do anything whereby the premium for insuring the garage may be increased or the insurance covering the garage may be vitiated’.

As you can see my father is concerned he has allowed the business to continue without bringing the tenancy to an end. What is his position?

I cannot help here as my field is housing and a garage, unless properly converted, is not housing!
As a solicitor would be required for any sale of the garage, I would consult him or her early and find out what the position is.

The garage was clearly not let as commercial premises. However, your father knew it had become so and I am unsure where this would leave him regarding responsibility for council tax.

Has he discussed the situation with the tenant? Has he said he is unwilling to move? Has your father offered the sale to him? A solicitor will be aware of all the implications and will advise what the best step is.


Notice options

My current tenant, who has a fixed term tenancy agreement, has been in my property for nearly 12 months. If I issue another 12 month agreement would I have to wait for the end of that period before I could issue notice if it became necessary, say, because the rent had fallen into arrears?

Also, I need to increase the rent, which the tenant has agreed to, so what type of tenancy agreement should I issue and how should I serve notice of the rent increase?

Under your current tenancy, or a new one, you can always take possession proceedings if the tenant falls into rent arrears. The safest way to evict is to use a section 8 notice when the tenant has fallen eight weeks or more into arrears – this is a mandatory ground 8 notice so there should be no argument. You would also include grounds 10 and 11, which always apply if there is a ground 8 and are a safeguard, in case some rent is paid in the meantime so as to make ground 8 invalid (though not enough to reassure you that the tenant will remain in credit).

If you issue a new 12 month tenancy, you could not use a section 21 accelerated possession procedure although you may think it is worth issuing this at the beginning of the tenancy with the new tenancy agreement.

As the tenant has agreed to the rent increase, there is no real need to issue a new tenancy agreement, it could become a statutory periodic tenancy. However, issuing a new agreement safeguards you should an argument about rent occur in the future. Write into the tenancy agreement that the rent will be increased yearly or biannually. At the expiry of the this tenancy agreement, you could let it run as a statutory periodic and notify the tenant of the increase on a Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent under an Assured Periodic tenancy of premises situated in England (same form, but ‘Wales’ instead of ‘England’ if you are in Wales), obtainable from a legal stationers.

Stick with an assured shorthold tenancy as you do want to obtain possession at some time and this is the normal tenancy landlords issue.

 


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