Landlord – You Just Can’t Do It

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It never ceases to amaze me that in 2019, with the training available from landlord associations and accreditation schemes, to say nothing of the information available on the internet, that I will still hear things that stretch my credulity to the limit!

A landlord had, unfortunately, taken a tenant who, after 2 years, was causing major problems in the large House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) owned by the landlord. He had drawn a knife on a tenant, and, when challenged by the landlord, threatened him with it. One of the tenants had fled the property in terror. What was the quickest way of getting him out?

My first thought was eviction using the anti-social behaviour ground. Although not as speedy as it needs to be, as soon as the notice is issued, the landlord can apply to Court for possession. It is a discretionary ground, but as these issues were long running, the landlord surely had supporting evidence. 

Like what, I was asked. ‘Letters telling him his behaviour was unacceptable, then warning him he faced eviction, then the issue of the notice’.

He had not issued a notice because he was frightened. He had not written any letters because he thought it was enough to warn him verbally, though one of those warnings had resulted in a knife being drawn on him.

In that case, though it goes against the grain, perhaps a section 21 notice would be better – it gives the tenant a full 2 months notice and, as it is a no-blame notice, may not inflame the tenant.

2 Months was not quick enough. I understood this, but it would take some weeks to provide the evidence required for the anti-social behaviour ground, if the landlord was willing to use that route. He wasn’t.

However, he did feel he had another option. On the day the tenancy commenced, the landlord also had the tenant sign a licence agreement. Surely, as that only required 1 month’s notice and the exceptional circumstances which allowed for immediate eviction were present, he could get him out immediately.

Where to start with this one! I first of all checked the tenancy agreement. Fully signed and witnessed. I was not happy with the agreement – it made reference to needing a certificate of Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Since 1996, the law has not required this. Strong advice – use new agreements in future – modern legislation may be included in it. However, it was still a legal agreement. 

A tenant cannot be a tenant and a licensee at the same time, though landlords have tried to trick a tenant into believing he was a licensee, just for the greater control it gives him.

The license agreement was also signed and witnessed and made frequent use of the word ‘Licensee’ and the property was now referred to as a hostel. The landlord did not provide meals, or cleaning services in the tenant’s room, nor clean bedding. How was this then a hostel? He had heard that he could evict quicker if it was a license to occupy rather than a tenancy.

This landlord was not really trying to illegally evict what was a very problematic tenant. It was unlikely he had undertaken the checks and referencing that I always recommend and, though the state of both agreements made me think he had asked a solicitor to draw them up for him, this was a long time ago and had not updated. 

I hope most landlords will think this is very funny, observing everything that is required to establish a tenancy. If you are in any doubt about your tenancies/licenses, have them checked out. Better you are sure you are ok, than try to evict and find yourself in court for illegal eviction.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

 

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