Landlord and Tenant Clinic:
Miles Turner, Eviction & Housing Legislation expert
With over 30 years experience in the Residential Property Management sector, I am never surprised at the problems alandlord can cause for themselves. Most of these problems are created through lack of information and knowledge of eviction law and best practice.
We are currently helping a landlord who wants to get repossession but is struggling through a long list of errors he has made.
Landlord and Tenant Problems
Serving the wrong paperwork
The landlord let a house himself in 2008 to a tenant. At that time the landlord owned and ran an estate agency!!!! A tenancy agreement was downloaded for free from the Internet, this proved to be the start of the problems with a number of significant clauses being missing from the document.
The landlord served a Section 21 at the same time as signing the tenancy agreement (never a good idea, if the matter goes to Court, the tenant could argue that the Section 21 was given to them BEFORE the tenancy agreement was signed. If the Courts accept this, they may look for any way to protect the tenant against eviction, the action will fail as there would not be a tenancy in place to serve a Section 21 in respect of).
To compound the errors, the landlord put incorrect dates on the Section 21 so it was defective anyway and could not be used to get possession!!!
A deposit was taken but in agreement with the tenant, it was not submitted to the Tenancy Deposit Service. Agreeing something with your tenant does not change the law!!!! The legislation overrides any agreement and means that thelandlord cannot now issue a correct Section 21 notice as the law removes this powerful tool from landlords who do not protect deposits!!!
The tenant was in receipt of Housing Benefits and the landlord agreed in writing with the local authority to accept £650.00 per month as opposed to the contractual amount shown in the tenancy agreement of £750.00!!!
Landlord and Tenant Situation
The landlord took his eye off the ball and did not monitor receipts form the tenant. Due to a change in his circumstances, he now wants to sell the property and started looking at his bank account. After going through 3 years bank statement, he discovered the tenant was in fact over £10,000 in arrears.
A Section 8 Notice was served and the tenant, who had always been approachable and helpful, advised the landlordthat their Local Authority would help find alternative accommodation but only if they had a Court order evicting them from the property.
On expiry of the Section 8, the landlord issued Court proceedings, the tenant was still being helpful and understood this was necessary to get the Court Order they needed to get the local authority to help re house them.
Come the hearing – the tenant had taken legal advice and presented the Court with a mass of paperwork in defence. The judge had no option but to adjourn the case so he could consider the defence and instructed the tenant to serve a copy on the landlord within 7 days. Four weeks later no copy has been received!!!
The tenant has now reported the landlord to the Local Authority Consumer Protection Officer complaining that repairs are needed to the house. When asked for a gas certificate (something that ALL landlords must have by law), thelandlord looked blank and advised he did not have one. He’s now got one!!!
We are now at stalemate, the tenant disputes the arrears saying the rent is £650.00 per month as agreed and not £750.00 as per the contract. This means the Section 8 served by the landlord based on £750.00 being due each month is incorrect and may need re issuing to start the whole process again including waiting for the Section 8 to expire, applying to Court (with another £175.00 court fee plus solicitors costs) and waiting many weeks for a Court hearing.
The landlord cannot cut his losses and issue a Section 21, which would in 99.9% of cases guarantee him possession because of the breach of the tenancy deposit rules.
What can we learn from the above
- It is far cheaper in the long run to get someone who knows what they are doing to create the tenancy agreement etc
- Do not issue a Section 21 at the same time you issue the tenancy agreement.
- Get some one who knows what they are doing to issue any Notices such as a Section 21 so that if you do need to rely on it at Court, you can. 70% of Section 21 Notices issued are incorrect according to a recent statement by the Chairman of the London Association of District Judges.
- If you are going to vary the rent or some other term of the agreement, do so formally by issuing a new tenancy agreement with the new rent clearly stated.
- Regularly monitor payments from your tenant, let it slide and you could be amazed at how quickly arrears build up. If you are not monitoring the rent payments, how do you know when to serve a Section 8 Notice.
- Issue Notices promptly and correctly, this can save you thousands of pounds and months of time.
- Use a professional to let your property unless you know what you are doing. Take references in respect of professionals, some agents know less about letting and the law than you do!!!
The above sorry tale is not unique, I spend hours trying to unravel the mess that landlords (and some agents) get themselves into by simply failing to fill in the correct paperwork to begin with.