Loading...

Follow The Landlord Law Blog on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

Our Conference Course has now launched so if you were unable to attend Conference, you can watch all the talks.

Landlord Law Blog readers can get a discount of 20% off the price with coupon code lllbcc20% 

Note that it cannot be combined with any other offer.  Terms and conditions apply.

Buy online >> here.

But what happened on the blog last week?

Tuesday

How criminal landlords use dodgy contracts and misdirection

Read Part 4 of Enforcement Officer Ben Reeve Lewis’ series on criminal landlords

Wednesday

Differentiating tenancies from business lets and long leases

This week, in my series of landlord and tenant law, you can read about where a lease is for both business and residential

Thursday

Do landlords need to worry about their tenants gaining special rights if they stay a long time?

A question from my Blog Clinic this week

Friday

Tessa Shepperson Newsround #59

I take a look at whats been happening in the housing news this week

Further Reading

For more housing news, follow me on twitter and the Landlord Law Facebook page

Click here to get the weekly roundups sent direct to your email ‘in box’ every week – the easy way to keep up with what’s happening on the blog

The post Landlord Law Blog Round up from 16th July appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

More news items for you on a Friday.  First some nice news:

Awards and recognition

Many congratulations to Giles Peaker who has won the prestigious Housing Legal Aid Lawyer of the year award.

This is partly in recognition for his work on the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill – so let’s hope an election is staved off long enough for it to be passed.

Giles also writes the wonderful Nearly Legal blog.

Then Ben Reeve Lewis’s organisation Safer Renting has been shortlisted for the 2018 London Homelessness awards.

Vote for us!

Finally, Landlord Law has been nominated for the Property Investors website of the year.  It’s a public vote so if you could go off and vote >> here (it will open in a new tab or window so you can come back here after) that would be nice!

A warning for letting agents

All agents should take note of a recent prosecution brought by Camden  The Council prosecuted managing agent Leycam and letting agents Citydeal Estates (London) on 12 charges relating to the failure to license as HMOs three flats in the same building in Fortress Road, London, and nine other offences under the HMO Management regulations relating to the condition of the flats.

The agents claimed that they could not possibly be liable as all they had done was take the first months rent and the deposit, and were not actually managing the property.

However, the Judge decided otherwise and they were fined £25,050 for failing to have a licence while Leycam received a further £6,975 for breaching regulations. Costs and victim surcharges brought the total bill up to over £42,000.

Agents should take note and ensure that licensable properties are in fact licensed before accepting any money from tenants.

See also here where an agent has been jailed for failing to fit smoke alarms after two young childen died in a fire.

Agents – are you with Ombudsman Services property redress scheme?

If so – have you signed up with another scheme yet?  As Ombudsman Services is closing down their service for agents on 6 August 2018.

Your options are:

Don’t delay or you will be trading illegally and could be prosecuted.

Mandatory five-year electrical safety checks for rental homes announced

These have been agreed by the government as announced here.

Phil Buckle, director general of charity Electrical Safety First, said:

“We are delighted the Government has finally recognised the importance of regular electrical checks in the private rental sector which protects both tenants and landlords.

“Electrical Safety First has led the charge for this to be made a legal requirement for UK homes and successfully lobbied for these to be introduced in the PRS in Scotland – with Wales and Northern Ireland set to follow suit.

However, no start date has been set yet.

A long time to wait

There has been a recent study which shows that landlords on average have to wait some 118 days (ie just under 4 months) to evict problem tenants.

However, in fact, they are actually losing much more than that as most of these tenants had not been paying rent for at least 2 months before proceedings started.  Meaning that landlords are losing some 6 months worth of rent.

Which more or less matches the case I wrote about here.  Although her arrears were less.

Six months rent is a lot of money for a landlord to lose, bearing in mind that they still have to pay their mortgage on the property and any other expenses, plus they are liable during that time for keeping it in repair.

A portfolio landlord may be able to bear that sort of loss but it would be very hard, say for a pensioner landlord who uses the rent to live on.

More regulation for Airbnb’s

There is a report here which says that MPs are concerned that people renting out property on Airbnb are evading regulations and holidaymakers could be at risk.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism, Leisure and the Hospitality Industry, to be published this week, is expected to show evidence that a number of businesses are using holiday rental platforms to rent out properties, mainly because they do not enforce checks.

Gordon Marsden, chairman of the parliamentary group points out that there are thousands of properties listed on Airbnb across the UK, and yet local authorities and fire brigades are unaware of the location of many of these homes

Interestingly I read an article in the Guardian recently which said that people in Barcelona would rather have immigrants than tourists as long-term they contribute more to the city.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

The post Tessa Shepperson Newsround #59 appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Here is a question to the blog clinic from Mary (not her real name) who is a landlord.

I have tenants renting my house in east London from 2006 on short hold tenancy. We sign every year 12 months contracts until now. It’s now 12 years they are living in the same property. And still the tenants are happy to stay and we are happy for them to stay.and they paying full market price rent partly funded by the council, but we have direct contract with tenants.

My question to u is how long I can keep this tenants without worrying them to become sitting tenants, or me losing my house over them or any other issues I can have with them. Say if they have been in this house 20 years on short hold tenancy?

Answer

You do not need to worry. Your tenants will not gain any extra rights just by living in the property for a long time.

Many tenants who have been living in a property for a long time DO have extra rights – but this is because the law was different when they moved in. They have had those rights all along – they did not get them later.

I am talking here about tenants who moved in before 1 January 1989 and so gained rights under the Rent Act 1977 which regulated tenancies at that time.  They will have protected tenancies with greater security of tenure and the right to ask for a ‘fair rent’.

Then many tenants who moved in between 15 January 1989 and 28 February 1997 gained rights because the landlord did not follow the procedure required at that time to create an assured shorthold tenancy.  So they will have an assured tenancy where they have long-term security of tenure.

However, from 28 February 1997, assured shorthold tenancies have been the default tenancy type which, in most cases, is created automatically. This will continue however long the tenants stay in the property.

Even if the law does change to give tenants greater rights it is unlikely to affect existing tenancies.  It will probably only apply to new ones.

So do not worry. It sounds as if you have great tenants and you should encourage them to stay as long as possible!

The post Do landlords need to worry about their tenants gaining special rights if they stay a long time? appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Foundations of landlord and tenant law – part 9

This series of posts is directed towards increasing understanding of short lets, so in future posts we will largely be concentrating on these. However, before moving on to this, I just want to look at two issues:

  • the situation where a lease is for both business and residential use, and
  • the difference between long and short residential leases
Business tenancies with residential use

Business tenancies, are, as you would expect, where the purpose of the tenancy is to run a business there. So what then is the situation where the property also has living accommodation, for example, a flat over a shop?

In most cases, it will be a business tenancy, (although if the residential part of the property is sublet, that tenancy (i.e. the sublet) will be residential and governed by the residential laws0.

There have been a couple of Court of Appeal case decisions in the past few years which illustrate the point.

Broadway Investments Hackney Ltd -v- Grant [2006]

This case has a rather confusing history, however, it was basically about whether a mixed business and residential letting was a business one or a residential. The landlord was attempting to evict the tenant under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 which is the act which largely regulates business tenancies.

The tenant claimed that he had an assured tenancy and therefore could not be evicted. The Court of Appeal held that as soon as a significant part of the premises was let for business purposes, the tenancy was regulated by the 1954 Act, and could not be an assured tenancy.

Tan and Another -v- Sitkowski [2007]

Here the tenant had leased a property in 1970 which consisted of a ground floor shop and residential flat above. Over the years he had ceased running the shop and the property was now simply residential. He tried to claim the protection of the Rent Act 1977, the act which sets out one of the two main statutory codes governing residential tenancies.

The Court of Appeal held that although the landlords had continued to receive the rent during this period, this was not sufficient to prove, as the tenant alleged, that they had consented to a change of use. So the tenancy was still governed by the 1954 act.

It rather looks from these two cases as if the court is more willing to find that the property has a business use than a residential one. However, I don’t do any work with business tenancies now so others may want to disagree with this. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts.

Home Businesses

Its always been all right for people to do a certain amount of business work at home – for example, teachers marking school work and employees working at home on their paperwork.

However, until recently landlords were invariably advised to forbid tenants running their own business from home.

Things changed slightly in October 2015 though when Sections 35 and 36 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 came into force.  This introduced a new concept of a ‘home business tenancy’.

This allows landlords to permit residential tenants to run a home business without the tenancy falling within the protection of Part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (so long as tenants are not permitted to run any other kind of business from home).

A home business is a business of a kind that might reasonably be carried out at home – for example, this could include an internet business, a financial consultancy, an advertising copywriting or translation service.

Landlords are now expected to agree to this sort of thing.  Although they should still refuse permission for more intrusive businesses such as turning the ground floor into a cafe or doing motor maintenance in the front yard.

Long leases v. Short lets

Long leases are where the length of the term is over seven years. Although usually, they are considerably longer than that – leases can be for hundreds of years although 99 years is a popular term.

The significance of the seven years is that it is when the term is seven years or more that the lease has to be registered at the Land Registry. It then gets its own entry at the Land Registry in the same way as freehold land (you used to get a certificate but the Land Registry stopped this in October 2003).

There are a number of significant differences between long leases and short lets. Let’s take a quick look at them:

  • Rent – long leases generally just have a modest ‘ground rent’ whereas the rent for a tenancy is invariably substantially more than that.
  • Premiums – this is where you make a payment to ‘buy’ a lease. Premiums are normal with long leases – you ‘buy’ a leasehold flat, often for many thousands of pounds, whereas it is rare for there to be a premium for short lets (they were in fact made illegal in the Rent Act 1977 although are permissible under the Housing Act 1988).
  • Creation – Long leases must be created by deed. Under certain circumstances (we look at in more detail later) leases with a term of less than three years do not have to be made under deed, or indeed be in writing at all
  • Landlords repairing obligations – all leases with a term of under seven years have the landlords repairing covenants (s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985) implied into them by statute. For leases with a longer fixed term, responsibility for repairs depends on the terms of the written agreement/lease.
  • Service charges – these are charges levied by the freeholder or his manager to cover general maintenance of the building as a whole. They are normal for long leases but practically non-existent for short leases
Terminology – Lease v. Tenancy

Finally, let’s take a look at terminology. Strictly speaking the terms ‘lease’ and ‘tenancy’ are interchangeable and can apply to any type.

However conventionally we tend to use the word ‘lease’ for business leases and long leases, and the word ‘tenancy’ for short lets, ie those under 7 years.

This is what I am going to do from now on.

Next time I am going to have a quick look at how tenancies start and end.

Shops picture by Jon Curnow

The post Differentiating tenancies from business lets and long leases appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The business models of criminal landlords explained – Part 4

This short series is a guide to those landlords and professionals working in the PRS who might find it difficult to get their head around the vastly different way that the criminals view the market.

This is certainly the case in the four London boroughs that my outfit ‘Safer Renting’ operate in which is echoed by my experiences talking to officers in councils across Britain as a trainer.

Lesson #4: dodgy contracts and misdirection

Let’s be clear, the worst of the worst don’t even bother with contracts at all. Not a problem in terms of housing law because a principle called ‘Parol’ kicks in, where you don’t need a written contract to create a tenancy if the period of the tenancy is for less than three years.

Street v. Mountford (1985) also helps by telling us that there are three hallmarks of a tenancy:-

  • Rent or service
  • For a clear term
  • Exclusive possession

So if all three are in place there will generally be a tenancy in force (there are exceptions). But tenants aren’t lawyers, or even housing advisers. Stop anyone in the street and ask them the difference between a tenancy and a licence and you’ll get a blank stare.

Landlords and agents similarly aren’t lawyers but there is a big difference between issuing an occupier with a licence agreement, simply because you don’t know the legal niceties and the array of tactics used by some to expressly deceive the occupant into thinking they have less legal rights than they do.

More confusion

A task made even easier if that occupier is from abroad, with no knowledge of the UK renting law, or a young person in their first rental property, perhaps since leaving care. The gold standard cash crop for criminal landlords and agents that I explained in lesson 1.

Perhaps the most common thing we see in the rogue landlord advice and enforcement world is simply the fake ‘Licence agreement’ and fake Lodger agreement.

The general aim of such contracts is:-

  • To avoid deposit protection (only required for assured shorthold tenancies)
  • To make it appear that the landlord doesn’t have to get a court order to evict (another myth as many licensees still need a court order first)
  • To avoid repairing issues
Fake license prosecution

In 2017 Islington Council successfully prosecuted Green Live Estates, who were ordered to pay around £11,000 for issuing just two licence agreements that should have been tenancies.  But these are far more routinely issued than that.

Trouble is, as I said in lesson 3, get too close to the perpetrator agent and they just shut down before you can recoup the money, only to open up again under a different name a few months later.

A person issued a lodger agreement might well google advice on lodgers and find out that they have little protection from eviction but would understandably not grasp the important points that actually create a lodger arrangement in the first place, which may not be the case for them.

I doubt the dodgy agent or landlord understands these points either but its enough to just issue a document that misleads.

Other areas of lettings are still affected

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the growing trend for fake holiday let agreements and commercial contracts issued to residential occupiers.

A holiday let must be being used for that purpose and a commercial let must be a place where an occupier is conducting a commercial concern and in many cases, a property can still be a residence even if it is being used as a business at the same time.

The deception involved in holiday lets is to avoid deposit protection and possession orders and in commercial leases, to avoid residential property licensing schemes.

My experience

Working in rogue landlord/agent land I would say that the vast majority of contracts you are shown aren’t worth the paper they are written on and even if they are actually assured shorthold tenancies the clauses added in are often completely unenforceable.

Spurious penalties being added for late rent payments or as I recently saw a £35 penalty should the agent visit the property to talk to the tenant. I’ve seen blanket fees of £20 per phone call, and strange demands that all housemates be present for a visit by a repairman.

It has to be said that they are ably assisted in this deceitful endeavour by the acceptance of occupants who don’t scrutinise the contract, even at a most basic level. The ‘Nil’ deposit entry I mentioned in lesson 2 being just one example, often there is the name of a different landlord or agent to one the one they know.

On a recent visit to a shared house where I was shown six different contracts, nobody had actually spotted that each contract detailed a different agent, even though they were all paying the same landlord (see lesson 3 on aliases and obfuscation).

It’s all in the contract…or maybe it isn’t

Sometimes a spurious contract is easy to spot, simply because there isn’t much to it. There is a commonly used AST that we see regularly consisting of one side of A4 but just as common is the dodgy agreement that runs to 12 pages and is full of legal jargon. It is only upon close scrutiny you can identify all kinds of weird nonsense.

Clauses such as:-

“Tenants must not allow entry to officers of the council”

or

“This contract in no way creates an assured shorthold tenancy”,

or my particular favourite

“Tenants must not hang around causing problems”

Let’s face it, contracts are quite boring things and a 12-page one will end up swiftly located in the back of the kitchen drawer without so much as a glance.

Back in the 1950s, Lord Denning proposed what he called the “Red Hand Rule”, which is where some seemingly innocuous clause should be written in red and have a big red hand pointing to it, its importance being more than many would spot.

The post How criminal landlords use dodgy contracts and misdirection appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

We will be launching our Landlord Law Conference Course on Monday with a special ‘launch discount’.  Anyone who is interested can sign up to get information >> here.

The course will include recordings of all the conference talks, the notes and powerpoints, audio versions, 5 hours CPD and some bonus items.

But what happened on the blog last week?

Monday

Is asking prospective tenants to provide recent bank statements legal?

This was a question asked in my Blog Clinic by a tenant

Tuesday

Aliases and fake companies in the rogue landlord world

Read Part 3 of Enforcement Officer Ben Reeve Lewis’ series on criminal landlords

Wednesday

Common law and statue

Part 8 of my Foundations and tenant law series

Thursday

Do tenants have to pay high water bills caused by leaky pipes?

Another interesting question asked in my Blog Clinic by a tenant

Friday

Tessa Shepperson Newsround #58

Weekly update on whats been in the housing news this week

Further Reading

For more housing news, follow me on twitter and the Landlord Law Facebook page

Click here to get the weekly roundups sent direct to your email ‘in box’ every week – the easy way to keep up with what’s happening on the blog

The post Landlord Law Blog Roundup from 9th July appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Here we are again on a Friday with a roundup of the week’s landlord and tenant related news items.

The How to Rent Booklet

One important item for all landlords and agents to note is that the government’s ‘How to Rent’ booklet has changed twice in close succession so make sure you are serving the right one.

As always, it is best to download it afresh from the gov.uk webpage than to use old printed copies stored in your office.

You can read about the background to the change on Nearly Legal.

Yet another housing minister

The resignations after the Chequers Brexit meeting have resulted in yet another Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse, after the departure of Dominic Raab to the Brexit office.

This is the eighth housing minister in eight years, the 17th in 21 years.  A shocking state of affairs after the government has admitted that housing is ‘broken’ and it is supposed to be a top priority.

How can a minister possibly get a grip on the serious issues which affect the housing sector when they are such a short time in post?

This further example of rapid turnover has prompted calls in the industry from housing to be removed from government control altogether and given to a ‘cross-party housing tsar‘.  Who would hopefully provide some stability and consistent leadership.

In the meantime, the Mirror has published an article saying Mr Malthouse is unsuitable for the post anyway as he refuses to give up his ‘lucrative second job’ as director of County Finance Group Ltd.  Quoting Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey saying:

“Fixing the housing crisis is a not a part-time job.

“With home-ownership at a thirty-year low and homelessness spiralling upwards, the country deserves a full-scale commitment from the new Housing Minister.”

Problems for HMO investors

As you should know if you are an HMO landlord, the regulations are set to change in October.  This will remove the three storey requirement for mandatory licensing meaning that all properties with five or more tenants which consist of two or more households will need a license.

There will be no ‘grace period’ incidentally, the rules will come into force immediately on 1 October putting thousands of landlords at risk of prosecution and claims by their tenants for Rent Repayments Orders.

However, another potential problem is that investors may struggle to re-mortgage after the changes come in, particularly in view of the introduction of minimum room sizes, meaning many are trying to re-mortgage now.

Andrew Turner of Commercial Trust Limited says:

‘Investors looking to remortgage may find that a lender will only base rental stress calculations on rental income from the bedrooms that do meet local licensing rules. That could make obtaining the required level of financing a lot tougher.’

Good news on cladding

Residents of  London tower blocks at New Capital Quay in London are rejoicing as the NHBC have accepted liability and will be covering the expensive cost of cladding remedial works.

One woman had been told that her flat, previously valued at £475,000 was worth just £50,000!  Presumably, the valuation has now gone up again.

NHBC said that this decision would not set a precedent but undoubtedly it will give hope to flat owners in other affected blocks.

Housing Statistics

An interesting article on Property Industry Eye looks at some of the statistics from the latest English Housing Survey, eg:

  • Owner occupiers now form 63% of households
  • Homeowners are now older, the proportion of homeowners under 35 was 9% whereas two decades ago, it was 18%.
  • More homeowners own their property outright – 34% while 28% were mortgagors, believed to be largely due to baby boomers paying off their mortgages
  • The private rented sector, now 20% of households, has doubled in size since 1996/1997, with growth accelerating since 2006/2007.
  • The social rented sector is now the smallest with 17% of households.
Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

The post Tessa Shepperson Newsround #58 appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Here is a question to the blog clinic from Brenda who is a tenant

Moved into this private rented property last year. Water meter read at the start of the tenancy and Anglian Water advised. We started paying a monthly Direct Debit. All OK until Anglian Water read the meter last week and the resulting bill came to £1900.

They have now checked and there is a leak on their side (which they have mended) and another leak on our side. The landlord is aware and is dealing with this when he returns from holiday at the end of this week.

My worry is that we will be responsible for payment of this huge bill, as our tenancy agreement says we are responsible for payment of utilities but doesn’t allow for circumstances such as this.

What are we liable for, legally?

Answer

You should not be responsible for any leakage from pipes which it is your water companies responsibility to look after.

So far as the leakage due to your pipes is concerned, note that under s11 (1)(b) of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 your landlord must

“keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, …”

So any loss and extra bills resulting from a failure to comply with this should be down to him.

However, before getting into an argument with your landlord – note that you should be able to claim a ‘domestic leakage allowance’ from your water company. This is usually available where:

  • The leak has been repaired
  • It was not caused by your negligence and
  • You have not claimed an allowance before

So once your pipes have been fixed, have a word with your water authority about this. There is a page on the Anglian Water site about this here.

The post Do tenants have to pay high water bills caused by leaky pipes? appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The Landlord Law Blog by Tessa Shepperson - 1w ago
Foundations of landlord and tenant law  – Part 8

In the beginning, there was the common law.

As discussed in the post on Equity and Law, and also this post on the common law here, it has developed over many years and is largely based on the decisions of Judges as recorded in the law reports.

Separate to this was the development of Parliament, which eventually became the law-making machine it is today. It took quite a long time.

How it all started

Initially, way back in early medieval times and before, enactments and case law were not considered to be essentially different in the way that they are now.

They both came from the royal councils that advised the King, and the King had the ultimate authority. He could both make a law and decide a legal case.

Probably the first proper ‘statute’ was the Magna Carta in 1225, although for a couple of hundred years afterwards, it was still all bit muddly.

However, in 1407 Henry IV recognised that the proper way to make laws was for the lords and the commons to debate things in their separate houses. Only after they had reached agreement should the matter then be submitted to the King for his consent. This is more or less how it has been done ever since.

As, in theory, the common law covers everything.  What an act of Parliament does is change the common law, in some specific way. For example to make the law fairer (in the eyes of the government of the time), or to clarify or codify it.

However, people often think that acts of Parliament are the only type of law. Which is quite wrong, as we have seen.

Common law – the coral atoll analogy

People get very confused about the common law. Many people expect everything which constitutes ‘the law’ to be written down in a list somewhere, or think that if something is not covered by an Act of Parliament then there is no law at all about it.

In many ways, statute law is easier as you can look it up and read it (always assuming of course that you can understand what it says!).

The important common law rules though are only to be found in the decisions of thousands of Judges over the centuries. The decisions pile up one on another, like leaves on the forest floor, or like the homes of those thousands of tiny sea creatures which create a coral atoll.

Many of the older cases are now lost in the mists of time, but (like the early coral growth on the atoll), they underlie and support the more recent ones.

They are all important, and even today occasionally Judges will look back to some of those early cases.

The way we lawyers (and trainee lawyers) generally find out about them is through legal textbooks, articles in law journals, and increasingly, online resources, most of which are written by either academic lawyers or practising solicitors or barristers.

The spread of common law

Incidentally, it is called the ‘common law’, because, in medieval times, it applied to or was ‘common’ to all the courts in England.

(Although, somewhat confusingly, the law from the Kings Courts is also sometimes referred to as the ‘common law’ as opposed to the law used in the Court of Chancery.)

The ‘common law’ system based on case law and precedent was then exported to the countries which formed the British Empire which is why many countries today have a common law system.  As opposed to those whose legal system is based on a civil code.

Common law for leases

The basic rules which govern how leases ‘work’ are mostly common law ones and have been developed over the centuries. For example, the rights of tenants to ‘quiet enjoyment’ discussed in the last post.

In fact, the case, of Street v. Mountford discussed there, which is the authority for the rule that one of the main features of a tenancy is ‘exclusive occupation’, is a prime example of how Judges make (or ‘clarify’) the law.

Other common law rules which apply to all leases (unless specifically excluded or amended by statute or the terms of the lease) include forfeiture, a procedure which allows a landlord to end a lease immediately if the tenant breaches the terms of the lease, and the rules regarding the notice periods for ‘periodic’ tenancies.

So in a sense, all leases are the same. They all involve a landlord and a tenant/lessee paying rent for a term, with the tenants having the benefit of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

Different leases, different codes

However, as we all know, there are in fact vastly different types of lease. The reason for this is the different statutory codes which have been created for different types of leases and which change the underlying common law in various ways for the leases which fall within the boundaries set by the different acts.

There are quite a few different codes but basically three different types of lease:

  • Business / commercial leases, for example for shops and offices
  • Agricultural leases, for agricultural land and accommodation for agricultural workers, and
  • Residential Leases.

As this foundation series is being written to help those involved in short let’s understand the legal background, I am not going to be discussing business and agricultural leases in any detail. Other than to say that they exist, and are based on the same common law foundation as residential leases.

So far as residential leases are concerned, there are two types. Long leases and their considerably shorter cousin, tenancies. We will be looking at some of the differences between the two in thenext post.

Medieval parliament picture is Wikipedia commons, Tonga Island picture from clr–flickr 

The post Common law and statue appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The business models of criminal landlords explained – Part 3

This short series is a guide to those landlords and professionals working in the PRS who might find it difficult to get their head around the vastly different way that the criminals view the market.

This is certainly the case in the four London boroughs that my outfit ‘Safer Renting’ operate in which is echoed by my experiences talking to officers in councils across Britain as a trainer.

Lesson #3: Fake companies, aliases, and general obfuscation.

Sounds obvious but if you are up to no good and want to avoid detection or penalties you don’t use your own name. Any action that a local authority enforcement team can bring has to be brought against a known and proven perpetrator. Sometimes the trick is to just pluck a name out of thin air.

At other times a person may mix and match their own names with shortened versions thrown in which is particularly difficult when people come from communities where it is normal to have around five names in your full title or anglicised versions of say Indian or Bangladeshi names.

Often an unfamiliar name will get miss-spelled in emails and correspondence as a case progresses, which I find particularly common with lengthy Sri Lankan names or names of Eastern European origin, with far too many “Z’s” and “C’s” in unfamiliar order, meaning Google isn’t very helpful.

In one confusing case I dealt with in the 1990s the landlord was called Kemal Mustafa and the tenant called Mustafa Kemal……oh, hours of fun.

Names don’t even have to be complex

Complicated prefixes aside an enforcement officer trying to track down a culprit can also find their investigations hampered simply because the name they have is so commonplace, such as John Smith or Dave Ayres.

Some individual agents give different names to different tenants, so nobody can even tell who they have been dealing with.

If an enforcement team are going to move against a company they have to go for the directors but the names of directors and secretaries can often be family members or friends and you will regularly see frequent changes when you look them up on Companies House, as if the whole structure of the company is built on quicksand.

Also common is using the title “Limited” when it isn’t actually registered with companies house or was dissolved some years back, but still using the same name for trading.  Another regular is using the name of a limited company that genuinely exists but isn’t actually yours, just by leaving off ‘Limited’, or having a name so close to a reputable firm that people make assumptions. Fixtons instead of Foxtons.

Since the Apple i brand came about, iPhone, iMac etc, we commonly encounter companies beginning with ‘i’. I doubt that tenants and landlords believe that somehow Apple has opened a run-down letting agent’s shop in Hackney but the power of branding still holds sway.

Registered addresses are another issue

Many companies are registered at business postal addresses to distance themselves from where they can actually be found and the same group of registration addresses crop up enough to make you wonder if all these people know each other and to raise concerns, even though most companies using these 5 or 6 addresses may be entirely legit.

You see this less with homeowners, the problem being that they have to register themselves at Land Registry if they want to maintain ownership but rogue letting agents will utilise identity confusion quite widely and it is common practice for the agents to change their name periodically with a shop front make-over, particularly so when an enforcement team take successful action for a breach of some kind.

You can get the penalty but if the firm then folds where do you get the money?

It’s a constant game of cat and mouse

One agent that I was trying to restrain for a couple of years ran a website that had been carefully worded to make it appear that he was a charity for the homeless without actually saying so outright.

I was alarmed to find that he had managed to hoodwink another council into using him as a place to refer single homeless people and those recently left care. One of his ‘Hostels’ was listed on the website as a place for people with substance abuse problems. When we raided it with police it was actually a cannabis farm……so in a sense, he wasn’t far wrong.

Banning Orders

I was pleased to see when the notion of Banning Orders was ushered in that for once government seemed to have taken advice from the street as it were and predicted the kinds of things that rogues and criminals would do to wriggle out of being banned.

Section 27 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 from transferring the property over to:-

“(a) a person associated with the landlord,
(b) a business partner of the landlord,
(c) a person associated with a business partner of the landlord,
(d) a business partner of a person associated with the landlord,
(e) a body corporate of which the landlord or a person mentioned in paragraph (a) to (d) is an officer,
(f) a body corporate in which the landlord has a shareholding or other financial interest, or
(g) in a case where the landlord is a body corporate, any body corporate that has an officer in common with the landlord.”

I doubt very much that this will be foolproof but at least government actually thought about it for once.

The end result is delayed

While enforcement officers might spend an inordinate amount of pub-whinge time complaining about this time-consuming run-around, the reality of all this obfuscation means ultimately that it is more difficult to protect the tenants and improve slum conditions.

You can’t get a judge on your side without firm evidence on perpetrators, tenants can’t find out who has their deposit when all involved are pointing the finger at everyone else. The person who turned up Friday night to threaten the occupants might be unknown to them but instructed by either the landlord or the agent and sometimes there might be more than one agent involved.

Next time I will be explaining the most widespread and growing trend of rent to rent and the big problems this is creating for all parties.

The post Aliases and fake companies in the rogue landlord world appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview