Adding partner to a Tenancy Agreement?

by Readers Question

15:50 PM, 8th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Adding partner to a Tenancy Agreement?

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Adding partner to a Tenancy Agreement?

Do I have to issue a completely new Tenancy Agreement (TA) if the only thing that is changing is adding a tenant’s partner to the contract?

The initial TA was set up and agreed – a single mum and two kids. I knew the father of the kids visited on and off, but when I have organised landlord checks he hasn’t been there so assumed this was still the case. FYI full (rent paid direct to me from DWP). It now seems that he has moved in full time and I believe he is working.

She has never told me that this is the case, so I don’t believe she has told the DWP either, yet this is a change in circumstance. Clearly I don’t want to rock the boat as they are a fairly nice couple and seem settled, BUT I need to cover myself.

Can I simply get him to sign something to say he is now jointly responsible as an amendment to the existing TA?

I’m worried if I have to issue a new TA then doesn’t that mean it is essentially a new contract and that I would have to wait six months if in the (unlikely event) things changed and I had to resort to eviction procedures etc?

Many thanks

Reluctant Landlord


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Bill irvine

17:18 PM, 10th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Hi
You'll recall, part of the orginal question was- "It now seems that he has moved in full time and I believe he is working. She has never told me that this is the case, so I don’t believe she has told the DWP either, yet this is a change in circumstance. Clearly I don’t want to rock the boat as they are a fairly nice couple and seem settled, BUT I need to cover myself."

So, we have a tenant, claiming as a single parent, receiving full housing costs, with her partner, who is working, most likely residing there. Together they're, most probably, contriving to make a fraudulent claim, causing an ever growing overpayment, the likelihood of a fraud investigation and, if not reported; the landlord being implicated in both the overpayment & fraud.

The landlord, having received payment of the "housing costs" is under an obligation to report any change in circumstances which could affect the award of UC. If he doesn't comply with that obligation, he could be held culpable for, at least part of, the overpayment.

If she reports the fact the husband is residing there, DWP should suspend payment of UC, including the housing costs, until its carried out a full review of the couple's circumstances. If the couple wish to claim as a couple, he would have to complete a claim that links to hers. There is no need, for a new AST for the purposes of the claim. Depending on the level of his earnings, that might lead to a NIL award of UC or reduced payments, but maybe not enough to cover the rental costs. Any award however should be paid back to the date her claim was intially suspended.

By doing the right thing, you might lose your guaranteed rent payments from DWP but, in my experience, people making fraudulent claims, usually trip themselves up or one of their close relatives or friends makes an anonymous call to the authorities. When that happens, it's not unusual for the tenant to try and implicate the landlord and even less unusual, for the Council, DWP or both, to believe what they're being told and take action against the landlord because it's much easier to recover the overpaid sum.

Follow my earlier advice and either advise DWP or ensure your tenant does so.

Bill

WP

19:37 PM, 10th June 2020
About 4 months ago

I've emailed the tenant to basically give her the advice as above asking that if her circumstances have changed and now he is/has moved in then she needs to inform the DWP. thanks all 🙂

Alistair N

10:30 AM, 11th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by WP at 10/06/2020 - 19:37
Be interesting to know the outcome down the line please.

WP

15:16 PM, 12th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Alistair N at 11/06/2020 - 10:30
I'll keep you posted!

Jessie Jones

9:04 AM, 13th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by WP at 12/06/2020 - 15:16
Interesting to read the differing points of view here. But this is the reason I won't accept direct payments from the DSS, as it's the landlord that they can come to to reclaim money in the event that your tenant has not updated a change in circumstances.
Before you go reporting anything to the DSS you ought to try and establish whether or not he is actually resident there, or whether he actually resides elsewhere but just stays over regularly. Otherwise you are just going to upset the applecart, and your tenant, and your income, for no good reason.
I'm also not sure why you would want to change the tenancy to include partner. I can't see any advantage to this, only complications. It would be almost impossible to do a new inventory of condition of the property whilst it is full of the first tenants possessions. If there is a deposit then it will be very tricky to know how to apportion this unless you return it and take another one from them. If you have a current tenancy agreement which is lawful and which works for you and your initial tenant, I can't see any advantage in changing it.

Kate Mellor

11:11 AM, 13th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by WP at 10/06/2020 - 19:37
To protect yourself you should tell her you require proof in the form of a letter from DWP that she has informed them of her change in n circumstances, or proof of her partner’s current address being elsewhere, or you will be legally required to inform the DWP. You have now given your tenant proof you are aware she has had a change in circumstances but you’ve failed to report it.

She has a choice, either the partner moves out; or he stays and takes over financial responsibility for his family and applies for any top up they may jointly be entitled to, but it will certainly be less than it was when they were running two households.

If she decides on the latter then you will need to either leave things as they are and keep her as the tenant and him as a lodger. That way she has full authority over the tenancy which may be helpful if the relationship breaks down. In that case you should send him a questionnaire asking for his details in full including place of work and NI number, and he needs to provide a copy of passport and you need to carry out R2R checks. The downside of this is that you will not be able to pursue him for any future rent arrears. I only do this where an existing tenant has enough income to meet her rent and has asked to move her partner in.

If you do want him on the lease, (which makes financial sense), you will need to do everything from scratch INCLUDING refunding the deposit and receiving it again. That receipt date is crucial in terms of the protection process. The only time you don’t need to reprotect the deposit and reissue PI is if nothing (other than rent) has changed.

WP

11:50 AM, 14th June 2020
About 4 months ago

thanks Kate - a wealth of info ! Cheers.

I'm awaiting a response from the tenant. As she will have enough anyway to cover the rent, (I'm getting full direct payments as it is so that wont change if ) it seems sensible to explain to her that he becomes a lodger instead then (for the reasons you give above). That way surely the responsibility lies with her. How is this then 'formalised'?

Kate Mellor

12:15 PM, 14th June 2020
About 4 months ago

As he is part of the family unit I wouldn't refer to him as a lodger per se. I would refer to him as a Permitted Occupier; someone who lives there with full knowledge of the landlord, but is not on the tenancy agreement. He has a licence to occupy whilst the tenant permits it, but not a tenancy. There is technically nothing you are REQUIRED by law to do, other than a right to rent check, however I always like to have full information on any adult who lives in my properties for the purposes of future tracing if required, for example if they commit a crime against your property, or a neighbour, or indeed yourself. I therefore send a questionnaire requiring full name, dob, previous address, phone number, place of work, NI number and copy of passport. I then add this to the tenant's file.
Your tenancy agreement likely says that the tenant requires your permission in writing to let someone else move in, so obviously that is part of the process, give permission, on the proviso that the attached questionnaire is completed and all required info supplied.
You will also need to stipulate proof of DWP being informed of change of circumstances, AND payment of all rent due to you being made by the tenant, on time, in the event that the direct housing benefit payments are put on hold during any investigation process, with any back dated payments in excess of the outstanding rent being refunded to the tenant on receipt.
That way if there is a temporary suspension of benefits as a result of the partner moving in, your rent will be covered in full, as it falls due, and if the benefit payment is reduced below the rent amount you will have received full rent in the meantime and the tenant won't end up in arrears by the difference.

WP

12:31 PM, 14th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Kate Mellor at 14/06/2020 - 12:15
do if I agree to the 'permitted Occupier' then she (or I ) would still have to inform the DWP of this as it would I classify as a change of circumstance? I'll certainly back myself up with your system of asking for their further info etc, but secretly hoping she states he IS not going to be moving in. I could do without the stress of the paperwork and possible suspension of rent at the mo and the hassle that entails. If I can get that in writing surely that's my back covered then?

Kate Mellor

13:03 PM, 14th June 2020
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by WP at 14/06/2020 - 12:31Yes, anyone else moving in is a change of circumstance as far as DWP is concerned. If he is also claiming and isn't working then it may be straightforward and not have any major impact on the claim. If however, as you suspect he is working it may result in a complete, or significant loss of entitlement.
Anything which affects your tenants income is a change in circumstances and you are obliged to report it if you know about it. If you know about it and fail to report it and the tenant also fails to report it, you can 100% face a claw back of overpaid benefits. Try retrieving that from a tenant who isn't working. I've been extremely fortunate in the past to have tenants done for claiming benefits they aren't entitled to which were paid direct and not had them reclaimed, however some councils do this as a matter of course and I've heard some horror stories on here. The short term inconvenience is worth it in the long run. Don't expose yourself to the risk.
The expert on UC is Bill Irvine, who has already replied. If he doesn't know it, it isn't worth knowing! If he says it, you can rely on it as being entirely accurate.

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