Am I being unreasonable?

Am I being unreasonable?

11:50 AM, 25th January 2021, About 6 months ago 47

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As readers of Property 118 are professionals, what opinions and advice can you offer on whether I’m being unreasonable in holding a widow to the terms of the tenancy agreement.

I own a modern retirement (over 55s) flat and for the last 5 years it has been rented to a lovely couple – model tenants in fact. They pay the rent largely from housing benefit with the shortfall made up by their daughter. I also have a guarantor for the AST. The tenancy was renewed on 6/9/2020 for a further 12 months.

The husband died from Covid last week and the daughter has written to me giving 2 months’ notice after which she expects her mother will have moved out due to ill health (can’t carry on living in the flat on her own) and has assumed the tenancy will then be ended.

I have said I am not prepared to do this as legally; I am entitled to receive the rent (£1100 per month) up to September 2021; if I agree to cancel the tenancy at the end of March, I will lose out on £5500 in rent unless I can re-let the flat quickly. Because over 55s is a very restricted market and most people who would be interested would be downsizing buyers rather than renters, it is quite possible that it could take me until September or even longer to find new tenants.

Am I being unreasonable by insisting that the rent is paid each month until September even though after March 31st, the widow won’t be living there? I’ve discussed this situation with a number of people and opinion is divided but while I feel sorry that a tenant has died and his widow needs to move out for health reasons, I don’t see why I should have to just accept a loss of up to £5500.

As readers of Property 118 are professionals, what opinions and advice can you offer?

Jonathan



Comments

by psquared

16:24 PM, 27th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Trapped Landlord at 27/01/2021 - 15:34
Have I missed something? What has this to do with the council???

by Trapped Landlord

17:36 PM, 27th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by psquared at 27/01/2021 - 16:24
Hence why I said " just out of interest ", since the last time I checked, in my town at least, the local authority is the biggest landlord by volume and I would be interested to know what their policy would be in a case like this ???

by Mick Roberts

8:51 AM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Trapped Landlord at 27/01/2021 - 15:34
My last tenant that passed away approx 7 8 years ago, his Housing Benefit stopped immediately. Council gave no grace.
So it's tricky one if tenants family then asks us for a few weeks rent free. If Council won't pay as they have no understanding, should the Landlord then pay out his pocket for the family to keep having the house?
I've had about 6 tenants pass away over the years & the family afterwards NEVER offer to pay the rent that has now just stopped. And I've ended up swallowing it. But the question is why should Landlord if the Council with arguably bigger budget won't.

by Martin Roberts

12:46 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Ask yourself if someone had rented a car, and then died, would Hertz let the family drive round in it for a month?

Plus, the council has an obligation to the tax payers.

by psquared

12:56 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Martin Roberts at 28/01/2021 - 12:46
There has to some humanity and compassion. This is probably a time of great sadness and anxiety for the future.
If a landlord is dependent on the income to pay the bills I think it is different to a landlord who is profitable and will just reduce his profits.
There has to be more to life than simply making money. Of course money is important to provide for your family, but beyond that if you are privileged to be able to help relieve another persons suffering I would hope that’s what you would do. I believe in karma and I try to treat other people as I would wish to be treated. For me kindness is more important than profit.....I’m not advocating giving away everything at your own expense but if it is within your means to help out someone who is suffering I would hope that is what would happen.

Our society would be a lot better if people were kinder to ea h other.

And know I am not a bleeding heart liberal, as I have become older( and wiser?) I have come to understand that there are many different sorts of wealth.

by Martin Roberts

13:01 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Completely agree.

We've always let a tenant leave early if they wish, with no penalty, and thankfully not had a tenant die, but would certainly allow a reasonable time to clear a property. I would think a couple of weeks after the paid period ends would be fair.

by Paul Shears

13:25 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by psquared at 28/01/2021 - 12:56
At a perhaps very slightly more pragmatic level if you are the sort of person who ever has any desire to donate to charity, here is an opportunity to do so efficiently without any bureaucratic burden. You would know that whatever you choose to contribute is not being diluted by any form of intermediary.
I have done exactly this many times in my global travels. A small some of money from myself that I can easily afford, is viewed as a very large sum by the person or people that I am giving it to. E.g. Some sort of domestic asset like a TV or Fridge freezer.
This does not constitute any form of advice from myself. It is merely an observation.

by psquared

13:31 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Paul Shears at 28/01/2021 - 13:25
Totally concur.....during the pandemic I have sent food to some of my tenants and know that I am actually helping and not paying the wage of some ceo ( other than the retailer I purchase from). It feels great to help

by Beaver

13:32 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by psquared at 28/01/2021 - 12:56
I think that's right but there is a difference between what you might choose to do and what you should be obliged to do. The difficulty when you are a landlord these days is that the public sector tries to dump its obligations on you and you need to keep pushing back. In this case the landlord isn't just losing rent, he's got leasing and other payments to make.

When someone dies pension payments stop, benefits payment stop. Everything stops. The deceased's bank accounts get frozen until somebody sends in the form telling HMRC whether the relatives need to go through probate. Whether you go through probate or not HMRC still expects its pound of flesh and as a landlord you are entitled to your rent payments before the family, or HMRC gets paid. And that's the way it should be. It might be that you wait a bit before approaching the executors to be polite whilst expressing sympathy for their loss. But you are still entitled to be paid from the estate....there is no way that you should be subsidising the beneficiaries.

So if they give you reasonable notice of when the surviving partner is likely to leave it's a reasonable thing to look for a tenant to reduce the risk of a void period and it's a reasonable thing for the family to cooperate with you; e.g. by letting you show prospective tenants around whilst their surviving relative is still in the property; or by giving you a month's rent compensation if they don't want you to show tenants around because of Covid.

That's reasonable and I doubt it's necessary to hold the tenant to the full term of the tenancy even if there is a legal right to do it. It appears though that in this case they have been able to agree something.

by Marlena Topple

16:28 PM, 28th January 2021, About 6 months ago

Aside from wanting to do the right thing, there may be hard nosed pragmatic reasons for wanting to regain control of a property in such circumstances. For example the surviving spouse may not be able to afford the rent or become unwell; a clean break will give space for a refurb and the potential to charge a higher rent or the owner could choose to sell. Forcing someone to stay or pay 1000s of pounds will generate bad feeling and possibly legal action and expense and none of us need the stress right now. Parting as friends would always be the favoured option for me for pragmatic as well as humanitarian reasons.


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