My brother is trying to force me into giving him a tenancy – Help!

My brother is trying to force me into giving him a tenancy – Help!

11:20 AM, 7th December 2014, About 7 years ago 22

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I am not actually a landlord, but I own my mother’s house. She is 85 years old, and my brother and his wife moved in a year ago to care for her. There is no formal agreement, or tenancy of any kind. My brother is trying to force me into giving him a tenancy

I offered my brother and his wife a year rent-free as they were in financial difficulties, and about to be evicted for rent arrears to a housing association. I was due to give them the benefit of an AST, but with a token rent, from October 2014. When I reminded him of the agreement, he insisted that I promised never to charge him rent, in “payment” for care duties, and this caused a rift within the family by saying untrue things about me to my mother, frightening her.

They have now formed a unit, and are urging the family to take sides. My brother has set up a standing order to me for £100 (“rent”) a month. He believes that this gives him the rights I promised him before the split, quoting a Facebook set of messages in which I made the offer, as a legally binding agreement. I have written to him twice, and returned cheques for the amount, asking him to cancel the standing order. He refuses. The bank advise me that this cannot be stopped by them, and suggested I involve the Police. I would rather not do this, for obvious reasons.

My solicitor tells me, in an informal chat, that they are “licencees” only, as I own the house outright, and have never charged rent. My brother says my earlier offer of tenancy is binding, and gives him “rights”.

I do not wish to evict him while my mother is alive, but wish to sell the house when she dies. I have not told him of this, but I think he suspects it.

My brother is 52, his wife is 53. He is in poor health, and has not worked for 25 years (by his choice), so has no entitlements to benefits. His wife works 15 hours a week, but is in poor health too. He has a history of rent arrears, so I think they would find it difficult to get alternative accommodation, and I feel that this is the reason he is demanding “rights” from me, as if evicted under an AST he believes he would be eligible for council accommodation. I do not think he would qualify, and fear he might then be entitled to remain in the house.

I am not sure what the legal position is with regard to the promises of a tenancy I made before we fell out.

Help!!!

Thanks in advance for any suggestions

Regards

Catherine D



Comments

by Mandy Thomson

14:36 PM, 14th December 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil Robb" at "14/12/2014 - 13:44":

You've made some really good points, Neil. It seems this kind of situation is very common, with siblings fighting over care of elderly parents - apparently, the parent involved is more likely to take the side the sibling they have most contact with, as naturally they're more aware of their side of the story, and that person is in a better position to influence the parent.

However, from what Catherine says, this isn't so much about the brother and sister in law caring for their mother, as mother caring for them! To give them their due, I certainly wouldn't envy their circumstances - only one low wage job between them, wife has cancer, no secure roof over their heads, and little prospect of changing their circumstances given their ages.

Having said this, it does sound as though Catherine's brother has largely contributed to these circumstances himself, and as you suggest, they may well have more money in the form of benefits and other sources than they are admitting (the brother wanted to pay more rent than Catherine was expecting!). I often came across people like this when I worked at the Job Centre. However, without knowing the couples' full circumstances, I have to say they might not be as entitled to benefit as one might think. For example, if a claimant has assets over £6k, this starts to affect, until with assets over £16k, they normally wouldn't be entitled at all, unless they could prove they held those assets for business purposes, or were in the process of selling them - in theory. A large number of DWP staff don't understand this distinction between assets, so would simply deny any claim where the claimant had assets over £16k, regardless of their purpose.

Likewise, although the wife is possibly entitled to Jobseeker's allowance as she works under 16 hours, her earnings are likely to mean she gets little if any benefit money, and she would have to bring pay slips into the job centre very fortnight and declare her hours worked and deal with all the administrative complications involved too - difficult if you're having treatment for cancer.

You also made the point about Liverpool bringing in licensing - with some councils, this is simply a cash raising rubber stamping exercise, and once the licence is obtained, the landlord is left alone. However, other councils impose and exercise much more onerous conditions. Also, if Catherine makes her brother and his wife her tenants, a Labour council are much more likely to take the tenants' side, in the event of a dispute over the tenancy. I therefore agree with you that Catherine should keep them as licensees for her own protection.

by Puzzler

15:41 PM, 14th February 2015, About 7 years ago

Hi Catherine, I hope things have improved since these posts. To follow up on my query on how you came to own the house. I expected the answer you gave. It may be that if you bought the house at a discount under your parents' right to buy then the value over what you paid really is still beneficially your mother's even though she signed it over to you. This being the case the other siblings would probably be entitled to feel aggrieved if they believe it will all come to you after she dies. They would also have grounds to make a claim which could well succeed if it means less burden on the taxpayer. Perhaps you could reassure them that the profit would be shared?


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