Landlord has let us down BADLY!

by Readers Question

16:46 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Landlord has let us down BADLY!

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Landlord has let us down BADLY!

My partner and I moved into our first rented home together on 28 February 2014. We paid what we thought were extortionate referencing fees of £300 (EACH!) on top of the deposit and rent. At the time we mentioned that this was a high price, especially considering that my partner had rented from this letting agent before. Landlord has let us down BADLY!

They made it very clear that the landlord wanted long term tenants – a few years at least – and that’s exactly what we wanted too. We only agreed to the extortionate fees  because we didn’t plan moving out for a good 5 years or so.

We signed a 12 months minimum contract.

6 months into our tenancy the landlord has now decided she is selling the house. We’re not pleased of course, but there’s not much we can do about it. Being a Law graduate myself I have some knowledge of my rights (not going to claim to be an expert) so I know at least that they have to let us stay until the end of our contract (28 Feb 2015) at a bare minimum.

My first questions is…

Do we have any way of claiming any of the fees back? I’m fully expecting the answer to be “no” as we don’t have any written proof of anything. but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

My second questions is:

We moved in halfway through the previous tenants contract and were told in no uncertain terms by the letting agents that “We think the last tenants (a couple) have broken up …. it’s all very sad but the landlord says they can leave early if they find new tenants”

Enter us – new tenants.

A couple weeks after we moved in the previous male tenant came round to see if we had any post for them and to ask how we were finding the flat. He explained that they hadn’t split up at all but the actual reason they had moved out was because the lady that lives opposite (its a block of flats with 2 flats per floor so by “opposite” I mean 2 metres away!) had knocked on the door one day completely unsolicited, while his wife and 2 year old daughter were the only people in the house. His wife had answered the door and the neighbour had immediately attacked her. He said he had told the letting agents about this and so it transpires this was why they wanted, quite rightly, to leave the contract early.

Since living in this flat we have visits from the Police on a regular basis (at least once a month) to do with our opposite neighbour who, as it turns out, is a mentally unstable drug addict whose daughter is looked after by the authorities.

My question is….. Did the landlords break any law in lying blatently to us and should we have been made aware of her before we moved in? If so, what can we do?

My third questions needs some more explination….

The letting agency have been absolutely appalling with showing prospective buyers around the house. They constantly make arrangements with less than 24 hours notice and often just by leaving a message on my phone and then turning up before I even had a chance to reply. They also do the opposite, e.g. one time they said they’d be do a viewing “between 1pm and 3:30pm” but they didn’t turn up at all and never phoned to say they wouldn’t be coming. This has been incredibly annoying but we’ve coped untill last week when I was at work during the day and my partner was asleep (he’d been working the night shift at work).

Without any notice, or even trying to contact us, the landlords let themselves and their prospective buyers into our flat, showed them around and then, of course, walked into our bedroom and woke my partner up. As you can expect, I’m absolutely furious about this. They always just let themselves in with their key, even when I was recovering from an appendectomy, which we had notified them about and they’d said they’d do not viewings while I was recovering.

What can be done about this awful breaking of their side of the contract?

Thank you

Alice



Comments

Mark Alexander

17:06 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi Alice

Thank you for sharing your story, I agree that you have been let down VERY BADLY and I also agree that the fees you were charged were extortionate.

My first piece of practical advice is to check whether your tenancy agreement has a six month break clause, and if it does what the conditions are. Then report back to me via this thread.

My second piece of practical advice is to have your locks changed. You are perfectly entitled to do this, without giving your landlord, your letting agent or your landlords estate agent a key until you eventually check out of the property.

My third piece of practical advice is that you make a harassment complaint to the Police and also to your local Council. Put this in writing to them, stating that you have changed the locks and give them a copy of a letter which you MUST write to both your landlord and the letting agency confirming that you refuse permission for them to enter your home again without your prior written consent until you have officially checked out and also the reasons as you have laid out above. If the Estate Agent is not the same company as the letting agent I suggest you also copy them in.

My fourth piece of advice is that you discuss your case with Citizens Advice and show them this discussion thread.

In answer to your questions:-

1) I am not aware of any practical measures you could take which might entitle you to a refund of fees, especially as you have nothing in writing in terms of the longevity of the proposed tenancy.

2) and 3) - I do not feel appropriately qualified to advise you on these points but I am sure that other members here will be able to do so.

If you want to rent a property long term, this can be difficult for landlords to agree to in terms of providing a long term tenancy because it invariably puts them in breach of their mortgage conditions. However, there is a solution. It is called Deed of Assurance and you are quite within your rights to ask your next landlord to offer one. Obviously a landlord is also quite within his rights to refuse too. However, if he/she does refuse then you have good reason to question their genuine intentions to let to you on a long term basis. Details of a Deed of Assurance can be found here >>> http://www.property118.com/deed-of-assurance-document-template-download/43126/

I hope that helps for starters.
.

Alice Drury

18:09 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Thank you so much for your response having checked the tenancy the only end of tenancy type clause I can find is as follows:

Notwithstanding the provisions of the agreement relating to the Term of Tenancy, it is agreed between the parties that should the Landlord wish to terminate the tenancy, he may give the required two months notice in writing to the Tenant in accordance with section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This notice can be served upon the Tenant but must not expire before six months from the commencement of the tenancy.
Any termination in accordance with this clause shall not prejudice any claim of either party against the other in respect of any breach or non-observance of the provisions of this agreement.

And then the same but one months notice for the tenant to give the landlord.

I'll discuss the rest of your response with my partner when he finishes work. Thank you so much and I hope I get a response from someone regarding the unanswered questions.

Thanks
Alice.

Romain Garcin

19:17 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

I'm far from convinced that this clause has the effect of a break clause, or any effect for that matter.

Indeed, in my view it just re-states the Housing Act: If the landlord requires possession he must first serve notice under s.21.

However such notice has no effect on the tenancy, so your fixed term tenancy would continue until the expiry of the term.

Alice Drury

19:24 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Thanks Romain

Rob Crawford

20:01 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi Alice, you say you have a 12 month agreement but what you have quoted suggests only 6 months, "This notice can be served upon the Tenant but must not expire before six months from the commencement of the tenancy". Please can you clarify/confirm. With regard to the landlord/agent's behavior with the viewings even if they give you 24 hours notice they still need your permission. This is a clear case of harassment and I would suggest you get a citizens advice solicitor to write a letter reminding them of your rights.

Alice Drury

20:19 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

I thought that was odd too but the contract definitely says "term: twelve calendar months"

Mark Alexander

20:34 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Alice Drury" at "23/12/2014 - 20:19":

As Romain states, the contract is just quoting legislation but if the term says 12 months that's what it is.

If you read the legislation you will also see that you have the right of peaceful enjoyment.
.

Rob Crawford

21:24 PM, 23rd December 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Alice Drury" at "23/12/2014 - 20:19":

What you have quoted is not a break clause. I can see where Mark is coming from but I think this clause should actually read 12 months, its an error by the agent. I don't think it matters if 12 months is stated in the opening statements within the AST. If you are still paying the rent you cannot be evicted during the 12 months and it's only a Court Order that can evict you. You need to remind the landlord and agent of what was agreed. It does not stop the landlord selling the property with you as an occupant and for them requesting viewings for this but, as already stated, only with your permission. You are clearly being harassed. I think you could waste a lot of time and get really stressed unless you get professional legal help. A letter written by a solicitor will I think calm things down whereas if you do it yourself you'll just end up in a never ending argument. I would not get bogged down about the unsavory neighbour, the landlord may not have any evidence other than 3rd party say so on this in which case it may not be appropriate for him to raise the issue.

Ian Ringrose

11:58 AM, 24th December 2014
About 4 years ago

The agent lying to you about the reasons for the last tenants moving out can be reported to trading standards, and any redress scheme the agent is a member off.

Robert Mellors

12:09 PM, 24th December 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi Alice

1. I don't know if there is a limit to how much an agency can charge as an admin fee/application fee/referencing fee when someone applies to become a tenant, or for a tenancy renewal, but £300 each does seem extortionate.

I don’t use any letting agencies for letting my properties but charging this much does seem to be akin to a licence to print money, as the actual cost to the agent for the work involved cannot really be this much. I know there are rules (legislation and caselaw) about some admin charges having to be reasonable (so they are not effectively a penalty charge in disguise), e.g. bank admin fees were forced down a few years ago because of this (e.g. for going over overdraft limit, or bounced standing orders, etc). But I don't know if this also applies to letting agent fees?

2. Presumably you viewed the flat beforehand and were happy with it. Did you specifically ask about whether there had been any problems with (complaints about) any of the neighbours? If you asked and the agent lied, then I think that could be misrepresentation and give a cause for legal complaint against the agent (if you can prove it), but if you did not ask then as far as I am aware the agent is not obliged to raise the issue with you, in which case you would have no legal redress.

3. Assuming you have "exclusive possession" of the property (it's very rare for this not to be the case with an assured shorthold tenancy), then, as stated by Mark, you have the right to "peaceful enjoyment" of your home, so the landlord or agent has no right to enter your home without your express permission. They can ask for entry for whatever reason, but you have the right to refuse entry. If they enter without your permission then I believe that would be unlawful and possibly form the grounds for a complaint of harassment. Harassment can be a criminal offence (but could also be a civil wrong), but it is one of those criminal offences which police are reluctant to prosecute, as they just fob people off by saying it's a landlord/tenant dispute. However, the local council should have a private landlord officer (may have a variety of different titles depending on the council involved), who can liaise with the landlord/agent and ensure that they are not breaking the law (or even prosecute them if they do) so it may be advisable to speak to them. I would also re-iterate the advice to visit your local CAB and get further advice about your situation and your options.

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