Landlord & tenant + Employment issues

by Readers Question

4 years ago

Landlord & tenant + Employment issues

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Landlord & tenant + Employment issues

Hello everybody and thank you for reading my article.

I’m in need of some direction if you could spare a moment please. I will try to keep this all very summary, as it seems a rather complicated case involving both employment and tenancy issues. My situation is as follows:

I work full time in a working men’s club, run by a committee who acts both as my employer and my landlord, as I live in a room in the flat above work. I signed a 6 months AST on the 30th April 2010, and the rent of £200 was taken at source, every month, starting with April 2010.

In September 2012 I’ve been approached by the committee (my employer) and asked if I would do the bookkeeping for the Club (my workplace). We had a verbal agreement at the time, where starting with October 2012 my hourly pay rate was increased by £1.50ph, and as part of the wages package I was not to pay rent any more. The rent hasn’t been deducted since October 2012. Nothing has been put in writing, no new AST, no new job description. The only evidence of the above is reflected in my payslips. I only had a few hours with the accountant at the time who showed me what needs doing.

In September 2013 they told me they can’t afford to pay me at the high rate any more, and have asked me to stop doing the books. Starting with October 2013 my hourly rate was deducted, after negotiation, by £1.25ph. I stopped doing the bookkeeping and still no rent was being taken. Again nothing been put in writing, but the pay cut is shown again in the payslips.

On 6th August 2014 I had a meeting with the committee and initially they’ve informed me I need to be paying rent again, and they demanded a rate of £250 plus bills. After negotiation, they agreed a rate of £200 PCM, and no bills, I’ve explained I can’t afford to pay £200, and suggested several options. We have this conversation after the annual pay review- rejected; I get a pay rise now to cover the £200 rent they demand -rejected; I pay a lower rate -rejected – and their answer at the end of the meeting was if I don’t want to pay £200 then they’ll have to bring the tenancy to an end.

Two days later, 8th August 2014, the Club’s secretary handed me a letter over the bar, whilst I was working, demanding I pay rent of £200 starting with 1st September, and informing they’ve instructed their solicitors to draft a new AST to apply from the same date. After he’s seen me read the letter, his remark was ” it’s a hard life, isn’t it?”

15 August I went to CAB and communicated to the committee their advice. CAB suggested I put in writing my rejection of the rent increase (from current nil rate to £200) and also advised that as the rent forms part of my tenancy agreement with them, they cannot unilaterally change the terms of my tenancy agreement without my agreement.

29 August The committee instructed their solicitors to write to me, and I’ve received a letter, in which my name is misspelt and the postcode is wrong, and the solicitors refer to the “lease of the Flat which I occupy under the terms of a Service Tenancy”, and they inform me I’m liable to pay the rent under the terms of the original agreement at the rate of £200 per month, starting with 1st September 2014, failing which their clients reserve their position.

1st September I wrote to the committee asking for clarification on the new AST which I have not yet received.

3rd September their solicitors write back to me asking for all the correspondence to go straight to the writer. They’ve enclosed a photocopy of the original AST ( from 2010) and draw my attention to the fact that ” the concession granted to you is withdrawn and £200 is due and payable from 1st September 2014 onwards”

4th September the Club’s treasurer emails me to inform he’s transferred my wages for August, and that they have deducted £200 for the rent that is owing to the Club from 1st September. He also says it is in accordance with the terms of my Contract of Employment and this action is taken on the advice of their solicitors. Reading the Employment Contract I’ve signed on 07.11.2013 there is a paragraph there saying “we can deduct any money that you may owe us from your pay or other payments due to you”.

I’ve got several questions regarding the whole issue, and the most important ones are:

  • have they acted legally giving me only 3 weeks notice of the rent increase? Does the 2 month notice rule apply in this situation? Have they got to properly serve a specific type of notice?
  • have they acted legally deducting my wages?
  • if the rent was nil, does that invalidate the AST ?
  • in October 2013 when the role of bookkeeper was withdrawn, should I have been offered ” reasonable alternative suitable employment with equal or comparable terms and status” Is it legal to reduce my entitlement without going through a redundancy process and then re engaging in the new role?
  • also in the first year of employment (2010-2011) I have asked for holiday since parents were visiting, and I was told I can only have 3 days off, but not consecutive days throughout their stay. That is all I have taken as time off in that year, 3 unpaid days, and I have not received any holiday pay, as I was not aware I was entitled to holiday. Is it too late now to dispute that?
  • what is my position now?
  • what should I be doing next?
  • do you think I might have a case here, with all this going on, and is it worth me seeking paid, professional advice, or shall I just swallow my pride and get on with it, now they’ve taken the rent money?

I do not dispute the rent pay is indeed low in comparison to real market value, but my understanding was even when I’m not downstairs at work, and I’m in my time off, upstairs, I am still answering the phone and acting on behalf of the Club, I still take deliveries that arrive before opening times, and still let people in (the Committee, the cleaners, etc) to carry on their various tasks, etc. When I explained this to them, they said “you don’t have to, as the tenancy agreement is not related to your work, therefore you can still live upstairs even if you don’t work for us anymore, and the AST is still current.”

Any advice is very gratefully received.

Thank you.

Delia



Comments

Mark Alexander

4 years ago

Hi Delia

You don't have A case, you have several !!!

From what you have said I also suspect that you will qualify for legal aid.

My advice to you is to go through your Yellow pages and ring all the local solicitors to find out which ones take on legal aid cases. Get your free initial appointment with each of them and send the summary you have posted to each of them before you see them. Then, after you have seen a few, decide which one you want to instruct to act for you. It may well cost you nothing to have legal representation.

Good luck and please report back on how you get on.
.

Delia King

4 years ago

Thanks for your prompt reply Mark!
I shall do that on Monday morning, and keep you all updated.
Many thanks, and have a great weekend.
Delia King.

r01

4 years ago

As Mark rightly say's you have a number of potential points for action, however, before you do anything I suggest you consider whether you wish to continue working for this social club because even though you may be fully within justified, once you start any form of action it will sour your relationship and make working there difficult given the sheer number of people involved who will know what is going on. Sometimes it's better to look for an alternative position first and move on to avoid a negative reference (or refusal to provide one which is just as bad) and this may happen if it all gets a bit fraught.

I would also point out that your original agreement would appear to have been for a rent of £200 a month and it seems that the new agreement after negotiation is also £200. Rents in my area have increased dramatically in recent years while yours has stood still, so think carefully about this.

With regard to holiday pay, there are legal requirements and your entitlement should be clearly laid out in your contract of (or for) employment. I suggest you read it carefully and insist that it's only reasonable you be allowed to take holiday that is owed to you. You are also entitled to days off "in lieu" of Bank Holidays that you work as part of your employment. I suggest you book your holiday days off as far in advance as possible, even if you don't need it.

Personally, I think it is always a mistake to "live-in" which is effectively what you are doing unless right from the outset you are absolutely firm about not responding to requests during your personal time off. Letting authorised people in is easily overcome by having one or a number of spare sets of keys cut.

Good luck,

R

Delia King

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "r01 " at "05/09/2014 - 22:32":

Hi R!

Thank you for your comments.
Yes, I appreciate the rent level is symbolic, but what infuriates me is the way they act, and I'd love to find out wether or not they're entitled to behave in this manner.
As per carrying on working here, that's a valid point, and I've come to this conclusion myself...age old story, overworked & underpaid. I'm currently working on finding alternative solituions regarding employment.
As I've already mentioned, I'd be curious to know if they've acted legally taking everything into account.

Kind regards,
Delia.

Jay James

4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "r01 " at "05/09/2014 - 22:32":

Hi ro1
"You are also entitled to days off “in lieu” of Bank Holidays that you work as part of your employment."
Exactly which statute/ SI/ case law section and subsection states this?

Delia King

4 years ago

Contacted three different lawyers firms, awaiting their feedback now. Fingers crossed and will keep you all updated either way.
Thank you for your replies.
Delia.


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