Put Down Your Particulars – Don’t Shoot the Messenger! #3

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

14:16 PM, 28th September 2011
About 9 years ago

Put Down Your Particulars – Don’t Shoot the Messenger! #3

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Put Down Your Particulars – Don’t Shoot the Messenger! #3

When a tenant has a beef with their landlord, I’m the guy they go to. My job is to either negotiate or prosecute, depending on the circumstances. This occasional and random series aims to let landlords know the common complaints that are made about them, the laws that cover them and how to deal with it.

I don’t know where my landlord lives

There are 4 laws that relate to a landlord’s address when running a letting.

  • Section 48
  • Section 1
  • Section 7
  • HMO Licensing requirements

I strut my funky thang in Lewisham in South East London, which aint Redditch or Worcester or Leamington Spa. 92 different languages are spoken in my manor and we probably have more scammers per square foot than an entire box set of ‘Hustle’. We have around 13,000 HMOs.

This all means I have a hell of a job just tracking down dodgy landlords who in our area deliberately try to stay off the paperwork for a wide variety of reasons. Tax avoidance being one, and immigration issues being another favourite which drains much of my time. I do Experian checks, Land registry checks, Council Tax checks, HB Checks, Companies House checks and Nada!!!!! Zero, Niet!!! Amazing as it may sound, even in this day and age it is possible to stay off the radar if you are determined enough. Even the police sometimes come to us to ask if we can help track people down.

I would estimate that around 60% of the tenancy agreements I see on a daily basis don’t have a true contact address for the landlord. Also, what really doesn’t help is that when questioned the tenants tell me they only know their landlord as ‘Dave’ or Fola, and they only meet once a week when they turn up to take rent payments in cash and, amazingly, many tenants don’t even bother to ask for receipts.

When the proverbial hits the proverbial they come in to complain to me. There is nothing I can do to protect them because I don’t even know the true whereabouts of the landlord, something I need to have in order to take any kind of action.

So what are the laws on this?

Section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

First out of the bag is my little friend ‘Section 48’. By law a landlord must provide an address for service of documents to their tenant.

As I keep urging in these articles, pay close attention to the words. “An address for service of documents”. It doesn’t mean the landlord’s ‘Actual’ address, but an address where, if a tenant so wished, they could serve legal documents on their landlords, disrepair notices for instance.

Section 47 & 48 state that if a landlord doesn’t provide a Section 48 address then they are not entitled to receive any rent until they comply. Which means, in the real world, that if a landlord claims a tenants owes them money but has not supplied a section 48 address then those claimed rent arrears don’t actually exist.

Be still – those of you of a nervous bent. The vast majority of standard tenancy agreements have a section 48 bit inserted in them. Really it is only the determined scammers, of whom there are many in my area, who will try to sidestep this requirement.

A section 48 address doesn’t have to be your actual address; even just putting down the tenant’s address will suffice.

Section 1 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

By law you don’t have to have a written tenancy agreement in place to create a lawful tenancy. A verbal agreement, the old fashioned handshake, still creates a legal contract but if a tenant asks you in writing for your name and address then you will have to comply, in writing, within 21 days of receipt of the letter with the details required or face the possibility of a fine in the Magistrates court of currently £2,500.

Section 7 of the Protection from Eviction Act 197

This statute relates to councils who are investigating a criminal offence, for instance allegations of harassment and illegal eviction. If the landlord’s whereabouts are unknown but they have a managing agent, then the council can serve a Section 7 notice on the agent requiring the landlord’s address straightaway.

There is an explanatory case law on this, Lewisham v. Ranaweera, which is one of my old cases from the 1990s……..I lost. Swiftly moving on…

HMO Licensing

If you run a proper licensed HMO then you must have your contact details prominently displayed in a place where everyone can see it. Fail to do this and it is a breach of license and will bring Environmental Health down on your head.

These are some of the rules and regulations out there that many people go for years without knowing about. Many small amateur landlords breach these requirements simply out of legal ignorance and when I inform them of the laws they quickly and happily correct things.

Now before everyone starts to throw spears at me let me emphasise that the above are just the laws. I am not saying that any of you breach them. You may think the £2,500 is outrageous, you may think the no rent entitlement for Section 48 is scandalous. I didn’t create them, I am just telling you that they are out there, which is the purpose of my articles.

Now, because of me…….the landlord’s friend, you’ll never fall foul of them by accident.


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Comments

Mary Latham

22:31 PM, 28th September 2011
About 9 years ago

Ben I have always understood Section 48 to say "Address for Service of Notices". Doesnt that mean that is must be an address where the landlord can actually be found so that a notice can be served on him during normal business hours? This is one piece of leglislation that has always made me uncomfortable because I work from home and therefore I thought that I had to give my home address? For those landlord who work from a place other than home it is much more "comfortable" law.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

6:17 AM, 29th September 2011
About 9 years ago

HI Mary. No a business address will suffice or as I say, even the tenants address, which is very common. The trouble with that is if for instance a tenant serves a notice on a landlord at an address where landlord wont actually get it they might miss the fact that they have been served.

Compliance is quite easy in that sense. Working as I do in South East London we have a lot of dodgy characters and it is very common for our worst landlords not to tell their tenants where they can be contacted so I can use non compliance with Section to winkle them out but I admit I am artfully vague with them over the issue of the address in these cases by simply saying they havent supplied their address in the hope I will be given their real one which helps me to take action.

Tricks of the trade huh? haha

I am currently working on a case of a landlord with 180 tenants in 52 properties in 7 London boroughs who is involved in money laundering, theft of supply and people trafficking and neither myself, fraud, EDF investigations or the Police, who are all working jointly on the project can trace hide not hair of the little scamp


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