Tenant In Distress – Mowing The Lawn

by Readers Question

15:37 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Tenant In Distress – Mowing The Lawn

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Tenant In Distress – Mowing The Lawn

Tenant In Distress - Mowing The Lawn

Dear Mark,

I hope you don’t mind me contacting, but after doing some research on Google I came across a reply/advice you had given re: Garden Maintenance ” Check with a Landlords Association or a solicitor if you like. If you have a garden and you want the tenants to cut the grass you must provide a lawnmower, that’s the law, regardless of whether the property is furnished or not.” I would greatly appreciate your advice on my personal situation, which obviously relates to garden maintenance. I have been living in a privately rented property for 14 years, yes, it’s become my home, it is immaculate throughout and I’ve often been complimented on this. It was let unfurnished to me by a lovely elderly gentleman, where the property was his mother’s so no mortgage on it, but he wanted to keep it for sentimental reasons and find a good long term tenant who would care for it.

To do this he made the property, which is in a rural village an attractive and low maintenance prospect in an effort to keep a good tenant. I must emphasise I only took this property over another as it was guaranteed I would not have to tend to the garden, which being a bungalow, it is akin to the American style properties with very large front gardens and even larger back gardens. I suspect the garden itself is about 4 times the ground size of the building. The landlord and I got on terrifically well, he would even drop in for cup of tea. I’ve never missed one single months rent, always on time by DD so our working relationship was excellent. Sadly he died in 2014, however it was left to his son where he has taken over as my landlord. My original tenancy ended with the father in 2015. The son visited me and said he didn’t want anything to change, he would continue in the same vain as his father and appreciated I was a good tenant and asked me to stay. All was fine, so I thought. Once I signed the tenancy agreement and he realized he would be paying for the maintenance and upkeep, he changed his mind. He then toyed with doing the garden himself, but then realized the size of mower he would need and the fact he would have to travel a hour over to me, plus the 90 minutes to “just” mow the lawn (you can’t use a flymo on it) so he gave up on that idea and continued to pay the gardener.

This week I receive an invoice from him with his bank details to pay the gardener, no letter with it, just an expectance to pay it. I have refused, and quite frankly I’m shocked after 14 years as a long term tenant. I’m a Baby Boomer, 62, and did not rent this property on the basis of taking on garden maintenance – and two: I have a back problem of worn facet joints where I have twice monthly physio for the last ten years to keep pain free, I can provide proof of this. And now I’m expected to deal with a garden that is far from being made low maintenance to help with the problem. I feel I’m going to lose my home of 14 years which is dreadful, I’m not a new tenant, as a new tenant could at least choose before being in situ if they wanted such a large garden to tend to, the fact is, I don’t have that choice, I’m already in situ. Can you please advise me, I would really appreciate your time. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Jill



Comments

Mark Alexander

15:47 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Hello Jill

Thank you for writing in to me.

I do recall the article you are referring to. However, it turns out that the advice I was given all those years ago by my local landlords association was wrong. I did subsequently concede that in the discussion section following the article as several landlords quoted the law to me.

The bottom line is that unless your tenancy specifically states that you are not responsible for things like mowing the lawn or clearing our guttering then you are indeed responsible.

I suggest you check the terms of your tenancy agreement and if there is no mention of the landlord maintaining the grounds you really need to pay that bill. As you have said, the last thing you want to consider is moving out.

Rather than getting too emotional over this, I would suggest inviting your landlord around for a cup of tea and a chat. Explain to him the arrangement and the wonderful relationship you had with his father. Explain your health issues and that if you have to move out, why that could be a bad thing for you both. I know for certain that I am extremely lenient with good long term tenants and hopefully he will be too. The last thing any landlord wants is to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Good tenants who pay on time, respect the property, respect the neighbours and stay long term are not easy to find.

I wish you well.

All the best.

Regards

Mark
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18:09 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "26/11/2016 - 15:47":

Dear Mark,

Thank you so much for such a quick and detailed response, nevertheless it was a response I expected, in as much as; the current position with the outdated "Housing Act of 1985" which has not been updated or radically changed in over 31 years. The housing market is not the same, it's needs have totally changed and it's become an ever increasing burden to many, who need a "home" not a shelter with water and heating. I do appreciate your time, as you've given it willingly and that is a rare find these days, along with good tenants.

I have spent a lifetime creating contracts and providing advice in the national health service where I worked at senior level, so reading through a tenancy agreement or any agreement is done with a fine toothcomb. I did smile, at you suggesting "I invite the new landlord around for a cup of tea" as if I would overlook that 😉 this has been done on several occasions, but it was wine, not tea, but the answer remains the same, he see's the property as a fund pot for his pension, and we mustn't be romantic about the private rental market, it's not done to provide homes. It's usually wealthy investors who want to build a portfolio as a business to make money. And this is the difference between the son and the father, he was not interested in making money, all he wanted was his property lived in and loved by the tenant.

My tenancy expires in April 2016 and until then I'm well within my rights not to pay a £360 bill for 6 months gardening without notification when it has already been agreed, the garden would continue to be the responsibility of my present landlord. What he includes from April of next year is out of my power, which is exactly the point. I am not a new tenant, I am a tenant of 14 years, as such, I should not be subject to changes every 6-12 months as somebody might be who only wanted to rent for 6 to 12 months as a stepping stone. No doubt you will say, this is part of renting with an AST, the landlord can make changes. And this is where the problem lies, landlords with AST can raise rents, change clauses or introduce ridiculous rules to their agreements every time a tenancy is renewed. Most people who rent are trapped by high rents equal if not more sometimes for an average mortgage. But they're trapped because they can't save the deposit to buy, and with constantly changing fees every few months, tenants have no protection against this. I'm already at the top of what I can afford in this property and I'm afraid a £360 invoice out of the blue increases my rent to an amount that I'm being priced out of my home, because the landlord wishes to change what has been agreed on for 14 years.

The housing act is archaic and benefits landlords overall, but it has to change, otherwise we will have a society of renters trapped furnishing the bank balances of wealthy investors, house prices and rents will increase further as the smaller, more affordable homes are bought by investors keeping the housing market in a two tier system. London will become a city of foreign multimillionaires whilst the young 30 something's can't get out of the rental trap and the likes of me aging depending on private rental, will become less and less likely to afford it as I age and end up in some kind of slum property and there are plenty of those in the private sector, purely because it's money driven and not driven by the basic needs of having a home. Without stability of a home, work, career and everything else in our communities is eroded. The last 6 weeks I have been working on a campaign for 10 Downing street and this has convinced me further to progress with it. I'm a woman who is not afraid of challenge and believe if you accept things as they are, nothing ever changes! At least the outrageous letting agents fees have been hit. Thank you once again.

Mark Alexander

18:41 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jill Harding" at "26/11/2016 - 18:09":

Hello Jill

You were very fortunate for many years, just as landlords have been in recent times with low interest rates, but one thing for certain is that constant change is here to stay.

Your original landlord sounds like a lovely chap, albeit a bit daft when it comes to business. You will be very lucky to find another mug like him but I wish you well.

If your new landlord has decided to expand his business he may well have mortgaged the property. This being the case, the tax changes that Government will impose on him will either force him to sell the property you are in (thus evicting you) or pass on the extra charges in rent, just as the oil companies do at the pumps when Government increase fuel levies. That's economics for you.

It is now clear that Government is attempting to clear the field for the likes of Legal and General to "Build to Rent". Maybe you will be happy in one of their over priced tower blocks with gyms, sauna's and concierge services if you can afford one. Details in the linked article below.

Your reply to me appears to have come straight from the handbook for Shelter counsellors. If that is the case, maybe you will be able to explain why Shelter are supporting the tax changes that will undoubtedly ruin the lives of millions of tenants of private landlords. Could it be that they will not speak out against one of their corporate sponsors (Legal & General) perhaps?

The solution to the housing crisis is simple. Increase supply of quality housing of all tenures, control immigration, and encourage investment into quality housing provision from all sectors. When supply outstrips demand there will be a natural improvement in standards and people will have real choices. The only reason people rent mouldy properties and beds in sheds from criminals operating in our sector is because they have no other realistic choices.
.

19:01 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "26/11/2016 - 18:41":

Dear Mark,

Once again, thank you for your time, but I suspect I may have offended you a little, but not intentional. No I have nothing to do with Shelter whatsoever so unfortunately I can't comment, I wish I could as I enjoy debate. I will look into it. My prevoius landlord a "Mug"...hmmm...he was a very wealthy man in his own right, a family man, and the property was not kept as a business, merely because he had many happy memories and used to like to still have occasional access to it...with a cuppa too. Why does that make him a mug because he gained pleasure from providing someone with a home where had some pocket money in the process. His Son, whom I know well, is also wealthy and has NO mortgage on the property it it owned outright and he has no intentions of owning any further properties, in fact I wonder if he may sell this on, as I'm not sure all this is for him. I'm fully aware about mortgages and the tax situation so IF my current landlord had been in that situation I would have taken that into account, but he is not. As for the tower blocks etc with gyms, no I won't be interested, hopefully I shall own my own home over the next year or so.

But one thing I do agree entirely with you was your last paragraph about increasing the supply of quality of housing and controlling immigration as we have huge housing problems in the UK. So I agree with everything you said. And just for the record, I've had damp for 6 years with promises to get it resolved, but with the death and transfer of ownership I'm still waiting. No central heating either, so getting a bill out of the blue whilst still waiting for my issues to be dealt with after numerous requests, just smarts a bit. I will repeat, I do appreciate your time, thank you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Mark Alexander

19:27 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jill Harding" at "26/11/2016 - 19:01":

Thank you Jill.

I don't blame you at all for not wanting to rent from a corporate landlord. Their properties will no doubt be very attractive for YUPEEIS (for those not old enough to know what that means "Young Upwardly-Mobile, People, Earring, Excessive, Income, Salaries) but that's about it.

If you manage to buy a property of your own you are one of the fortunate few. I can't see how you will manage that if you can't afford a £360 bill for gardening though.

Government are also forcing renters into corporate housing blocks with their tightening of mortgage lending rules.

At the age of 62 you will probably be forced to buy for cash. Even if you were 50 you would still be lucky to be granted 15 years to fully repay all capital and interest on a mortgage.

My 27 year passion for being a private housing provider is now at an all time low. I am disgusted with British politics and especially their attitude to housing. For this reason I have emigrated and will be gradually selling my rental properties to the lucky few who can afford to buy them.

I won't be evicting any tenants, I will sell when they are naturally vacated, but every property I sell will be one less to rent for somebody who can't afford or doesn't want to buy to occupy.

I doubt very much that corporate landlords will build properties at the rate that private landlords sell up and that will put further pressure on supply and demand and result in increased rents.

I'm not offended at all by your comments by the way, it is corruption at the highest levels that I find offensive.
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20:15 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "26/11/2016 - 19:27":

Mark, I love what you have to say and feel your passion, you're right about many things, but obviously being an open forum I'm being careful of what I say. And the £360 is down mostly to expecting people to keep their word, instead of trying ease more money out of me before my next tenancy comes up to sign again. Surely that is the correct way, to give notice, a letter two months before the tenancy expires and politely inform me the responsibility of the garden will be changing, and perhaps an option to discuss this opposed to an invoice and bank details. Anyway I'm sure I would enjoy debating all this with you as I'm sure I could learn so much from you and I do like to understand and learn so I can see how both sides are affected. Where are your properties for sale..?

Kindest regards,
Jill

Mark Alexander

20:32 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jill Harding" at "26/11/2016 - 20:15":

Hi Jill

Two of the properties I've sold this year have been in Norwich, one in Portsmouth, one in Manchester and one in Whitley Bay.

My wife and I own properties all over the country but they are all currently occupied by very happy long term tenants. We will not be selling any more until tenants move out of their own accord.

None of them are mouldy (properties or tenants LOL) I'm pleased to say.

Where I've had mould issues in properties before, mainly Victorian terraces or ground floor flats, I've managed to fix the problem with positive input ventilation and/or coaching tenants on lifestyle habits, e.g opening windows, not drying clothes on radiators etc.

With regards to your £360 gardening bill, what did the new tenancy agreement say?
.

20:51 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "26/11/2016 - 20:32":

Hi Mark,
I'm delighted to hear you are such a caring landlord, but I think I was starting to feel that anyway with our communication, it's nice to see. The new tenancy agreement I won't be given it before March I guess, that's when I usually get a " will you stay on, we would like you to" but that has already been stated he wants me to stay on even with me challenging the out of the blue invoice. I will take it in my stride and deal with it then.

As for the damp Mark - two professional surveys have been done on the property, and no it's not down to me hanging clothes on a radiator ( there are no radiators) the property built in the 1970's has no CH. The double glazing has blown, not sure if that is well known phrase, their is no extractor fans to such moisture out from the bathroom or kitchen, doors with single pane glass to the outer areas of the property, and of course until I paid personally to have loft and cavity wall insulation, that didn't exist either. Both companies advised extractor fans and central heating so the property maintains an even temperature throughout instead of only having one heater in a two bedroom house. Of course the windows are opened every morning but the damp on the walls in my bedroom are dreadful. They know about this, and will be fitting new heating in the new year, but this has been ongoing for 6 years, so with the garden and ME being expected to up immediately but the damp not dealt with in 6 years, as I say it smarts. I'm currently looking into Homewise as I have no one I need to leave a property to. My son is very successful and has done really well for himself, so he is fine and I have no other family. Therefore Homewise could work well for me. Emigrated, gosh that is worrying if you feel the UK is representing the people so poorly you've moved. Hope wherever it is, you and your wife are enjoying the fruits of your success!

Jill

Mark Alexander

21:05 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jill Harding" at "26/11/2016 - 20:51":

Hi Jill

Yes we love our lives in Malta, but we are still watching X-Factor and talking about UK property on a Saturday evening! Some things never change.

85% of tenants are either happy or very happy with their landlords according to surveys conducted by even the most anti landlord charities.. Sadly the Mediá never run that headline, they'd rather focus on the other 15%.

As you say, the son of your original landlord doesn't really sound like he's cut out for this business. Time for you to move on I think.

All the best

Mark
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Mark Alexander

21:32 PM, 26th November 2016
About 2 years ago

Jill

I also agree with you about an overhaul of the Housing Act being needed. As you might expect me to say though, I think the laws are incredibly biased towards tenants in the main and wide open to abuse. Trying to get rid of an abusive, none rent paying, criminal tenant can cost thousands in lost rent and legal fees.

What I would actually prefer to see is a combination of tenancy law from Scotland and Malta. With all the best bits for landlords obviously.

Here in Malta I can sign a 10 year lease as a tenant but walk away at any time with just 30 days notice and loss of my rent deposit. On the flip side, if I break the T&C's of my lease my landlord can literally throw me out, change the locks and dump my belongings on the street after 7 days. It would then be up to me to prove I hadn't breached the terms of this lease. If I was successful I could immediately freeze all of the landlords assets including bank accountants until such time as a settlement is agreed.
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