Sunday, October 22, 2006

Doing the Q&A

I did my Q&A this morning. This is something I have been doing for years – ever since my very first Landlord-Law site, I have (more or less every 14 days) answered ten questions emailed to me by readers and put them online.

It is surprising how consistent the types of questions are. Some of the most common topics are (in no particular order)

  • Tenants complaining about landlords coming into their property uninvited
  • Tenants complaining about disrepair not knowing what to do about it
  • Tenants whose landlords have not complied with the gas regulations
  • Tenants complaining about landlords unreasonably withholding the damage deposit
  • Tenants wanting to terminate tenancies before the end of their fixed term
  • Landlords asking what they should do if tenants don’t leave after being served possession notices
  • Landlords thinking that they can evict tenants without going to court (yes some landlords do still believe this)
  • Landlords with technical queries about possession notices and possession claims
  • Landlords with problems with their letting agents
  • Tenants upset because landlords have sold the property to a less sympathetic landlord
  • Tenants complaining about landlords who promise to do work to a property before it is let and then fail to do it
  • Landlords who unexpectedly need the property for their own use wanting the tenants to move out early
  • Problems about notice periods

There are some things I find myself saying again and again. For example it is amazing how often I find myself recommending the tenant consult the advice services of their local authority. Local authorities regulatory powers are so much wider now and they have the potential to assist tenants in many ways. In particular in unlawful eviction and harassment matters, and cases of disrepair. It is also surprising how few people seem to realise that (1) you do not need a written tenancy agreement to create a tenancy and (2) tenancies continue after the expiry of the fixed term (s5HA 1988).

The most worrying questions are those from tenants whose landlords are either threatening immediate eviction or who refuse to carry out what sound (from what the tenants have written) like essential repairs. I always try to answer the most serious ones if I can.

For some situations though there is not really a helpful answer. I always feel very sorry for tenants who find that their landlords mortgage company is going to evict them because the landlord has not paid his mortgage. I also cannot really help neighbours of noisy tenants.

For many problems there is a stock solution – speak to your Local Authority housing advisor (harassment, disrepair), speak to Trading Standards (unfair contract terms, cowboy letting agents), report to the Heath and Safety Executive (gas regulation problems) but I sometimes wonder how helpful these organisations actually are. No doubt also they vary in helpfulness across the country.

Still I enjoy doing the Q&A and it seems that people enjoy reading them. And you do sometimes get some unusual and interesting questions (perhaps one of my favorites was the person who hoped that he could get out of his tenancy because of the calling of the Iraqi war!). It is also nice to think that that the answers are of help to people. And hopefully having a regularly changing site will also help my google ratings!

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