Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tenancy agreement terms causing problems for local authority

A friend of mine who sits as a Deputy District Judge told me of an interesting case recently. Apparently a local authority tenant had moved out of his rented property, thereby losing his security of tenure and making his tenancy a common law one. The landlords had therefore served a notice to quit (as this is the appropriate notice for common law tenancies) and sought possession of the property.

However in the tenancy agreement there was a clause saying that the tenant could only be evicted after service of a notice of possession as provided under the provisions of the Housing Act 1985. This is the notice which is normally served for secure tenancies but which had not been served in this case as the tenancy was no longer secure. My friend concluded therefore that as no such notice had been served, he was not able to make an order for possession.

His view was that there is no reason why a landlord should not enlarge the tenants security of tenure under the terms of the tenancy agreement, and that if the landlord does this, it should be binding upon him.

In the same way, in the case of Welsh -v- Greenwich London Borough Council, wording in the tenancy agreement was held to enlarge the landlords repairing obligations.

The moral being that local authorities should be more careful about the clauses included in their tenancy agreements. And that they should comply properly with the provisions of their tenancy agreements once these have been issued. And perhaps most importantly of all, they should ensure that their tenancy agreements are drafted by experienced housing lawyers and reviewed regularly.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

HMOs again

I have seen a couple of reports recently on the internet (here and here) saying that a study by Heritable Bank has recommended that the HMO system be reviewed, as there is such a wide discrepancy between the license fees charged by different local authorities, and also a wide variation in the way they deal with licensing generally.

Strangely, I cannot find any mention of this report on the Heritable Bank web-site, although maybe I am not looking in the right place.

However everyone who has anything to do with residential landlord and tenant law and practice, must know of this wide variation in license fees, which many feel is wholly unacceptable. It has been mentioned several times on this blog, and I have also been developing a list of different license fees, which you will find here. Fees on this list run from about £30-50 per room or unit to £1,100 for Newcastle (as mentioned in the articles). In fact though, the most expensive Local Authority to my knowledge is Southend. However they cunningly disguise their high charge by saying that it is £660 for two years, whereas most authorities charge for a five year period. The Southend fee for a five year period works out at £1,650.

There is no doubt that the new HMO regulations have greatly upset landlords, and I believe that many former HMO landlords have now sold up altogether. On the whole I do not think that the regulations are too excessive. The worst problem, that of the wash hand basin requirement for large HMOs, has now been dealt with. The regulations were only introduced last year and perhaps should be given a bit longer to bed in before any revisions are made. However I do think that the wide fee variation is generally undesirable and this aspect should be looked at. Whether it will or not, is of course another matter.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The good, the bad, and the exhausting

I am just recovering from an exhausting week. Thursday saw the first course we have run via our training company Legal Professional Training Ltd. It was a good day, but involved a huge amount of work and administration, and left me feeling like the proverbial limp dishrag.

Things were not helped by the fact that I had also been working on an upgrade of Landlord-Law for several weeks, which went live the following day. Not very good timing. Particularly as the upgrade went wrong! A rather overlong period then ensued of checking things on the live site, finding that they did not work properly or were not there, emailing my web-designer, and finding that she had gone out! Its all been sorted out now (well I hope it has …) but it was not a good time. I am pleased now its done though.

The upgrade includes a new Tenants Problem Solver, a new extensive section of the site with articles and information geared at problems experienced by tenants. Most tenants should now be able to afford to read it, as the other major introduction is a new membership fee of £4.70 for three days. So anyone can afford to take a look, so long as they can pay by credit card.

Hopefully this new section will not alienate my landlord members – the problem solver sets out tenants obligations as well as their rights, and good landlords (of course all my Landlord-Law members are good landlords) have nothing to fear from well informed tenants.

The week has ended with the broadband connection on my main computer suddenly going off (I am writing this on the laptop). I assume that a connection has disconnected but can’t work out which. There are so many wires under my desk that it is impossible to keep them in order (I have tried), or to work out what is wrong, even if it were possible to see them properly which I can’t. Another job for my computer service company I think.

So, one of those shattering weeks when good and bad come together in a climax at the same time so you don’t know whether to be pleased or in despair. I expect you get them too. Maybe next week will be calmer.

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