Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HMO landlords water rates shock

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to www.landlordlawblog.co.uk.


A long standing Landlord-Law member has written to me informing me of a potential problem for HMO landlords with water rates. He tells me that

"I recently had a revised water bill from Thames Water back-dated six-years totalling nearly £8.000 for an eight-studio HMO that I own. Previously, I had paid the water rates based on the rateable value of the building (£circa £450.00 pa) as there is only one water supply that enters the property. I'm not sure whether there has been a change of law, but Thames Water (and, I believe, other water companies) are now billing each studio separately. Since I do not have a meter on the property, they have based the charge on the average water consumption of other (separately rateable) studios in the area. Since my studios are almost certainly a lot smaller and have single occupancy, I am planning on having a water meter installed as soon as possible."
Fortunately my informant managed to get the invoice changed so it was only backdated to October 2008, however he wanted me to know the situation so I could warn other HMO landlords of the possible shock in store for them.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tenants - the forgotten victims of repossession

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to www.landlordlawblog.co.uk.


I was delighted to read a report that a campaign is being launched to help tenants who get evicted through no fault of their own, because their buy-to-let landlords have not kept up their mortgage payments. You can read more about it on the Citizens Advice Bureau site here.

Long term LandlordLaw Blog readers may remember several cases reported here in the past, in particular the distressing case of two tenants whose landlord rented their property to them after the possession order had been made, which you can read here.

Although in many cases the reason the landlord is unable to pay his mortgage is becuase the tenant has failed to pay his rent, there are many situations where this is not the case, and where the tenants are entirely innocent.

At present the court have limited powers to protect innocent tenants. The organisations are calling for a change in the law which would mean courts would have the power to defer the possession to allow the tenant to find other suitable accommodation. This is only fair.

If you agree with this, I would suggest you contact your MP and ask him/her to support the campaign. You can do this via the Write to Your MP web-site.

In the meantime here is some advice for tenants:

- Always open mail addressed 'To the Occupier'. This may include notice of any possession hearings.
- If you're thinking of moving into a new property, make sure the landlord has permission from the lender to rent it out. Otherwise, the lender does not have to recognise the tenancy at all.
- If you were already living in the premises at the time when the mortgage was taken out, the lender may take you on as a tenant and allow you to pay rent to them directly. If you think you may be in this position, contact a Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter.
- Try to find out as much you can about your prospective landlord and his/her mortgage status before taking up a tenancy - although in practice this isn't always very easy.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Datchelor reunion

Had a brilliant re-union with old school friends on Saturday, hosted by Suzanne at the fabulous Teatro Club in Shaftsbury Avenue. So nice to see people again after such a long time.

Also of course fond memories of those high fashion garments we so loved to wear...

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Essential Legal Points for Landlords talk at the Landlord&Buy-to-Let Show

It was very nice to see people at the Landlord&Buy-to-Let Show on Friday. Thank you to everyone who attended, it was great to see so many of you there, and I am sorry some of you had to stand. I am also sorry that the noise of the conference was a bit intrusive - I hope you all managed to hear me.

I have now sent off to everyone who asked, a pdf of my powerpoint and added those who asked to go on my newsletter (note if you forgot to ask you can do this here). There were inevitably a few where I could not read the handwriting and there were bouncebacks, so if you did not receive your copy please do email and I will send it out (and to anyone else who wants it).

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Liability of 'let only' agents for the deposit under the TDPS

I have been meaning to comment on the post on the Pain Smith blog recently on tenancy deposits and 'let only' agents. However Francis Davey on the Nearly Legal blog has beaten me to it.

It only remains therefore for me to refer you to the original posting by Pain Smith, and the subsequent posting on Nearly Legal.

As I said in my comment on the Nearly Legal blog, my view has always been that an agent is responsible for ensuring that the deposit is dealt with properly if the deposit is paid to him (irrespective of whether he is acting on a let only basis or a management basis). The fact that the deposit was passed on to the landlord is no defence.

I would advise all agents to either protect the deposit themselves or only pass it over to the Landlord if they are really certain that it will be protected. Or of course they could ask the tenant to pay the deposit direct to the landlord.

It will be interesting to see what conclusion the court come to. Keep us informed David!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

takeITon seminar

I attended an excellent seminar yesterday, which was provided free of charge by takeITon, a company offering free business IT support and advice to businesses in the East of England.

I sat next to Penny Lindop who designs cards and stantionary and who also runs a blog. She sells to shops but also sells online so do take a look at her website.

I also met Sally Clearly who is setting up an exciting new online community The Virtual Business Club. Sally is a very experienced marketeer and she told me that the club will have lots of new features to help members spot the Next Big Thing. She is offering a free years membership to the first 500 members (so she can populate the site) so I would suggest you get there quick!

Well thats enough blogging, I now have to review all my metatagsa and site links and implement a few google adwords!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

More bonkers Legal Services Commission rules

I had a conversation recently with a worker at a legal 'not for profit' organisation (who wishes to remain anonymous) who is in despair about their Housing Court Desk Duty Scheme. She had been using student volunteers in addition to the qualified helpers. The student volunteers were all law students from a local college. They were really enthusiastic, worked hard, and the scheme was going well. However she has now been told that, for schemes funded by the LSC, all advisors must either be qualified solicitors or be doing 12 hours per week housing law case work. So she can’t use the students any more.

I assume that the LSC have made this stipulation so that they can assure 'quality'. However the effect of this is to make the scheme very difficult to run. Although they are generally willing to help, in the present financial climate local solicitors will need to spend most of their time on fee earning work, to enable their firm to stay solvent. They are not going to have a lot of free time available for voluntary work, bearing in mind that there are very few solicitors nowadays who specialise in this area of work anyway.

It is ridiculous to say that only solicitors and those carrying heavy housing law caseloads can give advice to people facing repossession. With proper training, anyone sensible who understand the legal system can do it. I would have thought that law students were eminently suitable for this work, plus it will enable them to gain experience which will help them in their careers, and may even encourage them to specialise in the area of housing and welfare work in the future.

It reminds me of when I used to do volunteer work for a local legal charity. I was donating my time entirely free of charge but the Legal Services Commission's expectations were wholly unreasonable. For example they demanded that I physically attend the office for a certain amount of time each week (which would take up more time that I was able to give, bearing in mind that I also needed to earn a living) whether this was actually needed or not. This is one of the main reasons why I resigned.

It seems that not only have the LSC virtually destroyed the network of legal aid solicitors that previously existed, they are also (still) making life difficult for volunteer services.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Red Nose Avatars - only £1

If you are on facebook, myspace, twitter etc, do go and get yourself a red nose for your avatar for Comic Relief (our Charity of the Month). It is only £1. Plus there are three fantastic red noses to choose from. You get them at www.digitalrednose.com.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The tweetometer

As you will know from my previous posts and from the side bar of this blog, I am a twitterer. One of the twitterers I follow is TweetMinster who tweet about MPs on twitter.

They have now developed this really cool app called a tweetometer. You can see it in my sidebar. Two words go in the two boxes at the top and when you click go it works out which is the most popular on twitter that day.

The example given on the TweetMinster site is Gordon Brown and David Cameron. However you can put anything. I have put as my default, landlord and tenant (although I expect I will change this from time to time). But, you can click into the tweetometer and type your own words. I just checked out Dalek and Cyberman (Dalek won as you would expect).

TweetMinster is also a very good and serious service facilitating communication between MPs and their constituents, and worth checking out.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comic Relief - Charity of the month (March 2009)

With Red Nose Day this coming Friday (13th - hopefully unlucky for none) it would be difficult to choose any charity other than Comic Relief for this months Charity of the Month. We are not doing anything particularly silly here (apart from the usual) but will be donating on the day. They promise that every pound raised from the public will go to good causes.

Follow the links for more information on Red Nose Day and to donate.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Complaints about the DPS

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to www.landlordlawblog.co.uk.

Despite the comments made in my previous post on complaints about the DPS, I have received a few further emails and blog comments outlining further problems with the DPS service. In one of my comments to this post, I mention the complaints procedure which is referred to in the FAQ on the DPS web-site.

However my DPS contact has drawn my attention to the fact that this complaints procedure cannot be used in respect of the arbitration process itself. Some of the problems that people have contacted me about have been regarding the arbitration decision, in particular evidence not being passed on to the arbitrator. My DPS contact told me

"The complaints process does not apply to the ADR decision these are binding on both parties and there is no appeal process. They are made aware of this when they accept the Terms and Conditions. If we receive a complaint about the decision we do check to make sure all the evidence has been included. Often when a case is lost and the decision has been received citing lack of evidence, we receive a claim saying the evidence was sent - there will always be one unhappy party in every case.

The complaints process can be used to complain about the service they have received but not to appeal any ADR decision."

It is an important aspect of the arbitration process that decisions must be accepted as final by both parties. This prevents the process becoming long winded and allows people to move on.

However I can understand the indignation of a landlord or tenant who finds that his case has clearly been decided wrongly. If the decision is one which no reasonable arbitrator could have come to, is it right that it should be allowed to stand? But then on the other hand, how do we know that this is that one in a thousand case which really has been decided wholly unreasonably? Almost every losing party in a case considers that his case was wrongly decided! If one appeal or case re-hearing is allowed, then everyone will want it, and the advantage of the finality of arbitration will be lost.

I think probably the answer is that if the decision does not go your way, there is not much you can do about it, at least as far as changing the decision is concerned. In life one does sometimes come across injustices which we just have to put up with. You just have to do your best to make sure it does not happen again.

However I would suggest that you do at least write and complain about it, and tell the DPS exactly what happened. If a large number of complaints are received on a particular topic this may prompt a change of procedure which could prevent the same problem happening again.

Does anyone else have any ideas or comments on this? Also, the complaints I have received have also been about the DPS service - are people happy with the service from the other two providers?

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Mary Datchelor Girls School

If you were at Mary Datchelor in the year that did its A levels in 1975 (particuarly if you were in Miss Traize class in the fifth year) can you get in touch, as a reunion is planned for 21 March 2009.

It looks as if the building has now been re-developed into flats - here are some depressing images.

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