Thursday, April 16, 2009

Out of season holiday lets

I did some work for a client today who runs a couple of holiday homes in a converted barn near her country home. She sometimes lets these out on short term lets out of season but is now regretting it, or at least the most recent let. This was to a lady who, having moved in on the understanding that she would have to go in May when the holiday makers start coming, has now decided that she is going to stay on, as indeed is her right technically. Which puts my client in a difficult position.

So my lady came to me to draft up a section 21 notice, which has been done and which will be served on the tenant tomorrow. But it is looking increasingly unlikely that she will move out much before the autumn, so my client is in problems with her holiday customers, some of whom booked up to stay in the holiday cottages over a year ago. She is hoping that they do not sue.

It is very difficult to get over to clients sometimes the difficulty of getting tenants out. "Oh, I told her she could only stay until April" I hear them say about their tenants. But telling them this is meaningless if the tenant is determined to stay, and has the legal right to do so. And a letter politely asking them to leave in 14 days when the holiday makers arrive is almost worse than useless. Any request to a tenant to vacate when their rights have not been followed (i.e. the right to have a proper form of possession notice served on them first) can technically be harassment, which is a criminal offence.

If you have a holiday cottage, it is always a risk letting it to a tenant on an out of season holiday let. If you only let to holiday makers you have the right to move them out at the end of their holiday period without going to court, as holiday lets are one of the exceptions under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. However if your residential tenant refuses to go, you have to get a court order, and by the time this has been done, even using the so called 'accelerated procedure' the holiday period could be almost over and you will have a lot of disgruntled customers.

In an effort to help things, I have now prepared a special out of season holiday let form, for members of my Landlord-Law service (to be found in my student lets section, as this sort of arrangement often works best with students who do not want to stay in the property over the summer anyway). The agreement specifically states that the property is let as a holiday home at other times of the year and provides for the rent, if the tenant stays on after the end of the fixed term, to go up to the holiday rent rate. This should hopefully discourage tenants from staying on.

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Francis Davey said...

But beware a finding of a Bankway Properties style device.

Vanessa Warwick said...

Great advice Tessa. Thank you for flagging up this potential problem for those of us with holiday lets.

I have U.K. holiday lets, and I use social media marketing to get them let during the off-peak season. I have managed to keep my occupancy above average using these web tools.

Vanessa Warwick

Tessa said...

Francis - point taken. But in this case the tenant is fully informed of the situation and why this is being done, and the summer rent is the same (or should be) as the rent the landlord would charge holiday makers. I think that is fair.

It would not simply be a device to obtain possession as in the Bankway case.

Francis Davey said...

Yes, I guess you'd distinguish Bankway on the basis that if the tenant stayed and did pay the higher rent then you'd be happy to take it. Bankway was extreme because it was plain to everyone that the higher rent would never be paid.

Tessa said...

It is also arguable that the very existence of ground 3 HA1988 Sh2 implies that Parliament accepted that out of season holiday lets should be dealt with differently.

Unfortunately the solution provided by ground 3 is not really helpful due to the length of time it takes to obtain a possession order through the courts!