Assured Tenancy

An assured tenancy is a specific type of contract which regulates the occupation rights in property; it is recognised under the Housing Act 1988. A tenant who has entered into an assured tenancy is granted certain protections, in particular against eviction.

In order to qualify as an assured tenancy three conditions must be satisfied, they are:

That the property is a separate dwelling – this is to limit the scope of these type of leases to residential arrangements. Commercial leases are a whole different kettle of fish and cannot fall into this category. If the tenant is sharing the property with the landlord than it is not deemed to be a separate dwelling and they do not have an assured tenancy. If a tenant shares the property with other tenants they may have an assured tenancy for the part of the house which they enjoy sole occupation of such as their bedroom, but not for communal areas. Read More »

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Lease guarantors

Guarantor agreement

A Guarantor agreement is a type of surety given before a lease for property is agreed. The landlord or a managing agency can ask for it if there are any doubts as to the potential tenant’s ability to pay rent and any other required charges. This can occur if a future tenant is a student, has not lived in the same address longer than 6 months, is under the age of 21 or does not have any credit history.

Guarantor’s duties

A guarantor undertakes the tenant’s contractual obligations to pay rent on time, repair or reimburse any damage or additional costs to the property, as well as any other liabilities under the tenancy agreement. Read More »

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Leasehold valuation tribunal

The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) is an independent body which role is to facilitate the settlement of disputes between landlords and leaseholders. Its role is to provide accessible advice and offer a less formal hearing than the court proceedings as well as aim to preserve the relationships between the parties. LVT’s decision is legally binding and, if necessary, can be enforced by the courts if the parties do not accept the tribunal’s decision. There are five regional LVT offices in London, Northern Midland, Southern, Eastern and Wales. Read More »

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NO HMO licence – expect a big fine

A Catford landlord who failed to licence his HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) has been fined £7,000.

Following up concerns raised by Lewisham Council’s Planning Department, the Council’s Environmental Health Team paid a visit to the property, owned by landlord Charanjeet Singh, in July of last year.

The Environmental Health Team discovered that the three storey house, which has five rooms, was being occupied by ten tenants. On further inspection the team discovered that not only did the property have just one bathroom but there were no smoke alarms or fire doors and the landlord had not even applied for an HMO licence for the building.

All rental properties with three or more floors housing five or more tenants must, by law, have a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence and should undergo regular inspections by the Local Council to ensure the property’s health and safety standards meet the adequate levels. Read More »

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Advice for landlords on the best form of tenancy agreement

There are many different types of tenancies. Choosing the wrong tenancy could result in you being bound by terms that do not reflect your initial intentions. In this article we will cover different types of tenancies and important points to consider for private landlords willing to rent their properties to private tenants.

Which tenancy should I use?

There are 3 main types of tenancies in England and Wales.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)

The most common form of tenancy is an AST tenancy. ASTs are most commonly applicable in the case of the following:

  • private dwellings;
  • tenancies started on or after 15 January 1989;
  • properties that are tenants’ main residencies;
  • properties that are not occupied by the tenant and live-in landlord.

AST tenancies cannot be created in respect of:

  • tenancies that started or were agreed before 15 January 1989;
  • the rent is more than £100,000;
  • the property is rent free
  • the rent is less than £250 per annum (less than £1,000 for London);
  • it is a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises;
  • the property is a holiday property;
  • the landlord is a local authority. Read More »
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The Housing Act 1980

The Housing Act 1980 brought significant changes into law governing private rentals. The change was prompted by a dramatic drop in the private rented sector towards the end of 1970‘s. Some  data reported that since the end of the First World War until 1979 the rented properties had gone down around 65%. The new conservative government headed by Margaret Thatcher decided to introduce a reform through the Housing Act 1980.

The main purpose of the Act was to:

  • offer council tenants the right to buy;
  • provide landlords with better rights and protection.

Towards the end of 1980’s the reform took off and there was a great wave of private individuals becoming landlords by buying 2-3 residential properties as an investment.

Rent Charges

Under the Housing Act 1980 the concept of fair rent has been largely scrapped and generally landlords are allowed to freely negotiate rents. The tenant still however has the right to refer any proposed rent increases during the assured periodic tenancy to the Rent Assessment Committee.

Security of Tenure

The Housing Act created ‘assured’. Unlike the old regime the assured tenancy provides not only security to the tenant but primarily is beneficial to the landlord as it offers him additional ground for repossession based on serious rent arrears. The Act has also introduced another type of assured tenancy – the assured shorthold tenancy (AST). The AST has become very popular and is the most common type of private tenancy in England and Wales. Read More »

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Assured shorthold tenancy tips

The majority of residential tenancies in England and Wales are assured shorthold tenancies.  They usually commence with an agreed fixed-term (6 and 12 months are the most common choices) during which both the tenant and the landlord are contractually committed. The tenant has to pay the agreed rent on time and the landlord provide the tenant with exclusive possession and undisturbed enjoyment. At the end of the fixed-term contract the tenancy can either be renewed for a new fixed-term or it will automatically convert into periodic tenancy. Periodic tenancy depends on the original rent payment period (i.e. if the rent was payable monthly the periodic tenancy will run from month to month until terminated by either party).

What is an assured shorthold tenancy?

Assured shorthold tenancy provides the tenant with more certainty as to the tenure. During the ‘assured‘ period the landlord’s termination rights are limited and normally the landlord will not be allowed to seek repossession.

What are the termination rights?

Assured tenancy can normally be terminated by the landlord serving a section 21 notice. The notice itself however needs a minimum of 2 months. The notice under section 21 can be served at any time. In practice however the court will not support the claim and order the tenant to remove his possessions if the notice is served earlier than 6 months from the beginning of the first tenancy under which the premises have been occupied. If you need advice on making a possession claim go here on our main site, Read More »

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Unlawful evictions and the olympics

An alarming trend has swept across London, particularly in areas which are close to where the Olympic Games will be held. It seems landlords in these areas (particularly in East London) are evicting the tenants they already have in their properties in order to bring new tenants in for the Olympic Games, which will allow landlords to rake in greater profits.

A charity called Shelter, which specialises in housing, has commented on the rise in the number of illegal evictions by landlords. It has also seen a rise in the number of landlords who are acting badly.

This type of behaviour is not limited to wrongful evictions; rental prices have also soared in an attempt by landlords to fully maximise the use of their properties. Property companies have stated that some properties that were originally being charged at £350 per week are currently being advertised as being charged at £6000 per week.

The problem is that if this is the response we are witnessing at the moment, the situation is only going to get worse once the Games get closer.

Greedy landlords who want to take advantage of the profits the Olympic Games could bring are evicting their current tenants with little or no notice. Some people are given as little as 2 weeks notice.

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 protects tenants who are unfairly treated. Under this statute, it is a criminal offence to evict a tenant without proper notice. It is also an offence to interfere with their residential peace and comfort of the property, in an attempt to force them into giving up occupation of that property. Housing Minister Grant Shapps warned landlords that these actions were criminal offences, which could mean landlords receive up to 2 years custodial sentencing.

Organisations like the National Landlords Association have outwardly condemned the practice, stating that not only is the behaviour of these landlords abhorrent, they are also disadvantaging themselves in the long run. This is because although evicting their current tenants in favour of new tenants who are looking to rent because of the Olympic Games may be beneficial economically; this is definitely only a short-term profit turner. Therefore, although they might turnover a decent profit during this period, they will have potentially lost a long-term tenant. Once the games are over, and the new, short-term tenants have moved on, these landlords will have to turn to the market again in an attempt to find new, longer-term tenants.

Despite the fact that the current economic climate is not great, and so people everywhere, in every industry, are looking for opportunities to turn over any profit they can, this type of behaviour is pushing above and beyond what is acceptable. Not only is it not acceptable to the tenants landlords are evicting unfavourable, it is also unfair on the new tenants who are being charged £6000 per week!

A regulatory body needs to step in to stamp down on this sort of behaviour, otherwise it seems like it could spiral further out of control as the Games are fast approaching. Landlords who are currently treating their tenants like this should be made an example out of, in the hope that this may act as a deterrent for landlords who are thinking about doing this in the future.

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Tenants abandoning residential premises

Abandonment is when an individual voluntarily gives up their legal rights such as interest in their land or property, a tenancy.

According to Section 5(2) of the Housing Act 1988, tenancies may only be terminated by a court order which may be sought by the landlord to obtain possession of their property. Alternatively, a tenant is able to surrender their legal rights through a similar process. However, if a tenant abandons the landlord’s residential investment property, the landlord may be placed in a difficult position as the correct procedure has not been used to terminate the contract. In this situation, the tenant may accuse the landlord of unlawful eviction.

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Harassment by landlords

Harassment of a landlord to their tenant is a very serious offence. This could mean the landlord is liable for not only civil proceedings but also criminal proceedings in the forms of penalties.

The law which governs harassment of tenants and evictions by landlords which are not lawful or fair is not very well balanced, and tends to favour tenants rather than landlords. Landlords are able to act in any way which they deem to be reasonable. However, these acts can still be deemed to be harassment by the law.

Harassment includes landlords depriving their tenants of water, gas and electricity. In addition, if landlords threaten tenants to evict them; interfere with their mail or fail to repair tenant’s building then they could be liable. Other forms of harassments include deliberately causing noise to the tenant and looking for the tenant outside the property which is being let to them, such as at their place of work.

Some good and common advice to landlords to battle the law which is not favoured towards them is to never try to remove a tenant from the property, irrelevant of the damage which may have been caused. Landlords should not try being malicious and attempting to evict the tenant, as this kind of behaviour is bound to be unlawful.

If a landlord abides by the tenancy agreement with the tenant but must visit the tenant in the premises but does so according to the contract, it should be done with an independent witness to support the landlord if anything occurs during the visit. The landlord will be able to defend themselves if the tenant makes any claim towards them which may have occurred during this visit.

A situation where a landlord needs to be especially cautious is where it is suspected to them that a tenant could have left the property. This situation is called abandonment. If this happens, it is difficult to tell if the tenant has really abandoned the property without entering. However, the landlord should never try to change the locks or dispose of any possessions which belong to the tenants and are still in the property. This has been ruled under Section 5 (2) of the Housing Act 1988. Under this Section, a landlord can terminate the tenancy in this situation by a court order to obtain possession of the property. If the courts think that the landlord intends to return the tenant to the property after threatening them for not paying their rent as stated in their tenancy agreement, the landlord will be liable under harassment. If the courts think that the intention of the order was to simply evict the tenant permanently then the landlord could also be liable for unlawful eviction.

Prior to any of this action, it is necessary for landlords to serve a tenant with a notice as far in advance as possible in order to avoid any potential claims of harassment which could be served by the tenant. The ideal amount of time is 48 hours prior to the eviction, and the notice is recommended to be written in the negative. This means it is recommended to tell the tenant that the landlord is going to enter the property at a specific time and if this is not convenient to notify the landlord as soon as possible.

It is never recommended to the landlord to ask the tenant for rent or for situations which do not relate to the tenancy of the premises which is the subject of the tenancy agreement, this could also cause the landlord to be liable for harassment.

Harassment of landlords can occur in the most subtle situations. Thus, it is important that landlords protect themselves with notices, court orders and independent witnesses. If any problems do occur, the notices should be kept and be realistic about any losses to them which may occurred. Penalties for harassment could be more abundant than the loss of rent by the tenant.

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