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Broken tenancy agreement! Landlord locked us out of our flat.


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My friend and I live in a top floor flat of a terraced house in North London in which we were recently locked out of.

 

Last year on the 23rd of December, the tenant who lived in the ground floor flat moved out. Someone, presumably the landord came by to clear the place up for the new tenants during the day while we were out. Upon returning home (it was dark and very snowy) we found that we could not open the front door of the building to gain access to the flat. An honest mistake we presume, but we were prevented access and were required to call an emergency locksmith to break us in at a cost of £100. We waited outside in sub zero temperatures for over an hour and were prevented from going home to our families that evening for Christmas, and were required to buy new train tickets the next day.

 

We do not feel that we should have to pay our rent for this month as our landlord has broken the agreement in our contract and prevented us access to the flat. Incidentally we have never missed a rent payment and have not once caused our landlord any problems.

 

When we spoke to our landlord about the situation he became threatening and intimidating, raising his voice very loudly and shouting that he "would throw everything he had at us if we failed to pay a penny too little of the rent" we are both young women and do not feel that any form of intimidation should be used against us to try and make us back down on this issue.

 

We simply want to know out rights. I'm pretty sure we will end up paying our rent to avoid a legal dispute but what are we entitled to due to this mess that we were left in?? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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The legal experts will be along soon, but i would say the situation does not allow you to refuse to pay rent. You would need to officially ask for refund with receipts as proof and if he wont pay then take him to small claims court. If you refuse to pay rent over one day then you would be risking your tenancy.

 

Have you asked for a refund in writing, you see if her replied pay your rent next month minus the cost of locksmith then fine, but really it is a seperate issue and to be honest as inconviniencing as was it was only one day in the month, as you said a mistake and not intentonal, so persue the cost the right way and dont lose your home.

 

Those in the know will correct me if wrong later, but pretty sure thats how it works.

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What you landlord did is completely wrong, but I do need to ask a couple of questions:

 

1.) Did the landlord contact you at all about any change in the locks?

2.) Did you attempt to contact the landlord in any way before calling out the locksmith?

3.) Do you have a receipt for the locksmith?

 

Your landlord cannot simply change the locks and prevent you access, this is a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, and so is harassment (which his threatening behaviour may constitute).

I think the best course of action here is to contact your Tenancy Relations Officer at the local council. They are able to advise on all aspects of private tenancies and also enforce the law if the landlord breaches it. They are also very busy people though, so may refer you to CAB or Shelter. I feel speaking to the TRO at this stage is advantageous because I unfortunately have been on the wrong end of an angry and aggressive landlord, and it seemed to get worse very quickly. So having this noted down in an official capacity may be helpful in future.

The short answer to your questions is that you cannot withhold rent because of his actions, but the TRO will be able to advise if you are able to re-claim the cost of re-entering the property whether this be through the rent or another method.

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Hi xoAmyox, in reply to your questions:

 

1.) Did the landlord contact you at all about any change in the locks?

 

Our landlord did not change the locks, simply let the deadlock down which prevented us from using the yale which allows us access to a porch area. We believe that this occured by mistake but should never have happened. We were unaware that a deadlock even existed on the door, which we also feel was negligent of the landlord to not inform us of.

 

2.) Did you attempt to contact the landlord in any way before calling out the locksmith?

 

The landlord office was closed for the Christmas period and the emergency number provided to us the day before was on a piece of paper inside the flat. We attempted to get in touch but were unsuccessful. We had no choice but to call a locksmith

 

3.) Do you have a receipt for the locksmith?

 

No, because in order to receive a receipt we would have needed to pay £50 extra with a debit card. We chose to save that money and pay £100 in cash. The locksmith provided us with details and has said our landlord must contact him. We also have a record of the call we made to the locksmith.

 

Further to my earlier post our landlord has since visited us this evening despite our request to keep all further communications written. He insisted that we saw him and tried to explain what happened to the lock. We have had no apologies from him, only rude and aggressive comments as well as our front door slammed in our faces by him. Once again became aggressive and raised his voice. We once again felt extremely intimidated. We simply feel that we are entitled to some kind of compensation for the inconvenience caused to us.

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I believe that as you were only unable to access the property for one hour, you are unlikely to able to claim any compensation. Although you need to put in writing to the landlord, that you only wish to communicate in writing in the future. Also please do follow my advice to speak to your Tenancy Relations Officer, as there have now been two intimidating instances, they may feel its worth taking action.

In addition, you will not be able to claim the cost of the locksmith from the landlord if you have no proof of this cost.

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Sorry to come in at the tail end of this

 

With regards the receipt - it does rather sound like the engineer you called Christmas Eve may have just been "the guy on call" and may be trying to pull a fast one on his employer

 

Depending on how strongly you feel about this I'd be tempted to call the locksmith's office direct during normal working hours and simply say 'you called them out on Christmas Eve and need a receipt so you can claim the money back from the landlord' or similar. Keep it very simple and let the locksmith's office do the talking - and see what is said...

 

I mention this due to http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/Taxes/ContactOrDealWithHMRC/DG_10010579 :) and a quick google of 'cash in hand VAT' or similar will bring up plenty of links as to the (hypothetical?) problems that can arise for those take cash in hand, such as that at http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081217034412AAhdq3j

 

As the mistake with the door was the Landlord's and as he gave you no notice of what was going on I'd be tempted to deduct the cost of repair from the rent - having first set it all up in correspondence and having followed much of the advice given above

 

As for the Landlord himself, well, if he is the sort to behave in this way then I'd be thinking what else is doing that is wrong - in terms of how it impacts directly on you, so:

 

a) Do you have a gas supply, or gas appliances? If so, have they been safety tested? There is a legal requirement to check the same every year, it's a criminal offence if not done and carries fines too

 

b) Did you pay a deposit when you moved in? If so, is it protected? If you are uncertain don't ask the Landlord, but post back here

 

and so on...

 

He sounds both unpleasant and not very bright too, so might be worth looking to leave some time soon-ish anyway

 

Good luck all the same though

As for me, happy to help out. I am not a Landlord, but I have been in the past. I am not an Agent, but I have been in the past. I am, therefore, a has been, so always seek independent and suitably qualified advice elsewhere before relying upon whatever has been posted here :-)

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