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dodgy tenancy agreement: please help


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Hi All,

I'm so glad I found this forum because I was really running around in circles and I hope you can help.

 

My partner and I, plus a friend, have moved a month or so ago in a flat inside a block.

We moved in without an agreement because the landlord is a colleague of my partner's and there was a trust issue invovled.

After a month and several problems (including having to spend 200£ to fix the heating system) we have now received a tenancy agreement which looks dodgy. I'll go step by step into what I believe are the key problems.

1. Type of agreement: the document doesn't say which type it is. Does this automatically make it an assured shorthold?

2. Council Tax: the landlord doesn't and has never lived in the flat but is registered with the borough for council tax. Apparently he wants to be formally registered as a resident so that he doesn't have to pay congestion charge (we are talking about london). I and my flatmates want to pay council tax under our own names and have been told that we are legally required to do so. What are our options?

3. Because of 2. landlord has only listed two instead of three tenants in the agreement. he said that with more than two tenants council tax would increase but officer at local council sais it wouldn't.

4. Insurance: he wants us to take insurance on fittings and fixtures: the flat is largely made of sliding glass doors which would be expensive to repair. We should pay if we damage by negligence but not otherwise, I believe. Any advice?

5. Other repairs: a part from the fact that the landlord hasn't provided any safety checks or certificates, the agreement says that maintenance of working systems and future checks on gas are on us. This is not what I understand the law says, is it?

6. Rent and service charge increase: too little details in the agreement of when and how this will happen. Just that it might happen!

 

I think this is more or less it.

I don't want to sign unless I know what I'm getting myself into.

 

Any help much appreciated!

 

El

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Is there any chance you can find somewhere else to live? If so, my advice would be to do so quicksmart.

 

1. It probably doesn't state AST because the landlord is attempting to claim a lodger agreement (re congestion charge). However if he isn't resident in the property, you can't be lodgers. Your landlord has probably created an AST without intending to.

 

2. Write to the council and state that you commenced a tenancy for the property on and that the persons resident in the property are .

 

3. Just tell the council the actual situation. If there are three of you the property may be an HMO, but that is your landlord's problem.

 

4. Take out tenants contents insurance from somewhere like Letsure or Endsleigh, which will include insurance for accidental damage to landlords f&f.

 

5. No, that's the landlord's responsibility. Do you have a gas safety cert?

 

6. Rent cannot be increased until after the expiry of the initial fixed term and it has to be at least a year between subsequent rent increases. Service charges (ground rent, maintenance charges from the freeholder etc) are a landlord's responsibility, not the tenant's responsibility.

 

If I were you I'd find a property owned by a landlord who has got at least one foot in the pool of understanding of the law.

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Thanks for your reply, Rosysparkle.

 

I think our landlord, a part from not knowing the law, is also lazy and doesn't want to have any problems or worries with his letting activity.

However, I must admit that he has given us a chance to review and discuss the agreement.

 

Put in front of the possibility of having to find new tenants by himself he might agree on some amendments to the agreement as it is now.

 

Re the council tax:

Can we get evicted if we tell the council he's not really a resident?

If there were legal ways for him to be a resident AND for us to be registered at the council I would rather pursue such ways. But I am worried that this will make us lodgers with little security.

 

Re service charges: do you mean that it is illegal to charge us with those?

I guess that in that case he'll just increase the rent for the relevan amount.

 

The flat is great and rent is cheap. I would really like to stay but not if this mean being a lodger.

 

thanks again (especially for the hint on insurance)! ;)

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On second thoughts:

 

1. I know we shouldn't have entered without a written agreement, but the landlord should have not let us in as well. He has let us in without a gas certificate which I think is illegal, isn't it?

 

2. There was, before we entered, a VERBAL agreement that the rent would be xxxxpcm. No mention of deposit or service charges or other charges. Now the written agreement has rent (as agreed) plus deposit plus service charges plus a mysterious "contingency charge" which, he says, is needed in case of damages but he would have the deposit for this. I think the contingency charge is there just for him to round the total charges to the nearest 100.

Can we consider service charges in the written agreement as an unreasonable (and therefore unforceable) rent increase after the verbal agreeement?

 

thanks again for any advice.

 

e

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