My tenant left an unpaid utility bill, the utility account was never in her name but the partner who always paid the bill until he left her. She then left about 3 weeks later by informing me but left the key in my post box (I live next door) when I was not at home,... Read more
My letting agents **name removed by moderator** have just admitted to me that they deduct 12.5% commission from contractors invoices for repairs that they arrange on my behalf. This came to light as I was questioning why the quotes they get are always much higher than if I arrange the work myself. They claim that... Read more
A previous tenant left three months into the fixed term six month AST. No notice was given other than a cursory phone call and some texts asking what would happen with their deposit. In good faith I refunded half of the deposit. It seemed pointless to pursue them for outstanding rent and I actually felt... Read more
I am currently in the process of emigrating to Australia (2-3 months until D-day). Rather than sell up, I would like to rent my current property out, just in case things don’t work out and I decide to come back in a couple of years. I have approximately 80% LTV and am currently paying the... Read more
Tenant worried about keeping the dog she inherited from her father as her tenancy agreement says no pets
Here is a question to the blog clinic from Amy who is a tenant:
I have recently moved into a rented property with a garden. We did not have any pets.
However, my father passed away suddenly a week ago and I have had to take his dog. I want to keep her for obvious reasons but my tenancy agreement states no pets. I don’t know what to do.
I have the dog in the property at the moment and haven’t told the landlord yet. She will be going to dog day care everyday so will only be here when I am here. I am happy to pay a larger security deposit/rent to keep her.
What are my rights?
There is no right for a tenant to keep a pet, if the tenancy agreement forbids it and at the moment you are in breach of your tenancy agreement.
You have a choice – either keep quiet about it and hope your landlord does not find out, or speak to your landlord and try to get his consent.
As a lawyer my advice has to be to speak to the landlord and get permission.
The main reasons landlords don’t want tenants to keep pets are that
- They can cause damage to the property
- Some people are allergic to them
- Noise, in particular dogs barking when left alone, and
- If anything happens to the pet owner, the landlord is legally responsible for the pet
So to persuade your landlord to allow you to keep the dog you need to make it clear that these issues will not be a problem. For example
- Offering to pay an additional deposit to cover any potential damage and also the cost of professional cleaning at the end of the tenancy
- Ensuring that the dog will not be left alone for long periods – which you have already dealt with
- Providing details of someone who will look after the dog if anything happens to you
If your landlord is still unwilling to allow you to keep the dog then these are the options:
- Arrange for the dog to live elsewhere
- Move to another property – which will be difficult if your landlord will not allow you to end your tenancy early
- Keep the dog anyway but move out at the end of the term
If you keep the dog in breach of the tenancy agreement, the main consequences are likely to be a greater claim on your deposit when you leave, and your landlord serving a section 21 notice on you requiring you to leave at the end of the term.
Technically it is possible for your landlord to bring proceedings to evict your before the end of the fixed term for breach of your tenancy agreement (ground 12).
However your landlord will be using a discretionary ground for possession, which is never easy, and you will have the sympathy of the court because of the circumstances under which you acquired the dog (its not as if you have deliberately flouted the terms of your tenancy by going out and buying a dog).
I think it is unlikely that your landlord would take this course of action, particularly if you have made it clear that he will not suffer financially if he lets you keep the dog.
What advice do readers have for Amy?
I have created this property management checklist to document the tasks you will already be doing if you are managing your buy to let properties effectively:- Visiting your property, taking particulars and floor plans. Setting up a system to store your documentation securely, preferably online so that it can be accessed at any time wherever... Read more
eMoov chief executive Russell Quirk says the role of traditional estate agents has been overstated and that their principal purpose in many transactions is to act as “a conduit to get properties on to the portals.”
Quirk, who has been speaking about estate agency on the US business news TV channel CNBC, says the industry is going through a digital revolution akin to that which has already transformed the recruitment, insurance and travel sectors.
“We’ve got 50 online agency competitors now in 2014. When we started in 2010 there were only four or five” he says.
Quirk reiterates his heavily-contested claims that his style of online agency achieves higher sale prices and speedier sales than traditional agents, and in London costs vendors only one twentieth of the fees of high street agents.
CNBC cited unattributed statistics predicting that while 86 per cent of UK residential transactions are now handled by traditional agents, this is likely to drop to 67 per cent within four years.
A business analyst on the channel described the advent of low cost online agents as being potentially beneficial to the wider economy. He was claiming that one of the reasons why the US recession of recent years was so deep and so long was the inability of people to afford the price of moving house to areas of greater employment - something which he believed may be helped by lower cost online marketing of homes.
A London estate agent has taken the unusual step of explaining to clients why his firm would be “selling them short” if he did not continue to advertise properties on Zoopla and Rightmove, despite what he calls their horrifying fees.
The Clapham-based Xander Matthew agency - which handles sales and lettings in south west London - has explained on its website that using both of the existing major portals “is essential, especially in London, to ensure that your property, be it selling or letting, gets the massive coverage it needs to maximise the chance of finding a buyer/tenant.”
Kevin Oakes, who set up the agency three and a half years ago and is an active user of social media to promote his firm, writes on his site: “We source applicants from dozens of places but Rightmove and Zoopla, especially on sales, have a duopoly. Without your property being on those two websites you are almost certainly selling yourself short, and run the real risk of losing money.”
He says he applauds the attempt of OnTheMarket to try to save money for agents by forcing participants to drop one or the other of the existing high-priced portals. But he warns his clients that savings would be outweighed by the sharply reduced exposure.
“How is Mr Smith selling 123, High Street, London going to feel when you tell him his property isn’t going to be on Rightmove because you wanted to save a few quid? Bye bye customer I expect” writes Oakes.
He describes OnTheMarket as an idea created by “big agents in London” aiming to save themselves “tens of thousands of pounds annually, if not more.”
He concludes by asking vendors and landlords: “Is your agent using the big two portals? If not then maybe you need to call us. Look for your property online. Can’t find it? Neither can your buyer.”
Agents are urging the government not to over-react to continuing double-digit house price rises after the latest ONS figures show a 10.2 per cent annual hike.
David Newnes of LSL Property Services says “further interventions or borrowing caps could pull the rug out from under the market” and points out that the latest Office for National Statistics data actually shows seven regions in England and Wales with falling house prices in June - the latest data released.
The 10.2 per cent average - slightly down on the 10.4 per cent a month earlier - was driven extensively by higher-still increases in London and the south east of England.
Broken down into the national regions, house price annual inflation was 10.7 per cent in England, 3.5 per cent in Wales, 6.0 per cent in Scotland and 4.9 per cent in Northern Ireland.
London rose by 19.3 per cent and the south east by 9.7 per cent. Excluding these two regions, UK house prices increased by a more modest 6.3 per cent in the 12 months to June.
Peter Rollings, chief executive of London’s Marsh & Parsons chain, says the slight moderation in growth indicates “a steady, healthy direction” and that the capital is seeing “strong, sustainable recovery” despite the spectacular price increases.
- LSL Property Services
- Marsh & Parsons
Estate Agent Today has gone to a five-days-a-week update, bringing you the industry’s most important stories every weekday.
Until now we have published only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while on Tuesday and Thursday our sister online publication Letting Agent Today was updated.
But from now, every weekday will see fresh news stories available from early morning. Occasionally we will make through-the-day updates, too, when urgent newsflash stories demand immediate publication.
The stories will be written, as now, by respected property journalist Graham Norwood, who also contributes fortnightly to the Industry Views section of Estate Agent Today.
- Estate Agent Today
- Letting Agent Today
- Graham Norwood
In this second part of our section on licensing we concentrate on HMO licence applications and what is required.The criteria landlords need to satisfy to get an HMO License
In order to grant a licence for an HMO, a local housing authority has to be satisfied of the following:
- That the proposed licence holder and any manager of the property is a fit and proper person
- That the proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
- That proper management standards are being applied at the property
- That the HMO is reasonably suitable, or can be made suitable, for occupation by the number of tenants allowed under the licence with at least the minimum prescribed standards of amenities and facilities. These include the number, type and quality of shared bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities.
The licensing application form contains questions which enable the local housing authority to decide whether or not the landlord and the property meet the criteria and can be given a licence.
Normally, the owner is assumed to be the most appropriate person to hold a licence. If there are doubts about his ability to deal with the property then a different manager would usually be demanded by the Local Authority.Inspections
The local housing authority does not have to inspect the property before granting a licence but in some cases an inspection may be necessary in order for the local housing authority to be satisfied that the property is suitable for licensing.
They do, however, have to inspect the property within 5 years of the licence being granted.
Inspections will also allow the local housing authority to prioritise properties for inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (which has replaced the former Fitness for Human Habitation test).Fit and proper persons
The application form will ask about details of :
- Any unspent convictions for offences involving fraud or other dishonesty, or violence or drugs or any offence listed in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003
- Any unlawful discrimination on grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origins or disability in, or in connection with, the carrying on of any business
- Any contravention of any provision of the law relating to housing or of landlord and tenant law; (including any civil proceedings that resulted in a judgment.)
Landlords who do not declare unspent convictions will be committing a criminal offence and will be subject to a fine of up to £5,000. There is also every likelihood that when this comes to light their licence will be denied or revoked.
Simply because someone has an unspent conviction for one of these offence does not mean that they will automatically be denied a licence. Each application will have to be considered on its own merits and the circumstances of an offence and its relevance to the licence application should be taken into account.
However, most Local Authorities consider unspent convictions to make a person unsuitable to manage a property, although they will usually still allow them to hold a licence. This is being challenged at the Tribunal at the moment.Problems where landlords have convictions
The fit and proper person requirement is one reason why it is crucial that HMO landlords comply with all the relevant regulations, as any conviction, particularly for a property related offence, will put their HMO license at risk.
In most cases they will need to employ a property manager (who will be the person named on the license) if they are to continue to run the properties as an HMO.
A key motivator for prosecution by local authorities is that on conviction companies and individuals will no longer be considered to be “fit and proper persons” to hold licences under the Housing Act 2004.
The test of fitness is also relational. So a person or company can be ruled unfit because someone else connected with them has been found to be unsuitable.
This means that where a director of a company is found to be unfit, that company will almost always be found to be unfit to hold a licence while the person remains connected with them.
Some local authorities are taking this much further and are suggesting that if a director of a company which is unfit becomes the director of another company that company will also be unfit.
Next time we will be looking at conditions on licenses.Further HMO resources:
Advice: If you need some legal advice, for example if you have been interviewed by your Local Authority and need advice, you can use our ‘HMO Hotline’ telephone advice service.
Training: Easy Law Training has regular workshops on HMO Law & Practice. You can read about these >> here (you will need to scroll down to find out the dates).
Here is a question to the blog clinic from Frances (not her real name) who is a tenant:
I am moving out of my flat in a few weeks. We have had a mould problem for the 3 years we have been there which the landlord is aware of.
They advised heating and ventilating the property which we have done throughout the tenancy.
They are putting the problem down to drying our clothes in the flat – however it is a second floor flat with no outside space at all so we have no choice but to dry our clothes in the flat.
We have cleaned the mould with bleach (as advised by the landlord) whenever it has appeared however this has resulted in black smears on the walls where we have cleaned it.
We are now moving out and the landlord wants us to pay for the flat to be redecorated due to the smears on the wall.
As far as I was aware it is our responsibility to treat the mould and clean it however any staining that occurs as a result is the landlords responsibility. Is this correct?
The flat wasn’t redecorated before we moved in and we have been there for 3 and half years so would it be due a repaint by the landlord anyway?
My view is that the tenants are not liable for the cost of re-decoration, but I would be most interested to hear what others have to say.
The reasons why I think the tenants are not liable for this cost are:
- The tenants were not provided with anywhere else to dry their clothes – for example the landlord could easily have provided a tumble dryer or a washer dryer
- The tenants were following the landlord’s guidance
- The property had not been newly re-decorated when they moved in
- As Frances points out – the flat was probably due for re-decoration anyway – it has not been re-decorated for at least 3 ½ years and it could be as long as 5 years
- In the circumstances, the marks on the wall can be put down to fair wear and tear
So I think you should challenge the deduction and if the landlord will not agree, ask for the matter to be referred to adjudication (as I assume that the landlord intends to make a deduction from your deposit).
What do others think though?