Cruel intentions or just business?

There has been much press coverage in recent months about wicked landlords, avaricious agents and bullied tenants. The latter’s very existence and emotional and financial well-being is wholly dependent upon the capricious nature of the former named parties. Some of the reporting does have merit; some of it is about as accurate and credible as Brother Miliband (the one who got shafted by his sibling), claiming that the Government that he was a member of at the time knew nothing and in no way condoned/connived/turned a blind eye to the torture of terrorist suspects.  Hey-ho.  Tis the season to be jolly.  Or not, if you are the tenants that featured in an article by Kate Palmer in the Daily Telegraph Daily Telegraph 27 November 2014  Her piece revealed the case of a property concerning four tenants who asked the London letting agency who handled their rental why they had been issued with a bill for £1260 for changing two names on a tenancy agreement.  According to Ms Palmer, the tenants, both old and new were told to pay up or face eviction.  They contested the sum and were “evicted” from the property by the agency.  May I firstly ask that it be noted for the record that £1260 is exceedingly steep regardless of the circumstances or the geographical location.  Looking into the matter in a little more detail:

  • The existing tenants wanted to change the terms of the agreement that they had signed with the agency by removing two tenants and adding two new individuals.  This constitutes a new tenancy and therefore a new agreement.  You cannot simply replace one tenant’s name with that of another individual.  It is not like car insurance where another named driver can be added to the policy, but the policy itself remains extant.
  • The landlord is not obliged to agree to this request.  He may not like the cut of the new tenant’s jib/hair colour/footwear/annoying smirk.  Here at Cheshire & Co we lease our vehicles over a set period of time.  If we want to change the terms of the leasing agreement we must ask the leasing company who are in no way morally or legally obliged to consent to our request. If they do accede, they will without doubt charge us a fee.  When the lease is up the company can say that they want the car back-simple as that.
  • The use of the word ‘eviction’ is a little out of context if not wholly misleading, as the article states further on that the dispute over the bill began after two of the tenants had moved out to get married.  The betrothed had found two individuals to step in and take their place on the agreement.  Putting romantic endeavour to one side, this is an obvious breach of contract and one where a Section 8 Notice would be successful.  If I rang the car leasing company this evening and told them that I no longer wanted the vehicle but Bill from the pub was taking over the lease and could they just alter the agreement, can you imagine their response?
  • A landlord can issue a Section 21 Notice at any time, just as a tenant can give notice. Neither party is duty bound to continue the relationship for ever.  A Section 21 is not an eviction notice-however much journalists try to imply otherwise-it is simply the notice by which the landlord tells you that he wants his house back at a particular time (allowing for the time period stipulated in the tenancy agreement).
  • The erroneous Ms Palmer then claims that under a Section 21 Notice a landlord has the right to ‘evict’ a tenant who speaks out about a faulty maintenance issue with the property that they are renting.  Bollocks.  A Section 21 can only be issued to come into being at the end of a contract and no reason has to be given.  It just states that the landlord wants the house back.  Perhaps Ms Palmer has got her notices mixed up; a Section 8 Notice can be issued at any time, but must state the exact grounds for its issuance.

As a general observation with the aim of protecting both tenants and landlords, stick to the contract.  If as a tenant you choose to move out before the end of your contract and move someone in in your place, do not be surprised if the landlord is a little unhappy.  Headlines that proclaim how tenants have been told to pay up or get out are attention grabbing but misleading.  Russell Brand and Shelter, you can sit down for the moment.