No contract with agent - what are our rights?

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    No contract with agent - what are our rights?

    Hi all,
    My sister and I are trying the help my elderly mother with a buy-to-let that she has inherited from my deceased father.

    We have recently found out that our mother has been having real difficulty with the letting agents in getting truthful information out of them. They have been withholding accounts from her for the past 3 months despite many requests to see copies. The have been found lying and have used bullying tactics over the phone to get work done on the apt.

    We want to change agents but have to endure a 3 month period to avoid a cancellation fee. We are experiencing trouble with the property at the moment as a new tenant is complaining about the room she has been given as it is not the one she viewed (the other occupant moved rooms without our knowledge before the new tenant moved in). We understand the stress this must be causing her and want to resolve the matter. We asked to see a copy of the AST for both the tenants but our agent says they are waiting for them to be returned to them from the tenants. This is concerning as the original tenant has been in the property for some months. It would appear that they have let the tenants occupy the property without signed AST's.

    In addition to this we have conducted a search of my late father's records to look for a contract between either of my parents and the letting agent and we can find none (he was a lawyer so kept EVERYTHING!). We have asked our agent for a copy of our contract with them but so far they have not responded.

    Please can anyone tell us what the ramifications of this situation are for us? Do we have squatters? Are our agents breaking the law? Are we breaking the law and if so how do we best resolve the situation?
    Obviously we wish to leave the agent (and the tenants they have found if necessary) asap but only once we are sure we have met our mother's legal obligations.

    Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read and respond.

    #2
    Sorry to hear of your loss.

    Surely any contract would be between your deceased father & the agent - and then with his estate, and your mother would not be bound by any agreement (which might not be a contract but probably just "terms & conditions").

    I assume mother inherited everything: Have you (err.. she..) written (yes, written, keep copy) demanding copies of everything?? I think it most important you get those first (including how/where deposit protected, inventory, photos, credit & reference checks..) THEN fire agent: Indeed suspect there is no firing required as there is no agrement between mother & agents.

    When probate was granting what was done/said about all this??

    Might be worth dropping into local CaB and asking their advice: Probably need to take mother with you (so she can confirm you are acting for her..) or her available on 'phone to confirm...

    The tenant's tenancy (when did it start??) continues with whoever inherited becoming landlord so no, no squatters. Have you asked tenants for copies of everything?? Might be worth mother writing (yes, writing! - keep copy) to tenants instructing them to pay her/you direct rather than agents..

    Best regards
    I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

    Comment


      #3
      Did this happen recently (sorry for your loss)?
      Who is the executor of your father's will?

      Until the estate completes probate, they are actually managing your father's affairs and can act in his name.
      Even if the property has been left to your mother, it is still in his estate until the land registry title has changed.

      A contract would now be between the agent and the estate.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

      Comment


        #4
        Thank you both for your helpful and thoughtful messages, I am sorry if some of my details were a little lacking but we are officially out of our depth!

        My father passed away a while ago now but we have had many other family issues to deal with and the rental properties have not had the attention that they should have had. We suspect it is for this reason that we are having such difficulties with our agents now as they have, up until now, been able to do as they please.

        To answer some of your points:

        Q:Who is the executor of your father's will?
        A:My mother was executrix and sole beneficiary.

        Q:Has probate been completed?
        A:Yes.

        Q:Surely any contract would be between your deceased father & the agent - and then with his estate, and your mother would not be bound by any agreement (which might not be a contract but probably just "terms & conditions").
        A:The agents where informed of my father's passing (in writing) and we believe that they never issued a new contract with my mother. We do not have copy of their T&C's and it is very difficult to get any information out of them in this regard.

        We have requested all of the details that 'theartfullodger' has suggested but we have not been supplied with them to date.

        Q:The tenant's tenancy (when did it start??)
        A:This is a good question. We *think* one tenant has been there for around 8 mths. The other tenant is in the process of moving in even though we did not give our agent instructions to proceed. We have been attempting to leave our agent due to difficulties in obtaining accounts for the period since my father passed.

        Q:Might be worth dropping into local CaB and asking their advice:
        A:We have contacted the CAB and they suggest that we instruct a probate solicitor. We are reluctant to do this as we already have a high court case in it's second year, on going work with a wills and intestate lawyer and are consulting a planning lawyer with all the bills to match! We really don't want to expose ourselves to more litigation if at all possible.


        We have a couple of questions off the back of your previous responses:
        1. If my mother has no signed contract with the agents does this mean we are free to instruct a new agent without repercussions or will she be bound by my father's contract - IF he had one?
        2. If not AST's have been signed by the tenants what rights do they have? Please can you advise as to where best to read up on this as I expect the answer to this question is too long for a forum thread!
        3. Are we within our rights to demand contact information for the tenants from the agents? Can they withhold it?



        Apologies for the long post. Any more information is very appreciated.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by MWilton View Post
          ....


          Q:The tenant's tenancy (when did it start??)
          A:This is a good question. We *think* one tenant has been there for around 8 mths. ....
          Good! There are other issues with old start dates (eg before 1997..) and I just wanted to check. No problem, carry on!!

          If my mother has no signed contract with the agents does this mean we are free to instruct a new agent without repercussions or will she be bound by my father's contract - IF he had one?
          ..
          That is my understanding but IANAL (I am not a lawyer..). I'd want that question answered by someone expert before doing anything maybe rash.,...
          ...
          ================================================== =============================
          If not AST's have been signed by the tenants what rights do they have? Please can you advise as to where best to read up on this as I expect the answer to this question is too long for a forum thread!
          ..
          ASTs of less than 3 years don;t even need to be written. As long as the rent amounts are being paid and dates agree I'd not worry albeit eviction may be slightly trickier (can be done though, don't panic..)
          ================================================== =========================
          Are we within our rights to demand contact information for the tenants from the agents? Can they withhold it?
          .....
          - ah, well, as you & I are kinda-asserting there is no contract with the agent then you kinda have no relationship. So I'd ask politely then leave it at that.. Anything stopping you going quietly & calmly with witness to see tenants, introduce yourselves, start then chat: Maybe simply start by asking if everything is OK & can they start paying mum direct... £5 says the tenants aren't happy with agents either...

          CaB largely depends in my experience on which CaB & who you get... In your shoes I might invest in a couple of hours with a solicitor..

          Best regards & good luck!
          I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

          Comment


            #6
            I suspect that there wasn't a contract.
            If your father was a lawyer and kept everything, he'd have kept a copy.
            If he was trading at the agents standard terms and conditions, he'd probably have kept them as an email or somewhere accessible.
            That's how I trade with my agent (and I keep copies of everything!).

            Whether the contract passes to your mother depends on the capacity in which your father signed the contract.
            If it was personal (i.e. in my case jpkeates) it probably doesn't survive me.
            If it was related to the business that I carried on (rentals with jpkeates as a landlord) it might.

            Best to behave as though it doesn't survive.
            I'd tell the agents that your father has died and that any contract that they might have had has now simply ended.
            They would need to respond to that, which makes their unresponsiveness work on your favour.
            Tell them clearly that they are not your agent and that they cannot act for you (and that this has been the case since the death of you father).
            If nothing else, this will force them to respond to disagree.

            You can then suggest a new relationship in which they agree a new contract.
            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

            Comment


              #7
              I would imagine that the contract with the agent would pass to the estate.
              After that, once the property has become the beneficiary's property, I would think that it depended on what the new landlord did: He if continued to use the agent's service then a new contract was created (or the existing contract transferred, not sure).

              Comment


                #8
                With a death, there is a period where everything is up in the air.

                The property can't become the beneficiaries property until probate is settled (or a court orders it to prevent some issue).
                Any lease continues (usually with the executor(s) acting as landlord).
                If the agents continue to work as before they could infer from that that the contract continues or that a new one is created by behaviour/pattern of trading.
                At some point the beneficiary takes ownership of the property, and the same inheritance of contract or behaviour "happens".

                None of this might be what the estate or beneficiaries want to happen - but it's not top of the pile in the moment.
                Hence my suggestion of telling the agent that the contract is ended.
                They would then have to respond to confirm their view of things (which is always a big help) and (being insensitive for a second) who wants to be difficult with recently bereaved family members?
                When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                Comment

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