Housing inspections and no contract notice

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    Housing inspections and no contract notice

    I currently do not live in the UK anymore, however my friend does and has been living in a room in a converted hotel in England since earlier this year (March or so). They have been paying monthly (and most recently weekly) without a contract.

    For the past few months, there have been some problems regarding the management, though most of them might not be directly relevant, so I'll try to keep it brief. What matters for this question is that the building manager (whom my friend has a good relationship with) is currently on holiday, so their landlord (who does not live on the property) has in the meantime appointed another tenant in the place as interim building manager, giving him the keys. This tenant is a good friend of his, and this person apparently is known to be a drug dealer (marijuana, as far as I know). This naturally alarmed both my friend and I especially since they have had problems with him before, though they had already began looking for another place because of other management-related issues before this point.

    Yesterday my friend saw this tenant trying to get into their neighbour's room while the neighbour was gone. They asked him why, and he said it was a weekly inspection....or a monthly inspection.....or a one-time inspection.....apparently he was giving contradictory answers in that manner; by the way, inspections have not been at all a thing as long as my friend has lived there, unless there is something to inspect with regards to a problem with the room.

    My friend then contacted the landlord informing him that she does not consent to having her room inspected since no notice was given. They sent him a link to housing law demonstrating that he needs to give notice before doing so. Today my friend went downstairs and came across the landlord, and asked about whether or not he had read it. Apparently he told them that if they didn't like what he or the interim building manager was doing, they should leave.

    My friend sent me a couple of videos of what happened next. Both him and his friend (the interim building manager) were standing there: the video begins with the landlord calling my friend "stupid" multiple times, and soon he realizes they are recording, at which point he says that he wants them out and is giving them a four week notice because they are "causing trouble". My friend insists several times during the video to know exactly what trouble they have caused, he replies that they are being a "nuisance" and that everybody is saying that about them (not to our knowledge, they haven't). He also says something about them leaving poo on their bathroom floor (which is absurd, because I know how much of a neat freak my friend is), and when they asked him why he thought that or found that out, he said everybody has keys to the room (I don't know what that means?). Furthermore, the landlord is under the impression that a lack of contract means he is under no obligation to provide 24 hours notice before an inspection.

    I apologize if this seems a bit rambly, as the situation is quite fresh, but I wanted to know where everything stands now. From previous experiences with a horrible landlord, it is my understanding that contract or no contract, a landlord still has certain obligations under the law, including respecting the covenant of quiet enjoyment (which the building manager broke, and the landlord seems convinced he is immune to).

    My friend was advised by a law-studying friend of theirs to not pay the landlord anymore money, and to ask him to take the next four weeks of rent from the deposit they gave him.

    In the meantime my friend has a viewing tomorrow, and I agreed to stay on Skype while they go out to get a recording camera, just in case they try to do something crazy like plant drugs or something......it may be paranoid, I don't know, but again as the current manager is a drug dealer, who the hell knows what could happen.

    Is there any course of action any of you can provide about what to do? Am I correct in my assessment of the situation from a legal standpoint? Can they withhold a deposit? What rights and obligations does my friend have in this situation?

    Please let me know. Thanks for reading.

    #2
    This sounds like an HMO. How many people are there in total?

    Generally the least hassle option is to move out, but it sounds as though the landlord and his friend are trying hard to be classified as not fit persons to manage an HMO, and recent law changes may mean they now need a licence, which will not be given to someone that is not a fit person, in the council's view.

    Withholding rent is not the right thing to do.

    Assuming the landlord has protected the deposit, you can require it to be returned in its entirety (although, if there are reasons why you owe money to the landlord, the can still take you to court, and the courts will look on you less sympathetically than if you had paid what was reasonably owed). If the landlord has not protected the deposit, you may be able to claim up to three times it, in addition to the actual return, as a penalty.

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      #3
      It is a converted hotel with around 20 rooms that seems to be well occupied. My friend estimates around 20-24 people.

      Edit: Also the deposit is apparently not protected.

      Comment


        #4
        It appears to be a HMO. I suggest contacting local authority to determine
        1. if it is licensed (by law it must be),
        2. if the 'temporary' manager is a fit and proper person to be in that position, and
        3. if the recorded behaviour breaches the licence conditions.
        If it is not licensed, then I believe that part of the penalty a court can award is repayment of up to 12 months' rent (after successful action by local authority).

        If rent is paid weekly, then I believe that a rent book is a legal requirement. If there is not one, then again, contact local authority.

        Is rent paid cash or via bank, and is there any receipt?
        If no record of rent payment, then LL may try to deny there is/has been any tenancy if action is taken regarding non-protection of deposit. But the video would support the existence of a tenancy (he cannot give notice if there is not one).

        Regarding inspections, I believe that in the absence of a clause allowing access, the landlord is not allowed to enter unless the tenant agrees.
        I would suggest that the locks be temporarily changed, and the original locks put back before you leave (but this may contravene some HMO regulations that I am not aware of and if so, the I expect someone to correct me).

        Comment


          #5
          The landlord probably thinks they're on licences rather than ASTs, but that's pretty unlikely unless there is more to this, such as tenants rooms being cleaned and people being moved between rooms etc.

          I would certainly follow MdeB's advice above, but although its not strictly the right thing, I would also not be inclined to pay them any more money and would suggest they take the rent from the deposit

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks everyone for the replies and recommendations, very useful stuff!

            No idea if there is a rent book, but my friend has never mentioned one. Knowing how things are "run" there, I doubt there is one.

            Rent is paid via bank transfer, as was the initial deposit. My friend is certain no deposit protection scheme was used.

            Tenants' rooms are not cleaned by any staff, and there is no provision I am aware of that people can be moved between rooms. Though I suppose that's because there are no explicit provisions at all, given that there is no written contract.

            My friend is going to talk to the landlord today about leaving in one week and using the deposit for the remainder of the payment for their stay. I have recommended against this going on the advice I have received here (withholding rent), but I guess we can see whether or not he agrees to it.

            The landlord apparently may try to argue that they are a "hotel" instead of a home ("hotel" is in the name of the property) and that she is only a guest, but I've told my friend that the nature of the situation (continuous rent payments for more than 6 months, a certain room, deposit, etc.) mean that it is irrelevant, they have tenancy rights either way in the form of an AST. Please someone let me know if that is correct.

            My assessment of the situation is that the landlord has no legal leg to stand on to deduct from the deposit due to the lack of a DPS, and that withholding rent only gives him ammunition should this go to court. Please may someone correct me if I am wrong, and thank you for your continued assistance.

            Comment


              #7
              You friend should 'phone shelter on 0808 800 4444 - with a copy of such licence/lodger/tenancy agreement that they have.

              And read this for background...
              http://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/...ancy_agreement

              But yes, contact council HMO dept.
              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


                #8
                If what's being paid to stay there is "rent" it's unlikely to be a genuine hotel/hostel. Hotels and hostels charge by the night, not by the week or the month and it's not described as rent.

                I'd say it's a reasonable possibility that it's a tenancy, but the operators of the property have a huge vested interest in it not being a tenancy and they're not going to accept that without a hell of a fight.

                On the other hand, it's in their interest to give in rather than risk a court case that could go the wrong way.

                I'd look to the local authority to enforce the HMO regulations.
                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).

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