Can landlord change use of communal area?

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    Can landlord change use of communal area?

    I rent a flat off a company who own most of the buildings on the street.
    I live in a building separated into two flats; we have our own building number and entrance on street level, leading through an alleyway to a courtyard with a staircase to our individual front doors. When I signed my tenancy agreement I was told this was a private entrance and it has been until a few weeks ago when the building owners changed the lock on the door from a key to key pad. The courtyard is now being used as a smoking area by the employees of the administrative building they own next door. I wasn’t asked for permission or given any notice of their intentions to do this.

    Immediately this has caused issues with me and the other tenant. They’ve been stealing our post. They’ve stolen a potted plant, smashed another and stolen a branded item of clothing off the washing line. They leave cigarette ends everywhere and they smoke directly under our windows. When it rains they smoke in the enclosed (on three sides) alleyway that serves as the fire exit (the only exit point for our flats) and part of my flat is directly above it. They are also entering the property out of their working hours.

    When we contacted our landlord (building owners) they said nothing could be done to secure the post and weren’t interested. When I contacted the letting agents they refer me back to the landlord. We both contacted the Police about the theft which is ongoing but as there’s no security cameras they were not certain of the outcome. The Police advised me to go to the council with the following complaints but which of them is actually valid?

    Trespass - even though the buildings are owned by the same company as none of the smokers are tenants at the address will it still be considered trespass? The Police seem to think it was as we have a separate building and in their opinion the alleyway and courtyard are only intended for residential use.

    Planning permission - they added a smoking shelter in the courtyard would they have needed planning permission? We were never given notice, the Police checked the councils website and couldn’t see an application. From the planning guidelines the Police said it seems to close to a wall and neighbouring building, permanently attached to the ground and too substantially enclosed.

    Anti-social behaviour - Unwanted number of people, noise, smoke and theft.

    Health and safety - Turning the alleyway/ fire exit into a fire hazard. (The post just collects on the floor and they leave cigarette ends in the same area.)

    Has anyone had any similar experience? Any advice? Which part of the council do I contact?

    If it is a communal area, they cannot trespass against you, only your landlord. They may be interfering with an easement, but, unlike blocking a right of way, I can't see your being able to take any action. If this were a long lease, it is likely that the easements would be carefully defined, but I suspect your tenancy agreement says very little.

    Stealing items is always a criminal offence. Get crime reference numbers every time.

    Smoking in a substantially enclosed area, as appears to be the case for the corridor, is a criminal offence for both the smoker and anyone who allows them, so if you inform the landlord, and he doesn't take steps to stop them, he can be prosecuted. Prosecutions are by the council.

    Theft is not anti-social behaviour, it is criminal behaviour! The other items are very subjective. You would probably need three, independent, complaints, to the council, for them to even consider action in this case.

    The exit route is probably of very fire resistant construction, and the smoking is a criminal offence. However, the landlord's fire risk assessment should be calling for no smoking notices, and for fire proof letter boxes.


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