Tenant Question - Trapped in contract in an Undersized room

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    Tenant Question - Trapped in contract in an Undersized room

    Hello all,

    In October of last year I moved to London, prior to starting a job a week later so found a room quickly. I signed a 3 year contract, with the clause that I could move out any time if I found a replacement. I didn't think this sounded too unreasonable at the time, and merely saw it as my rent being fixed for the next 3 years. The room was very small, and I have since measured it and found it to be 2.5 by 2.16 meters, so under the minimum room sizing rules for an HMO. I signed my contract on the 1st of October, moving in on the 2nd, so I believe these rules are in force. The house has 5 of us living in it, all of different households so is an HMO, but as it is part of a purpose built set of flats it does not require a license.

    Now after a year I'm looking to move out, but when the landlord has provided the details for advertising the room, the asking price for rent is £100 higher than what I currently pay. With the high rent and very small room this has been really difficult.

    As a result of this difficulty I'm looking at alternative ways to move out. I have spoken to my council, who have made it clear that if they inspected the room and found it to be too small, they would prevent the room from being let out again, but when I asked about what would happen for my current contract, they said I was mixing civil and criminal matters, and that they could not advise. I've also spoken to shelter who recommended using the threat of involving the council, (as well as the fact that my deposit was protected a few days late) to negotiate a termination of my contract.

    If I were to begin these negotiations, the main point I don't understand is what repercussions there would be for the landlord. My contract ends in 2021, and if the council does not require the room to be vacated then would there be any reason for him to let me out? If the room cannot be re-let I would think he would try and keep me there as long as possible to get as much income as he could. Any assistance on anything I could do, whether related to the sharp increase in rent or to the under-sized room would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

    #2
    Basically your landlord is illegally letting a room. Shelter has provided all the advice, what else do you need?

    Comment


      #3
      I don't understand what happens to the landlord if he gets caught for it, would he actually get in trouble, or just told he can't re-let the room. If the second I don't see why this would encourage him to let me out.

      Comment


        #4
        I think the OP is looking for confirmation that the contract is frustrated, by the criminal actions of the landlord, and therefore he cannot be sued for the balance of three years' rent. I'd also wonder whether the rent is refundable.

        My guess is that the last place that landlord wants to be seen is any form of court.

        To the OP. Have you run the overcrowding calculations on the whole property? The minimum sizes of HMO rooms are based on minimum sizes for rooms for overcrowding, but for overcrowding some non-bedrooms are allowable. If all the rooms are that size, you will need two reasonably sized living rooms to avoid a criminal offence on simple overcrowding, as it is only large enough for a child under 10 (notionally half an adult).

        Councils really don't like this sort of bed farm,so they may already be preparing to prosecute the landlord.

        Comment


          #5
          I think he can get a significant fine, even whilst you are still there. I'd expect him to be then declared to be not a fit and proper person, which would mean he would be ineligible for landlord licences in future.

          Also, note that the exemption is not for all flats in multiple occupation, but only for purpose built ones in blocks of three or more flats.

          Also, it is very likely that the landlord is in breach of his lease by:

          - altering the internal layout;

          - using it as other than a single family home;

          - sub-letting part only,

          although this will depend on the lease itself. The freeholder may want to take civil action, to forfeit the lease, or at least force the return to single family use or a sale to someone who will do that.

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks, I've just been worried that if I do look to negotiate, whether this issue would actually have any worth in the talks.

            The property has 5 bedrooms, all of fairly small size but mine is the only beneath the minimum. Apart from bathrooms the only other room is an open plan kitchen/living room, which is of a mediocre size. If it makes a difference, we are all on separate contracts, with mine just being for the room I'm in as well as "shared right of access to the communal areas of the flat in common with the other occupants"

            Comment


              #7
              OP,, you can seek other suitable alt accom after you find an acceptable replacement from your departure date.
              LL can ask for any rent he deems appropriate at time.
              London can be the Wild West for renting, esp HMOs.

              Comment


                #8
                If you can't be bothered to fight and want to find a replacement you could simply just advertise the room at the price you pay (not rely on the agent who is asking for 100 more a month). You are finding a replacement... Not an upgrade. Advertising is normally free.

                Once you are out you can decide whether to fight without living under a roof owned by someone you are sueing. You may be able to get rent repaid to you.
                ​​

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Joetoria Ltd View Post
                  If you can't be bothered to fight and want to find a replacement you could simply just advertise the room at the price you pay (not rely on the agent who is asking for 100 more a month). You are finding a replacement... Not an upgrade. Advertising is normally free.

                  Once you are out you can decide whether to fight without living under a roof owned by someone you are sueing. You may be able to get rent repaid to you.
                  ​​
                  The OP would be committing an offence by accepting any offer to rent the room. Even the advertisement might be an offence.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post

                    The OP would be committing an offence by accepting any offer to rent the room. Even the advertisement might be an offence.
                    Doesn't "offence" imply criminal behaviour?
                    Please elaborate on these offences.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      It would appear that there is only an offence if a licence is required (or if the overall overcrowding limit applies - which would only be the case if all the other rooms were under 6.51 square metres). The HMO legislation sets conditions on the terms of licences, rather than directly setting conditions on HMO managers.

                      From what is said in the thread, it appears that the council think there is an offence, although it is possible they have been confused by the exemptions for flats in purpose built blocks of at least three flats. It might be worth checking for Additional Licensing, as it is possible that a licence is required even if the Mandatory licensing exemption applies.

                      What we have from the thread is that the council have said the room is illegal, and and they have also said they cannot deal with the interaction of civil and criminal law, by which I think they mean that they cannot comment on the effect on the contract of letting the room be a criminal offence.

                      I would have thought advertising something where you were statute barred from providing what was advertised must be subject to some sort of trading standards legislation.

                      On a different point, the OP should have treated the 3 year contract as a red flag. Landlords here are advised to go for six months and most agents go for one year.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I've assumed a reasonably sized kitchen living room. One might go statutorily overcrowded with only some other rooms less than 6.51 square metres, if the living room area is less than 10.2 square metres. If the living room has been split, to create a bedroom, it may well be small.

                        I wonder what the original layout was.

                        Especially if it is on a higher floor, and any of the current rooms don't open directly onto the hallway, there may be fire safety breaches, even as a single family flat.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I would have thought that the Council should at least have an interest under HHSRS as it sounds like there might be statutory overcrowding. If the tenant could confirm that they might be able to take, or at least threaten action themselves under the H(FFHH) Act.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post

                            The OP would be committing an offence by accepting any offer to rent the room. Even the advertisement might be an offence.
                            The OP mentioned that the contract states that they can replace themselves. I'm not talking about subletting.

                            The new contract would be between the new renter and the landlord... The existing tenant would be in no way responsible for the landlord renting the room below the required levels.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              So, if a long leaseholder advertises a flat not fit for human habitation, as a viable home, they would be off the hook, because it was the freeholder's property that they selling?

                              I think advertising a property which is unlettable to gain the advantage of not having to pay the remaining rent would be fraud. Also, I rather suspect that the the landlord will only release them when the new renter is in place, so they would be aiding and abetting.

                              I think the best option may be to get the council to start action against the landlord.

                              Comment

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