Any emergency grounds for not giving keys to tenant?

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    Any emergency grounds for not giving keys to tenant?

    It's a long story but basically one of my tenants changed the locks to his flat and refused to give the letting agent keys. Rent was being paid by the Council.

    He then lost the door key to the communal area and I instructed the letting agent to not give him a copy of the key until he allowed us to have to a copy of the key to his flat door. Pretty sure that I am allowed to do this as this demand clearly was not with the intention of eviction as required by a prosecution under Prevention of Eviction Act 1977. He then didn't reply to the letting agent who saw him in the street a couple of times (and he ignored her) and so he didn't pick up the key.

    I was down at the block a couple of weeks ago to let out another flat. His door was open but I didn't go in as I hadn't given him formal notice of an inspection.

    But the water was off for the downstairs flat and when I turned this on then was a gushing of water from his flat upstairs. Treating this as an emergency i entered the property. The bathroom tap had been left fully open. The property has clearly been used by squatters or as a drug den.

    When I was showing tenants around a man who was not the tenant tried to enter. I refused him entry. I then changed the lock to secure the flat against squatters and stuck an abandonment notice on the door with details of where he could get keys from the agent.

    Somebody Council phoned up the agent a week later but they did not get the details of who it was from the Council who phoned up. The guy from the Council said that the tenant had admitted that he hadn't been living in the flat for several months. When I spoke to Housing Benefits they said that it wasn't them but that would stop the rent payments to me whilst they made enquiries, and that it would have been their Homeless section. That section does not take calls but I left a message asking them to come back to me which they haven't.

    The tenant now wants his keys - presumably as the Council have refused to rehouse him as has made himself intentionally homeless.

    Do I have any grounds for refusal on grounds that

    a) he has admitted to abandoning the property? The Council have admitted this - and they would be the people who would prosecute under PoEA77. So presumably this is established evidence.

    b) the flat is not fit for human habitation - he has also smashed up at least one electrical fitting.

    Should I contact the Council, eg Environmental Health. Is there a risk that they will just serve a Housing Act 2004 s41 notice on me.

    #2
    Some more photos

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by DaddyofTwo View Post
      It's a long story ...

      He then lost the door key to the communal area and I instructed the letting agent to not give him a copy of the key until he allowed us to have to a copy of the key to his flat door. Pretty sure that I am allowed to do this as this demand clearly was not with the intention of eviction as required by a prosecution under Prevention of Eviction Act 1977.
      That was probably an offence under s1(2) and 1(3) of the Protection From Eviction Act.
      You could have charged the tenant for the replacement key, but your actions essentially made it impossible for them to access the property he was renting from you.

      But the water was off for the downstairs flat and when I turned this on then was a gushing of water from his flat upstairs. Treating this as an emergency i entered the property. The bathroom tap had been left fully open. The property has clearly been used by squatters or as a drug den.
      The problem is you don't know if this was the tenant or a consequence of them being locked out,
      When I was showing tenants around a man who was not the tenant tried to enter. I refused him entry. I then changed the lock to secure the flat against squatters and stuck an abandonment notice on the door with details of where he could get keys from the agent.
      You were showing tenants around a property that looked like a drugs den?

      The lock change is unlawful on the same basis as refusing to provide a key to the communal area, but more certain.
      There's no lawful "abandonment notice".

      There isn't really a legal process for this situation, other than serving notice.
      Somebody Council phoned up the agent a week later but they did not get the details of who it was from the Council who phoned up. The guy from the Council said that the tenant had admitted that he hadn't been living in the flat for several months. When I spoke to Housing Benefits they said that it wasn't them but that would stop the rent payments to me whilst they made enquiries, and that it would have been their Homeless section. That section does not take calls but I left a message asking them to come back to me which they haven't.
      If this had happened before the events above, you might have a defence against the attempted eviction.
      I'm not sure an unknown person from the council talking to your agent is any

      The tenant now wants his keys
      Do I have any grounds for refusal on grounds that
      a) he has admitted to abandoning the property? The Council have admitted this - and they would be the people who would prosecute under PoEA77. So presumably this is established evidence.
      b) the flat is not fit for human habitation - he has also smashed up at least one electrical fitting.
      There doesn't seem to be any reason to think the tenancy has ended, so I don't think you have any grounds for refusing to give the tenants the keys.

      Should I contact the Council, eg Environmental Health. Is there a risk that they will just serve a Housing Act 2004 s41 notice on me.
      There's always a risk.
      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
        Hi J P Keates

        I do appreciate your reply, but...

        I'm not sure that you're right about my insisting that I got a copy of his key. There is a state of mind / intention test on the Prevention from Eviction Act 77 in clause 3 see for instance https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bes...-1977/%3famp=1. I might be guilty of a civil breach of covenant but I'm not worried about this as I think that this was a reasonable condition.

        Re the securing property I had reasonable grounds to believe that he was no longer living there - as explicitly permitted under clause 2 of PoEA 77 . I couldn't just lock the door as I needed keys which he had changed contrary to the AST and hadn't given me copies, and it is a deadlock rather than a latch. So I had to change the lock to secure.

        Clause 2 is I understand the legal basis for Abandonment Notices, and the process will be explicitly covered by part 3 of The Housing and Planning Act 2016 which I understand still hasn't come into effect. See https://www.lettingaproperty.com/lan...t-abandonment/ for a good article on this subject.

        I was showing prospective tenants around was another flat that I have in the block (which has just been refurbished following terrible tenants / squatters - this is what happens from using "professional" letting agents rather than managing properties myself). So that was nice and clean.

        I guess the main question is whether he is still a "residential occupier" having admitted that he hasn't lived there for several months. And whether I have any obligations which I would be in breach of, by allowing him into a flat which I know to be unsafe.
        ​​
        I am not worried about any civil case against me - the cost of defending that would be less than the cost of an eviction, and is most unlikely. I am more worried about a prosecution by the Council.

        I have spoken to a barrister informally. He suggests that this is a "grey area" although he thought that I was "home and dry" to avoid any risk of prosecution.

        I tried reporting the drugs den to the police but they're not interested.

        I'm going to email the Council asking for an urgent response and advice. They are the ones responsible for launching any prosecution.

        Comment


          #5
          I expect the councils advice to be partisan. They prefer us to rehouse this kind of person. So i would go with proper legal advise not ask someone at the council.

          Comment


            #6
            Tenant has told agent that he does not want to live at the property. As far as I am concerned that is a surrender of the AST. Would have been good to get it writing - but I have it in an email from the agent, so presumably witnessed by a couple of people in their office.

            The joys of being a landlord.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Codger View Post
              I expect the councils advice to be partisan. They prefer us to rehouse this kind of person. So i would go with proper legal advise not ask someone at the council.
              Probably right. But..

              a) they don't like drug dens - my second experience of one
              b) they are the ones who prosecute - so if they give the nod (and I've had that with the first drugs den then I am most unlikely to be prosecuted)
              c) doesn't cost £500 at a mates rate and bound to be full of caveats. Even, when not caveated, and from top QC, then no defence as I know from a totally different matter.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by DaddyofTwo View Post
                Tenant has told agent that he does not want to live at the property. As far as I am concerned that is a surrender of the AST. Would have been good to get it writing - but I have it in an email from the agent, so presumably witnessed by a couple of people in their office.

                The joys of being a landlord.
                He may not wish to live at the property but unless he is homeless, and whilst there is still a valid AST in place, the council will not be doing anything to find him a place, Not wanting to live somewhere and actually submitting a formal surrender of the property to the landlord are totally different things......a 3rd party conversation with the agent (in my opinion) does not constitute a surrender, if you take it as that then you may be on dodgy ground...... i do agree though.... the joys of being a landlord are difficult to find right now.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I know this isn't the right advice but in your position I'd rather risk a legal battle with the council and / or the tenant than let him back in . I'd tell him you've accepted his surrender , change all the locks and move his possessions to a storage site , the after the appropriate time destroy them

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thanks for all the advice.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I think you need to get confirmation from the council as to whether they're going to pay the HB for a continued tenancy, or cancel it for a surrendered tenancy. Then act on that info.

                      Comment

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