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Crap landlord; can i refuse to pay final month's rent?
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# 1
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 5:41 AM
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Default Crap landlord; can i refuse to pay final month's rent?

Hi all, i'm hoping you can help me.

I'm a Master's student who moved to a new city last Sept to begin studying. I moved into a shared house with an old friend and two of her friends (one of whom turned out to be a violent criminal obsessive who has threatened to kill us and damaged some property, but that's not exactly related to my query). I was away when they all signed the contract, and the landlord left it in the house for me to sign... and i never have. He hasn't brought it up. As with most student housing, we were also "required" to provide a guarantor. I never did; the landlord never brought it up (perhaps because my parents are the ones who pay the rent anyway, as a loan).

Since the beginning of the tenancy, there have been innumerable problems with the house. We have had a cockroach problem since Sept. that the LL refuses to deal with; we have mice; we have poor insulation so the house is always freezing; we have mould; we have surprise visits from him without any notice; the guy is a massive sexist; and, most recently, a pipe burst in our bathroom, flooding below the floor, making several holes in the ceiling below and flooding the kitchen. The landlord refused to call an emergency plumber and although the pipe in question has been fixed and replaced, i'm concerned that it is we, the tenants, who will have to foot the bill for that (and other problems with the house) through the full or partial withholding of our deposits.


On the note of deposits, i learnt a few weeks ago that the LL has not put our deposits in a deposit protection scheme. When i asked him about it, he a) treated me like an idiot because i'm a woman and b) gave the excuse that "the house is worth over a hundred thousand pounds; why would i run off with a few hundred pounds of deposits?". He also said that putting the money into a DPS would cost him money and he doesn't want to pay--so the money is in his wife's RBS savings account.

Also, i'm fairly certain (my dad is a firefighter) that the house is not adequately fireproofed for an HMO.

What my dad has suggested is that he not pay the final month's rent, as he doesn't imagine i'll see any of my deposit again. Given that i haven't signed a contract and have no guarantor, where do i/my parents stand legally? Can i walk away from the house at any time?

EDIT: we also weren't provided with an energy certificate for the property or an inventory. We also have an issue with the house's drainage system--all the waste water/etc.--from the sinks and the bath--is flowing out into the yard (rather than draining away), thence into the ginnel.

Last edited by harpyemma; 27-02-2011 at 8:10 AM. Reason: typo, additional info
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# 2
Morglin
Old 27-02-2011, 6:06 AM
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If he hasn't paid the deposit into a recognised scheme, I believe you can take him to court for 3 times the deposit, as landlords have a legal obligation to abide by the rules, but as your'e not technically a tenenat (it seems), I'm not sure how it would all work.

Someone will no doubt be along later today, who will know what you should do next.

Good luck with it all - landlords like this give them all a bad name.

Lin
You can tell a lot about a woman by her hands..........for instance, if they are placed around your throat, she's probably slightly upset.
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# 3
DVardysShadow
Old 27-02-2011, 7:34 AM
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As for not signing the contract, that makes little difference, the fact that you have paid rent means that there is a tenancy in place with the main terms defined by default, AFAICS. The only difference is that if the contract to be signed gives joint and several responsibility as tenants, I don't see that this would be binding upon you. It is an obscure point, which would need to be argued legally but you may never need to go there.
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# 4
bob_a_builder
Old 27-02-2011, 7:41 AM
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Take him for the 3 x deposit !! at least

Seems just the sort of LL who needs reminding what his responsibilities are.

Make sure you let the uni or college know so they can put a question make against him on any accommodation list they hold
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# 5
Nikel
Old 27-02-2011, 7:52 AM
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Sounds exactly like the kind of landlord the DPS was created for.
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# 6
Keeping Positive
Old 27-02-2011, 8:30 AM
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He can put the deposit into a scheme at any point and not get penalised so from what I have read on here getting 3x deposit is very unlikely. Depending on if you need a reference I would miss the last payment as well.
May 2013 new beginnings
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# 7
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeping Positive View Post
He can put the deposit into a scheme at any point and not get penalised so from what I have read on here getting 3x deposit is very unlikely. Depending on if you need a reference I would miss the last payment as well.
There's absolutely no reason that i can access why i would need a reference from him. What would i use it for?
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# 8
Nikel
Old 27-02-2011, 10:15 AM
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Your next landlord may ask for references.
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# 9
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikel View Post
Your next landlord may ask for references.
I see. That won't be an issue.
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# 10
BitterAndTwisted
Old 27-02-2011, 10:36 AM
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Have your parents signed anything like a deed accepting their roles as guarantors for you rent? I think you need to read that unsigned rental agreement to understand whether your are all on a "joint and several" tenancy. Your folks not paying your last month's rent could result in all of your deposits being retained as a result.

There not being an inventory at the start of the tenancy means that no legitimate deductions can be made from the deposits as the LL will have no documentary evidence of the condition of the property and it fixtures at the start of the tenancy.

I think you should consider getting the Local Authority's Environmental health bods involved if the LL won't address the issue of vermin. That drainage issue doesn't sound helpful at all.

Oh, and these "surprise visits" are unacceptable. You could consider changing the barrels of the locks of the front and back doors but doing this could result in unexpected consequences from the sounds of it which may not be helpful.
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# 11
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 10:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BitterAndTwisted View Post
Have your parents signed anything like a deed accepting their roles as guarantors for you rent? I think you need to read that unsigned rental agreement to understand whether your are all on a "joint and several" tenancy. Your folks not paying your last month's rent could result in all of your deposits being retained as a result.
Absolutely nothing has been signed by me or my parents. The only thing that's in place is the standing order that comes from my parents. Regarding the tenancy agreement, it definitely specifies that tenants are jointly and severally liable for rent. That being said, the document strikes me as quite bizarre. Unlike previous tenancy agreements i've signed, which have run to 5-6 pages at least (in 10 or 12-point font), this agreement covers just 3.5 sides in 14-point.


Quote:
There not being an inventory at the start of the tenancy means that no legitimate deductions can be made from the deposits as the LL will have no documentary evidence of the condition of the property and it fixtures at the start of the tenancy.
This bodes well for us legally, i would assume? But it doesn't sound like an easy battle

Quote:
Oh, and these "surprise visits" are unacceptable. You could consider changing the barrels of the locks of the front and back doors but doing this could result in unexpected consequences from the sounds of it which may not be helpful.
The tenancy agreement says "the tenant will... allow the landlord access at reasonable hours of the daytime... the landlordmay need immediate access... to allow future, prospective tenants to enter and view the property". I'm guessing, though, that this doesn't mean the landlord can spring visits from on us without due (24hrs) notice--whatever the contract says?

I'm already getting the firefighters round to confirm the property doesn't comply with the law--hoping they'll lump the !!!!!!! with a hefty fine. After that, i'll see about getting environmental health on the case, too.

This guy is taking advantage of students he thinks are mugs. And he's sexist with it. I want to make things as difficult for him as possible, if i can.
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# 12
poppysarah
Old 27-02-2011, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikel View Post
Your next landlord may ask for references.

"I have a dispute with my previous landlord over his failiure to put my deposit in a scheme"
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# 13
DVardysShadow
Old 27-02-2011, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BitterAndTwisted View Post
Have your parents signed anything like a deed accepting their roles as guarantors for you rent? I think you need to read that unsigned rental agreement to understand whether your are all on a "joint and several" tenancy. Your folks not paying your last month's rent could result in all of your deposits being retained as a result.
Even though the contract was unsigned there will be a tenancy in place - I am with you on this. However, the tenancy contract by default will be very basic - I think that any decent lawyer would convince a court that the T&C's would be a minimum for a tenancy to be workable. The terms would amount to little more than rent, roof over head and statutory provisions and could be fairly inferred from the custom and practice of the tenancy to this point. Very little of the unsigned agreement would leap off the page and attach itself to the OP

I cannot see that Joint & Several liability could leap off a page and attach itself to a tenant who has not signed. Such a clause would be outwith the basic terms to make the custom and practice tenancy work to this point. Effectively, any joint and several party to a contract is making itself a corporation for the sole purpose of conducting their side of a tenancy [I am aware this may not be the orthodox explanation]. I don't think that the custom and practice argument can be made to stretch to binding someone to a joint and several agreement. This could be undermined by paying rent through a lead tenant.
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# 14
BitterAndTwisted
Old 27-02-2011, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harpyemma View Post
Absolutely nothing has been signed by me or my parents. The only thing that's in place is the standing order that comes from my parents. Regarding the tenancy agreement, it definitely specifies that tenants are jointly and severally liable for rent. That being said, the document strikes me as quite bizarre. Unlike previous tenancy agreements i've signed, which have run to 5-6 pages at least (in 10 or 12-point font), this agreement covers just 3.5 sides in 14-point.

Without my having sight of the agreement I can't see that the length of it has any baring on how binding any of the clauses are, save for the jointly and severally one.




This bodes well for us legally, i would assume? But it doesn't sound like an easy battle.

Yes, you assume correctly. But that's also assuming that this landlord understands his responsibilities and he patently does not or he would have protected your deposits in the first place.



The tenancy agreement says "the tenant will... allow the landlord access at reasonable hours of the daytime... the landlord may need immediate access... to allow future, prospective tenants to enter and view the property". I'm guessing, though, that this doesn't mean the landlord can spring visits from on us without due (24hrs) notice--whatever the contract says?

The landlord "may" need immediate access but that does not mean that he's entitled to demand it and that you in turn are compelled to agree. Many landlords either do not understand the concept of quiet enjoyment or willfully disregard it. That being the case, you will possibly have a long and nasty battle on your hands and one which you may not want to start fighting until the end of your tenancy is in sight.

I'm already getting the firefighters round to confirm the property doesn't comply with the law--hoping they'll lump the !!!!!!! with a hefty fine. After that, I'll see about getting environmental health on the case, too.

This guy is taking advantage of students he thinks are mugs. And he's sexist with it. I want to make things as difficult for him as possible, if i can.
Making things "difficult" for your landlord when you still have so long until you surrender your tenancy could make things trebly difficult for all of you in return. I'd be having a really good think about how easy or not finding alternative accommodation might be in the middle of the academic year.

I'd be minded to dob him in the deepest mire when I'm safely out of the way. This LL dos not sound like they are interested in playing by the rules, even if they knew what they were. Please tread very carefully.
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# 15
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BitterAndTwisted View Post
Making things "difficult" for your landlord when you still have so long until you surrender your tenancy could make things trebly difficult for all of you in return. I'd be having a really good think about how easy or not finding alternative accommodation might be in the middle of the academic year.

I'd be minded to dob him in the deepest mire when I'm safely out of the way. This LL dos not sound like they are interested in playing by the rules, even if they knew what they were. Please tread very carefully.
Tenancy runs till Jun 30, but i have absolutely no need to live there after May 10--and, in theory, could get by staying in a hostel for the two weeks (or, really, 4 days) i need to be around after Easter before that date. If i had to move out at Easter (break begins first week of April), it would be doable.
Of course, perhaps not so doable for my undergraduate housemates who probably need to stick around till the tenancy ends...
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G_M
Old 27-02-2011, 1:07 PM
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Agree with most of the above. Landlords like this need to learn their responsibilities:
See :

Environmental Health - at your local council eg here. They will inspect and can enforce an improvement notice if the conditions are unsafe/unhygenic. They (or the council private tenancy officer or similar, can help with non-registered deposit etc
HMRC - I bet he's not paying income tax on the rent
Land Registry - for 4 find out who he has a mortgage with. He probobly has no permission to rent. They won't discuss his mortgage with you but writing to them to inform them you are the tenant, and asking if his insurance is valid for a rented property will stir things up.
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# 17
blt
Old 27-02-2011, 1:09 PM
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If you weren't happy, you should have done something before, eg gone to see a solicitor or CAB. Simply not paying in not appropriate at all.
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# 18
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 1:26 PM
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If you weren't happy, you should have done something before, eg gone to see a solicitor or CAB. Simply not paying in not appropriate at all.
Before what? Before i found out the deposits weren't in a DPS? That was a fortnight ago. Before the water pipe broke and we had to wait 24hrs on a weekday to get it seen to? Before the majority of the damage to the house occurred as a result? Last week. Before i signed the contract? I never did.

The CAB, i'm pretty sure, isn't time-sensitive. Taking legal action, however, is time-consuming--and before the majority of the LL's !!!!!!!! came to light, i was reluctant to kick up a fuss.
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# 19
wrightk
Old 27-02-2011, 1:55 PM
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do not withold rent. Your the more mature person here by the sounds of it. witholding rent does nothing effective.

As g_m said check land registry and hmrc. Enviromental health- get on to them asap tell them the situation is an emergency. They will assess your property, you take them around the house explain the things that are concerning you, they will assess the risk of the property. major concerns for EH are excess cold,inadequate heating,and risks of fire, if the risks in the home are likely to affect your health (which by the sounds of it they are) the council will take action against the landlord. The EH have 3 levels of disrepair which is a point system for all the affected areas that need action, low, medium and high. High would mean the council would order you to leave immediately as the house is not safe to be lived in. By the sounds yours is a medium

regardless of whether you move out or not, get onto the enviromental health department at your local council. once they assess the risk of the property they will issue a repair notice that is binding on the landlord. If you move out the landlord will no longer be able to rent the property out to another tenant until the repairs listed have been completed.

Take the others advice on deposit protection and legal action.

good luck
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# 20
harpyemma
Old 27-02-2011, 4:42 PM
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The LL's wife (LL himself has a broken ankle and is off his feet) brought round two people to view the property this afternoon. This time, we were given notice, thankfully, although they did arrive half an hour early. About 5 mins before they arrived, i discovered a puddle of water on the kitchen floor and a new hole in the wall/ceiling of the kitchen. So, i pointed it out to the LL accordingly. Whilst i was doing so, i also re-pointed out the drainage problem in the yard and mentioned that i was still seeing cockroaches around the house. All this happened in front of the prospective tenants. My housemate (female)also asked why they arrived earlier than they said they would, and pointed out to the prospies that her room was difficult to heat.
This afternoon both she and i have received several calls from the LL. I didn't answer; she did. The LL is apparently extremely angry with us for pointing out the truth and as good as threatened my housemate, saying something like "if you are good to me i'll be good to you" (a promise he has obviously already broken).

Putting aside the nonpayment idea for a moment, what would be the ideal legal course of action beyond getting the fire service and environmental health to assess the property? I want to make sure that 1) i get every single penny of deposit back from him; and 2) he faces as much legal trouble as is possible.
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