A post from The Landlord Law Blog:
I’m going to write here about a piece of law that is little known about and even less used.
I’ve been training housing advisers and enforcement officers since 1998 and yet nobody seems to have picked up on this.
It’s a TRO type of thing and should be known by all rogue landlord enforcement officers and rogue landlords hoping to stay off the books.
Before I get to the sting in the tail let me first set the scene.
Setting the scene
Down the years as a writer and blogger on matters landlord/tenant related I often find it difficult to get people to understand just how mad, illegal, irrational and downright nasty the rogue landlord world is when you come at it from the perspective a normal law abiding citizen.
I have recently become embroiled in a number of cases in different local authorities, where the landlords have not issued their tenants with written agreements.
Normal landlords would not unreasonably comment “Why would you not do this?” but the mind and intentions of the rogue landlord community is often a world away from normal landlords, simply because their overall aim is criminal activity and cash without liability.
Many tenants also accept this kind of nod and a wink approach to renting as either normal or unavoidable because they are at the bottom of the heap in terms of choice and/or don’t know any better.
These same landlords rarely provide receipts for rent paid either, in an attempt to airbrush themselves out of the investigative routes that would lead HMRC to their door.
So how do you deal with dodgy practitioners trying to evade detection and prosecution by simply not providing a written tenancy agreement?
As Al Pacino says in that seminal scene in Scarface when he whips out an M16 with a grenade launcher “Say ‘allo to my leetle friend”, welcome to Section 97 of the Housing Act 1996.
Section 97 of the Housing Act 1996
As we know from the Law of Property Act 1925 and the later Street v. Mountford (1986) and the legal principle of ‘Parol’ you don’t need a written tenancy agreement in order to be a tenant.
It is commonly understood that a Statutory Periodic Tenancy is automatically created when a previous fixed term AST expires, but no so commonly understood that a periodic tenancy can be created from the get go by the failure to have a fixed term attached.
Many writers on this subject, including the standard issue law books usually say that tenancies that begin as periodic from the start are quite unusual but go into any grotty, unlicensed HMO and you will find they are standard practice, the absence of any fixed term creating a periodic tenancy by default.
Section 20 to the Housing Act 1988
Section 97 however tells us the following amendment, section 20 to the Housing Act 1988:
“Subject to subsection (3) below, a tenant under an assured shorthold tenancy to which section 19A above applies may, by notice in writing, require the landlord under that tenancy to provide him with a written statement of any term of the tenancy which—
(a) falls within subsection (2) below, and
(b) is not evidenced in writing.
Basically a tenancy created with no written agreement allows a tenant to serve a notice on the landlord demanding that the landlord provide a statement of the terms of that agreement.
Section 97 goes on to say:
“A landlord who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a notice under subsection (1) above within the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which he received the notice is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.”
Scale 4 fines are currently £2,500
So there it is…..a lost opportunity for dealing with rogue landlords for the lack of awareness.
Any housing advisers or rogue landlord enforcement officers reading this please take note.
Section 97 is a major weapon in your armoury against rogue landlords. Get on it!
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