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Radio soap’s cautionary tale to landlords

 

Article date:  13/10/2016

Following revelations of domestic abuse, fans of Radio 4's The Archers have seen Rob Titchener fall spectacularly from grace in the eyes of Ambridge residents.

And although it appears he will keep his job, his landlord Usha is attempting to evict him from his rented home at Blossom Hill Cottage.

Some might say that Rob is getting his just desserts - but in what circumstances can a tenant be evicted and could Rob's actions give Usha grounds to evict him?

Daniel Greatrix, a solicitor at West Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons and an expert in residential property disputes, urges caution and clarity.

"Whether Usha will succeed will depend on the nature and terms of Rob's tenancy agreement," explains Daniel. "While a landlord may decide not to grant a tenancy if there are concerns about a tenant's character, it is not something which, in itself, gives rise to the right to terminate. 

"Assuming Rob has a written tenancy agreement, it is likely to be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) for a fixed term, which continues after the fixed term expires until it is brought to an end.

"Unless the fixed term has expired, a landlord must make out one or more the Grounds set out in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 in order to obtain an order for possession.  Such grounds include a tenant being convicted of a serious offence near the dwelling, or against the landlord or someone with permission to reside there. 

"Where a tenant causes a nuisance to a neighbour or the landlord, or is convicted of an arrestable offence committed in the area of the property, that can also give rise to a right to terminate, as can allowing the property to be used for illegal or immoral purposes.

"Given the acquittal of Rob's wife Helen, based on his coercive and controlling of her, Usha should also have considered whether she could rely on section 14A - and the fact that Helen has left the marital home as a result of violence. This probably wouldn't apply here however, because Usha is a private as opposed to a social landlord." 

With Rob in receipt of a notice from Usha requiring him to leave Blossom Hill Cottage within two months, it appears that the fixed term of his tenancy has already ended.

Daniel added: "If the fixed term has expired and a landlord requires possession, he must give a minimum of two months' notice. Notice can be served during the tenancy (but no earlier than four months into the agreement) to expire at the end of the fixed term.  In adopting this procedure, a landlord needs to be fully compliant with their obligations relating to tenancy deposits and repair works, or else any notice served may be invalid."

The advice to Rob is simple - he should seek immediate legal advice if he wishes to remain at the property.  It is possible that Usha's notice is invalid and that he will have grounds to challenge it, particularly if the correct procedures were not followed when the AST was granted. 

Higgs & Sons Partner Nyree Applegarth, whose specialism includes residential and neighbour disputes, added: "The law relating to residential tenancies is riddled with potential issues for unwary or unadvised landlords, not least because of the numerous statutes to contend with. 

"Of particular concern to landlords are the financial penalties that can be applied for failure to comply their obligations relating to tenancy deposits and identifying their tenants.  Landlords should seek legal advice, not only at the point of requiring possession (and before service of any notice), but also before the tenancy is granted, as many failures at the outset can have dire consequences later."

For further information about Higgs & Sons residential and neighbour disputes specialists and the services they offer, please contact Nyree Applegarth on 01384 327151.

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