Blog Post No.120
Residential Landlord and Tenant Law – Tenant-like Manner
WITH MARVEEN, SOLICITOR
A recent guest on the London Property podcast is Marveen, a solicitor specialising in Residential Landlord and Tenant Law.
Marveen has a background in accountancy and tax, forging a second career in law by qualifying as a solicitor before starting her practice. As well as working in her legal practice daily, Marveen is one of the trainers for ARLA and other organisations, presenting legal courses throughout the country, and giving presentations at regional meetings for ARLA.
In the first part of our interview, we approach the topic of tenancy rights and what a consumer should look for when choosing an agent.
Unknown Speaker 0:00
London property homes super prime, where you can find informative educational and entertaining content, covering all aspects of property.
Farnaz Fazaipour 0:11
Hello, and welcome to London property home of super prime. I’m your host Farnaz Fazaipour. And today we’re in conversation with MarveenSmith, who is a solicitor specialising landlord and tenant act. And amongst many things she does, she educates a lot of people in the industry and is an expert on the subject. Welcome to the show, Marveen.
Farnaz Fazaipour 0:32
So what let’s hear from you your own story of how you got to be an expert in this field.
Marveen Smith 0:43
I started off doing training because a solicitor said to be as better than him, so I should do it. And I did. So that’s how I started my residential landlord tenant law. And that led me on to qualify as a solicitor, and then start paying service. And you can see I’ve been here in Hampshire, that paid service ever since I still do training daily by webinars, which I must admit, I don’t find quite as satisfying as face to face. But I still enjoy, I really enjoy being with agents, I enjoy hearing the problems and keeping up to date with it. We’ve got helped by in our office, and that serves the same purpose. So I know what is going on out there, which actually helps a firm greatly as well. So we can help the agents will probably work.
Farnaz Fazaipour 1:31
So basically, what what would you say are what sets you apart from from other solicitors? I mean, a lot of people think if I speak to a lawyer, then the lawyer knows everything about law, but actually specialising is really quite important, isn’t it? And then the landlord and tenant act in particular, is a very specialised area. So what would you say other sort of unique selling points as it were for what you do?
Marveen Smith 1:58
Well, the unique selling point dispense with only do residential landlord and tenant law, that’s all we do. I don’t try and specialise in anything else. I don’t deal with anything else. I turned down convincing part because I hated wills and probate everything. And I think more and more solicitors are specialists, but sunshine metal and everything. I am not denigrating any high street lawyer because I think they offer a good all round service for many people. But I think nowadays, that law is so complex and solicitors have to have to specialise.
Farnaz Fazaipour 2:31
So today we wanted to speak to you about about a particular subject that might be of interest to our listeners. And that is, what should consumers be aware of? What are the agents in the UK regulated? How they regulated in any way would you say
Marveen Smith 2:47
the professional bodies like propertymark, do try and regulate them. The fact there’s a working party on residential landlord tenant law, regulatory property agents that actually give the report three years ago, and it’s sort of laying in the mire ever since. So it’s never been implemented by government, whether it will be in the future, we don’t know. But the industry is moving towards regulation. property market had qualification for many, many years, which I was involved in one time, they use Manchester open learning now. They’ve got manuals, etc, and go for distance learning. And interestingly, your listeners might be want to know, but right moves this morning, have launched a certificate. And that will actually be face to face. webinar tuition, which we very popular because it’s not just not just as distance learning. And it’s free, which makes a big, big difference. It’s free to older members, there’s a big, big difference to a lot of these lettings agents out there because many of them haven’t got much of money to spend on training. And yet they want to do the best by their staff and the best buy their firm, and by the way, the best buy their customers.
Farnaz Fazaipour 3:59
So actually, it’s interesting that although the market is not a regulated market, and unlike the US where you have to have licences, what has happened over the decades that I’ve certainly been in the market and likewise for you is that there is self regulation, isn’t it because people want to have that stamp of approval so that when they try and go about doing their business, they’re actually respected for what they do.
Marveen Smith 4:22
Very much. So I think agents are keen to be up to date. They’re keen to get good service their clients, and therefore they actually want to be remembered for professional bodies and make sure the standards are good.
Farnaz Fazaipour 4:34
Yeah, so so it’s a lot of self training, isn’t it? So what are the laws that actually govern lettings agents that consumers need to know?
Marveen Smith 4:46
There is a lot of legislation out on agents, estate agency, not so much. Estate Agents Act 1979, which has always been the Bible both which they’ve judged, no conflict of interest, various things like that, but they can and cannot Do the big signal for both sales and lettings agents is the consumer protection from unfair trading regs 2008 which says you’ve got to declare everything regarding your property to anybody on the first viewing. Which means that if you know perfectly well, there’s planning permission to put a paint person on the roof above this flat, you’ve got to declare it. I think the biggest problem agents face there is that landlords can be economic with the truth, if you think it might be to their detriment. I don’t see consumer rights like consumer rights and consumer law is really impinging on residential lettings. Now, that’s an pension that way we write tenancy agreements and everything we do. There’s a lot of other legislation coming as well, most of it on the side of the tenant. But how’s the act 2004 was what was the hhsrs, where environmental health got a lot of control over properties, you’ve got the Deregulation Act 2015, which of course said if you don’t keep it, repair your section 21, which we’re afraid many agents use, or suffer from is rather, by the way, their tenants use it incorrectly, to always bully them, and use it as a way of not getting tried to prevent possession of the county court. You’ve got the latest one, which is the homes fitness report and habitation act 2018. That’s much more for a wealthy tenant who could actually take a landlord to court and get damages as well as getting work carried out if they think the property is not being maintained as a suit a standard, that for habitation, there’s a lot of legislation out there. And that’s just scratching the surface of it. And it’s an awful lot for agents to actually remember to follow day to day. But that’s not thinking of the basic landlord and tenant act 1985, which everybody knows, with regard to repair statutory repairing obligations. There is a lot of legislation there hampered by a lot of legislation. But good agents knew it, but they abide by it.
Farnaz Fazaipour 7:06
So on the subject of that, we talked about agents, you know, are pretty much self regulating themselves, because a lot of what they do isn’t actually an obligation to keep themselves up to date with the law. If you were to give advice to an agent to have a kind of proper checklist that they should abide by, what would be your sort of top things on that list that they should make as a standard way of operating,
Marveen Smith 7:32
I think, be part of a professional body. It gives a lot of help, they usually have training available. There are some there’s conferences, we’ve got a compliance department who will also give out information, I think it’s really good. Plus, of course, if all goes pear shaped, they would pick up all the pieces and pay back any landlords who missed out. I think also making sure you’ve got your client money protection, which of course is the Law No. And every agent should have client may protection. I will probably say many agents do not because we all know the good agents do it and the bad agent just bloated and very often get away with it. I would make sure they’re part of a scheme for deposits. My junior staff carry up possession proceedings all the time, you’ll be shocked. The number of properties we get for the political deposit has not been protected. You’ll be shocked how many landlords for example, don’t know anything about deposit protection. That is unforgivable. They’ve used an agent who should the agent should have told him about it. But some agents are not protected deposits, which of course leaves the landlord very vulnerable because if the agent does stop trading, the landlord has got to repay that deposit to the tenant, but he will liable for the penalty of being one to three times the deposit. So it can be quite burdensome for a landlord. I would say good terms conditions. Remember what you can charge the tenant, look at the tenant fees act 2019. You can still make some charges for losses suffered by the landlord. Obviously also, making sure that you do give good customer service good client service. Go and visit that property as soon as you get the call. Make sure you take decent photographs. I was reading an article the other day which said What really annoys sellers and landlords is agents going with their cameras and checking a polling photographs with the property especially the selling side. So I think making sure you have good systems or making sure that your staff know the points that people need or should be aware of and letting the property most landlords are totally ignorant. And therefore, I think almost a checklist of what the agent should be telling them In fact, comply lakes which, which is an organisation, which we do work with, and write lots of lots of other stuff, and produce a checklist, which actually will be available shortly on the paint Smith website. And that will be very useful for to give to landlords, anything to actually make sure that you’re giving an upfront service and guiding that landlord along the route we’ve returned to business was good enough, that tells me exactly what he has to do what you do. And that helps a lot.
Farnaz Fazaipour 10:29
And that’s quite an important document to keep up to date, isn’t there? Because legislation changes all the time? And it’s not right. I’ve done my terms and conditions, I can forget about that. You do really need to keep updating it, don’t you?
Marveen Smith 10:39
Yes, you do. And actually, the thing that I’m concentrating a lot on now is actually making sure there’s protection for the agent, you know, that just protection, you will not sue a member of our staff? Yes, okay. We’re, this agency is vulnerable, if we have actually done something incorrectly, I’m afraid. You’re at the bottom of the pile agents, the easiest people to sue and landlords always consider suing the agent. People say they can’t sue us. Everybody can sue anybody. I’m not saying that when just don’t amount of time and effort you put into it, when the landlord unjustifiably makes a complaint, and tenants and justifiably big complaints. So I think this is very much all about protection, making sure you carry out that service, you’ve got, you’ve got as much protection as you can to prevent any action been taken against your clips through the ombudsman. Because again, that’s very time consuming, or through the county court.
Farnaz Fazaipour 11:38
It’s interesting you say that, because I’ve always said that, that, you know, landlords often take out their frustration on the agent, because the tenant can just leave and go. And you know, the one person whose constant and you know, where to find them, how to get to them, is the agents. So the hope is that there is a way of saying, right, it was negligence, it’s your fault. So we’ve touched on a lot of subjects and a lot of topics around how an agent to operate, and should operate, and how they could improve themselves and get themselves more educated in the subject. And I was going to ask, What should a consumer be looking for when choosing an agent? And I guess we could take away from what you already said that they should belong to a governing body. And they should be protecting deposits and understanding all of those things. Is there anything else that consumers should be looking for when they’re choosing an agent?
Marveen Smith 12:31
I think rapport is good. And actually, ease of communicating with them. Do they answer the telephone? You may say, Well, of course, the answer telephone morpheme. A lot of people do not. And I’ll tell you what, I can’t stand it. But I get on the phone, and you get four or five choices, then you get another three choices, then you have two more choices, of numbers you’ve got to press to get through to somebody. And very often it’s kisuki, an offhand person, I’ve quite shocked sometimes, and this is agents I’m speaking about who don’t know who I am, and I’ve fallen, it can be sort of hand over not here. But what you need to do about it, then you should be doing something, not just saying well, no, who are you sort of thing go away? And you do I do get that and it still surprises me in my staff are trained that the better not say that. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. But it’s they’re certainly trained not to do that. And I think actually, perhaps, agents, I wish I didn’t see all some of them need to do a bit more training and just customer service. Who’s the most important person, your customer, your client, remembering by the way, the client is the landlord, not the tenant? The stop phrase with a tenant is your main agent, you’re not you work for the landlord. And a lot of agents forget that. They often know the tenant well, they don’t know the landlord so well. They start taking sides with the tenant, you got to always remember who pays your wages. I think to some agents do forget that. So that’s the most important thing in dealing with your clients. They pay your wages.
Farnaz Fazaipour 14:04
That’s right. So so you have to be acting in the in the in the client’s best interests, in this case, being the landlord and you have a duty of care right to the to the tenants. And what does that mean actually the duty of care.
Marveen Smith 14:17
I said duty of care said here’s the tenancy agreement. If you don’t understand go to Scott assistance advice, not Citizens Advice Bureau anymore. It’s just advice for a solicitor. Do I can’t advise you. And for example, let all new landlord they’re coming to you partway through the tenancy and say the landlord’s not carrying out repairs. What do I do? You don’t promptly sit down and tell them what they can do against the landlord. Again, systems advice or a solicitor I cannot help you. It’s a conflict of interest under common law of agency do that’s the one thing an agent’s got to avoid. So it’s making sure that they actually always act for that client. And the duty of care is just making sure the property say You know, you wouldn’t put somebody into an unsafe property And you’d be surprised how often I get that example. And one president, the boiler was condemned by two tradesmen that he was sent the third one down, and the person ended up and then it ended up with hospital carbon monoxide poisoning and their reply. Your question to me was, am I liable? Well, of course, you’re liable because you should actually did have a duty of care to make sure that person was safe. You should have said three treatment don’t own a boiler that was condemned. And so it’s a case of making sure the tenant safe making sure you carry out repairs. But most important, you have to actually make sure your landlord understands his obligations of what he’s got to do.
Farnaz Fazaipour 15:39
So you mentioned at the beginning of the call that you’ve got this helpline, first of all, can you tell us a bit more about how does that helpline work? And who can subscribe to it? Before I ask my next question,
Marveen Smith 15:51
and any agents LED light mentors can subscribe to it. It’s an annual subscription. But for that you get 15 Free documents and more now, we includes like a neutrality agreement every year and Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement for each different scheme. I write them, I write all of the documents, we can include things like deed of guarantee, deed of assignment deed variation, with an abandonment letter of which I’ve always very wary of as a huge risk. But we could also do other documents. I’ve included this this year, we’ve included the licence for a very Ukrainian refugees, that were a lot of agents asking for that. So there’s been lots and lots of free documents, which actually people bought the documents would cost more than the annual subscription to help by I’ll be answering Monday to Friday, nine to 530. You don’t get told to do it. It’s too expensive. You’ve got to pay for it. You don’t get get a reply back within three hours, we answer straightaway. And of all my staff are well trained to answer it. And they do. And so if anybody’s concerned, you just pick up the phone and bring us they actually find offer was busy in August with senior people are away. And I say look, if you’re stuck, bring pain Smith, and we were there to hold their hand and guide them through Well, the principles of having we hope, a good holiday. That so that’s
Farnaz Fazaipour 17:11
very useful thing for our listeners to know. So now, what would you say has been a trend that you’ve noticed, over the past kind of year or so a couple of years that you’re receiving on the on the call centres?
Marveen Smith 17:29
I would say that tenants are getting a lot more difficult, and a lot more savvy. There’s so much on the internet, not always correct. Regarding deposits. And there’s a lot of solicitors were called ambulance chasing solicitors will do no window fee, I think it’s crucial deposits are protected. It’s so easy for a tenant to take the agent to court for two or three times the deposit. And I think also be aware that agents must be aware, it’s not just making sure you protect the deposit, you’ve got to comply with the rules of the scheme. So for example, DPS, you’ve got to serve the terms and conditions of DPS, or TDs. You’ve got to serve the raeford. We have just settled a case where the tenant was claiming 96,000 pounds. There’s a long term tenancy, but that deposit hadn’t been protected. But not that the Terms Conditions of GPS had not been served. And the agent Petra city that you’re talking about can’t see any problem at all. We’re not doing anything about it, which I was quite appalled at. But the tenant that was quite savvy or very savvy, and our landlord didn’t really have a leg to stand on the Tennessee Grand Prix nearly 10 years, which why the song is so large, because we’re finding that it’s happening all the time deposits. The other thing is lack of the alleged court lack of appear on court. And I will say solicitors really do believe that TELUS alleged lack of repair, and if you go to court, and they say lack of repair, a judge is not going to hear the matter straight away. He’s going to adjourn it. It gives me a chance to a defence is the stock answer that tenants are told to give. And it can be twisted. We had one case which demonstrates really well of what happened the third structureless Lister saying lack of repair. And apparently the washing machine wasn’t working at all. And the tenant had to go and buy a new one. But we have proof that it was 10 days for the end of the tenancy and the washing machine when put under said I’m going to renovate the whole house once the leave. So I’m not buying a new machine but what I’ll do is I’ll kill her parking cost I’ll pay for her to go to one great sort of missed out. So we had proof of that one. Next thing was a hold the boss. Well we have proof that we sent a contract to a donor husband on your door and said I finally fixed it. That was it. So this twisted round, and I think it’s very important that the agent dot stone as they’ve got to do with Deregulation Act 2015 quote that repairers replies by email, everything should be an email. And you must keep all that correspondence. Because chances are we’ll speak about rogue landlords and rogue agents of tetapi are hearing about that. They seem to forget your tenants, they’re not all angels, many of them are abysmal. And I would usually say the more rent to pay, the worse they are. But as case of, you’ve got to make sure that you can give you protected yourself and your client against tenants, and not give them the opportunity, if possible, to actually raise complaints about like a repair or anything else.
Farnaz Fazaipour 20:51
I remember the days where there was professional tenants who actually knew the landlord and tenant act and would walk around living for months and months and months for free because they knew how to manipulate the law. So yeah, no, it is it is it is a it is a real topic. So apart from you know, all the other things that we’re saying here that agents should do, and all the regulations that will govern what, there is also the fact that if something ends up in court, and you haven’t protected the deposit, or you haven’t served the right notices, and so on, it can actually not be heard, isn’t that right? Or am I wrong?
Marveen Smith 21:30
If you haven’t protected deposit, you can easily sort it, provided, you’ve got just a solicitor who knows what they’re doing. And here’s why you shouldn’t be using the high street. So Australia, what to use somebody who knows what they’re doing, you can easily just return the deposit, you can easily set up attract information again. Okay, there’s still that penalty hanging over your head. But it can all be stopped you before you get to court. I think this is where agents have got to trust the solicitor and actually say, right, okay, this is what it is. The numbers, you’d be surprised, as I said number of times we get it, it’s not protected. Not always just a landlord has managed the property themselves. Very often as agents, sometimes it’s just unfortunate, but not all perfect. Something always slips through the net. But there’s ways to remedy these things before you go to court. The one thing you do not want to be told is a day before you go to court on the day of going to court, that there’s an issue. I always say you get all sorted out, because before you issue proceedings, is getting so hard to get into court, it takes so long now, the process is so convoluted. And tenants do issue issue defences, which actually makes it longer and longer, more expensive for the landlord, is the case making sure every T is crossed and the I’s dotted early on. So making sure you’ve given all the information to the sisters, the solicitor making sure if you suddenly realise the deposit wasn’t protected till six weeks you tell them straightaway. So we know. I will give you a good example. We have got to check on one of the boxes. And the documents were served on the tenant for the start of the tenancy and whether they can be served by email. Now, we asked an agent that the other day and I’m sure we did. We didn’t know we told them we’re going to serve by email. The bidder very reticent and producing any evidence whatsoever. Now I’m the parish, there’s got to sign this forum. See, I believe for his lease this court forms is true, not just sign if the agent was well we think so. How’d you get round that is quite simple on your application form or another document, the tenant or the applicant signs before the start of a tenancy? I figured Fred bloggs confirm the following documents can be served to me by email at this email address. They sign it the Duterte coaches draft 200 handbook if you see eicr Guests have to certificate and of course prescribed information and therefore you can serve them all by email. And remember it’s got to be each person forming the tenant not just one of them. It’s got to be everybody and Mr. And Mrs. Want to mister want to this is just a really important point. And he was always expressed surprise when I say that section 21 Want to each person, electorate each person, you’ve got all the names, what to each person. So it’s crucial. You actually protect yourself see small points that actually can make a big big difference to an agent and a landlord.
Farnaz Fazaipour 24:43
And you said at the beginning of this conversation that you know the lettings agents have a lot more regulation than then the sales agents do but also the letting agent actually manage the whole transaction. Whereas the sales agent you know pretty much passes on from the word where As the offer is accepted, it goes on to solicitors, and then they’re not didn’t really need to be involved in those details. So it’s not a surprise that, you know, in my opinion, the lettings interest has always been more regulated than the sales interest is self regulated and regulated by it by continuous changes in legislation, it’s actually making it impossible for people to do things without agents, because you really need to know a lot.
Marveen Smith 25:25
But I don’t think landlords can manage their properties at all. No, it’s far too complicated. Just a matter of legislation, just what they’ve got to do. I think they really do need agents. If you look at all the safety regulations, for example, and your landlords, lots of things, oh, I’ve got to renew that gas safety certificate in either say an awful lot of metal new landlords, do not renew that gas safety certificate from the start of the tenancy to the end. But unfortunately, if they then have to go to court and Mother catches up with that huge, big gap. So there is issues like that, and this is where you as the lettings agent can really help your landlord. And I don’t think lettings agents emphasise the importance of their property management enough. It is an absolutely crucial part of it. And someone first says you haven’t done that much. That means it’s because you’re actually managing the property extremely well. So what he doesn’t want is actually problems every week. So you’re managing the tenant, well, you’re managing the property well, and that’s what they should help. She
Farnaz Fazaipour 26:33
very much look forward to talking to you about that subject next, but it’s been really insightful listening to you. And I think you we’ve only touched on the surface of the detail that people need to know. But it’s good to know that you you and your colleagues are there in Hampshire to help. And I think one of the things that for our listeners is important to know is a you’re in Hampshire, so things get done at slightly more better rates than prime central London, I would say. But more importantly, when you’re specialising in landlord and tenant act, you actually get to a conclusion way faster, because you’re doing it so many times for so many different people that you kind of see the solution and the horizon and the actions that you need to take and actually, the process becomes a lot faster. And if the process becomes faster, then obviously, the loss is minimised, which is which is really important thing for people to know when they’re choosing the right solicitor with a job. So thank you very much, Marveen, for speaking to us. And we look forward to talking to you again about property management. Thank you. So, to listen to more experts like Marveen you can head over to our website, or follow us on our podcast channels where we have over 70 interviews with experts like Marvine plenty to learn and plenty to seek.
Unknown Speaker 27:51
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai
In the second part of the interview, we go into detail on the matter of tenant like manner and what it actually means.
Furthermore, we touch on the issue of retaliatory eviction and we ask Marveen’s advice on the right balance between keeping a happy tenant, following their obligations and what the agent and the landlord need to be doing.
Unknown Speaker 0:00
London Property, home of Super Prime, where you can find informative educational and entertaining content, covering all aspects of property.
Farnaz Fazaipour 0:11
Hello, and welcome to London Property, home of Super Prime. I’m your host Farnaz Fazaipour. And today we’re in conversation again with Marveen Smith, who has already talked to us about regulations around agency and agents and what to look for. And we are now going to talk to Marveen about ‘tenant like manner’. So, Marveen, for those listeners who might not have already had the introduction in the previous chat we had together can you just tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got here.
Marveen Smith 0:41
I qualified solicitor later in life, I do a lot of training in residential landlord tenant law. So I qualified as the solicitor and started paying space in 2001. We’re a niche practice specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. That’s all we do. And therefore we’re able to offer a unique service to to landlords and agents. I will say I do not work for the ordinary tenant on the street, corporate tenants, yes, but not the ordinary man in the street. We are a niche in that way we make sure that we’re not we’re not looking at any conflict.
Farnaz Fazaipour 1:16
Fantastic. And can you talk to us about the subject of our interview, which is tenant like manner, what does it mean tenant like manner? I actually hate the phrase.
Marveen Smith 1:29
Fine, because people don’t understand that. What it actually means is to act in a reasonable manner. What is reasonable mean? This was Magic legal word as long as a piece of string. What it means is that, what would the ordinary man in the street think is fair. Now, if you go back to Lord Denning, in 1953, he said, tenant like manner was to drain down the boiler when you went away, to change washers on taps, or cut up the rest of the things he said, Well, the last thing you want a tenant to do now is drain down a boiler or to change washers and taps, I just dread to think. So tenant like manner changes over the years. But actually, perhaps I’ll put that aside, is to act reasonably, make sure that if there’s need of repair, you tell the agent or the landlord that you don’t allow the property to deteriorate. So probably keep it clean to a certain extent. And that you basically, if there’s any issue that you can fix, or wish or stop any damage to the property, that should be done. So it’s just to act reasonably and live recently the property.
Marveen Smith 2:38
But also say by the way, and tenants do not understand this, a judge wouldn’t judge the court repeal case he said, a tenancy is not a service occupancy. It is not like a hotel where for example, the heating doesn’t work in your room, etc. You don’t complain and ask for another room. What the tenant has to do is got to allow for inclement weather, flooding, snow, he’s got to allow for bank holidays such as the Platinum Jubilee. So you could look for bank holidays and be slower to get an oblique, Christmas, Easter all these qualities he’s got to allow for you need time for someone to come to the property and also type to get parts. So he’s to put his two jumpers on and use the kettle to shave or whatever it is, just like any house owner does. He’s not entitled say I want it done. It’s got to be done to deal and by withholding my rent. He can’t do that. Well, they tried to do it. But legally he’s incorrect.
Farnaz Fazaipour 3:42
Yes, you get it’s it’s as you said, you know, it keeps evolving this tenant like a manner behaviour. And you’ve got you know, in prime central London, you got some houses that are like many hotels and as you say, a lot of tenants when they want something done, they want it done now and pandemic and Jubilee are just, you know, not a concern to them. It’s it’s a lot of pressure on the agents, is there is there a way that you would recommend that at the beginning of a tenancy an agent or a landlord should really try to educate tenants into the subject because, you know, it’s, it’s always easier to kind of throw the law at somebody rather than try to work your way through these frustrations. Is there something that you would recommend that should be done at the start of the tenancy to make people aware of this?
Marveen Smith 4:39
I think actually, this information sheets that some agents do are actually extremely useful. If you explain how to go about getting repairs. What you’ve got to do, I would actually encourage people to send in emails for example, it’s much easier because it’s been such I don’t see I rang on Sunday more wording of advertising and search to have a procedure. So they understand, I think it also is explained to them, you don’t rush out and Sunday morning, it’s noon or forever if they phone it 11 o’clock. And also make sure they’re conditioned that if you have got an emergency team, that they’re for that emergency team, that if they actually decide not to afford that wood contractor, they’ll be liable for the cost of that contractor.
Farnaz Fazaipour 6:07
Farnaz Fazaipour 6:08
And then it becomes really the the job of the agent, keep referring them back to that throughout the tenancy when things go wrong, and highlighting the clauses that they didn’t read to begin with, that are now going to govern what happens next, really. So the other thing that I wanted to ask you is, I’m going to say this in simple terms, because you’ll know the legalities of it. But there was a change in legislation where if you were seen not to respond to a tenant properly, and then you decided at some point to serve notice and get them to leave. It was called something like revenge eviction. And it was considered that you’re doing it because they’re difficult. So you’re getting rid of them. But then you haven’t got a right to get rid of them. Can you can you tell me technically what’s the whole of it?
Marveen Smith 6:57
Retaliatory eviction, that’s in thing at the minute, right, whenever a section 21 is served on a tenant is retaliatory eviction because of us for repair. Usually, it’s not actually, this sounds terribly good in court. Effectively, it’s a Deregulation Act 2015, which said, if a tenant informs you of a lack of repair, you’ve got to reply within 14 days, email. And if you don’t apply within 14 days, one, you can’t serve a section 21 Or two, if you fail to carry out repairs, you cannot serve a section 21. And by the way, I would just emphasise to every agent, you must do every every endeavour to make sure that environmental health are called in by that tenant. They don’t just look at the boiler or whatever it is the tenants complaining about the look at the whole house under the housing health and safety rating system of the house yet 2004. And it could cost your landlord a fortune. One of my clients recently there’s 1000 pounds worth of repairs that the landlord wouldn’t do. It cost him 21,000 pounds after environmental health came in. And that they also give a nice copy of that enforcement order to the tenant who of course now his his absolute evidence, you have not carried out repairs to brutal wheel to a judge in court. So I think agents have to make sure they have their system, you get an email or a phone call. Here, Marveen, we spoke this morning, you said the boiler is not working or whatever it is.
Marveen Smith 8:33
With us, we’ve already arranged that the plumber or gas engineer will come out at such and such time to look at the boiler, he will either repair it at the spot or if it needs to park or organise apart, if need part will then make a further appointment to come back and fit it, nice and simple. And what’s more, there’s your evidence you actually actually reacted, you did something and you did something about the lack of repair. Therefore, just not retaliatory eviction, you’ve actually prove you’ve got the evidence to say to court Oh, look, Judge, this is what we did. Which will wait seven days for this part of the boiler. As soon as it was done, went went there. Judges from court, by the way, they’re looking at what was wrong? What’s the speed of response? Why was there any delay? reasons for the delay? What happened after that? They will look at these things. And if you’ve got that all documented email fine. And also an electronic system. If you’ve got that documented, you’re covered. It’s just making sure it’s documented to stop retaliatory eviction is that new thing? I honestly say and the press love it. And shelter adores it. You use it all the time.
Farnaz Fazaipour 9:47
So what happens if you if you loose as a landlord?
Marveen Smith 9:51
Well, basically if you go to court, and the judge says there was lack of repair, you get damages awarded against the landlord. It made this damages may wipe out rent arrears is actually going to either stop the landlord getting possession or severely delay the landlord getting possession. And if the matter is actually adjourned to a second hearing, that’s more legal costs for the landlord. If the judge says, Oh, you’ve got to do get a surveyor in to do a report, that’s more cost for the landlord. And so what would really do if there is a running up cost the landlord, and that’s what we want to avoid. The only winners there really are the solicitors. But I think it’s case of agents who’ve got to help themselves and the landlord by making sure everything is documented, they can prove to the tenant that they did something. And if the tenant refuses access, it’s even more important to have that documented. Can we come in your refuses to come in at that date? Can we come in as such as actual date to clean up our keys if you’re not there, so you’ve actually got proof. If the property deteriorates because of your actions, vulnerable seek compensation, you’ve set the bar that’s not working, we need to get into to sort of wait for your convenience as well as the landlord’s you must let us in. So if you have that paper trail, that’s the important thing. I tenants do us refuse access all the time these days. You’ve got to compromise here after seven o’clock at night or Sunday morning. I’m sorry, no, it’s normal working hours. And if they’re saying that they would have to pay any extra Colette charges,
Farnaz Fazaipour 11:28
Right knowing knowing what to do and what to say is really key keys, you know, keeping on top of what are the common problems that happen and getting tools of how to deal with it is really quite key, isn’t it from a landlord and an agent’s perspective. So it’s not really as simple as the landlord and tenant Act Section 11 has said, and what I remember from from from my youth that it’s a long as they’ve got running water, heat, sanitation, your obligations, broadly speaking, are legally protected. So it is really evolved. And this lack of repair that you keep hearing and tenants tried to sue against is, is becoming something that that’s a lot broader than just providing the the utilities, it seems.
Marveen Smith 12:18
Yes, I think the first thing chances are stopping paying the rent, not to be quite honest, they’ve just walked right until you can see the lion’s den. The washing machine is not working, we’re not going to pay rent is ridiculous. I’ve got possession more than once for the washer, and one for the washing machine hadn’t worked for three months for the silly person could have either called the engineer himself or bought a new washing machine and deducted the costs from the rent. Instead, he didn’t pay the rent, we got possession straightaway. So this sense of proportion of tenants have got to realise that they live in that property and they benefit from the property they’ve got to pay rent. And I think is really looking at everything that tenants actually tell us read the Internet all the time. They listen to read, post on the newspapers, they read, social media, everything, which all tells them not to pay rent and how children that these landlords and agents are. But I think they’ve actually responsibility as well. And I’ve got to realise that they live in a property they’ve got to pay rent, they’ve got to realise that it’s just a washing machine or whatever. They go to a laundrette if it’s a dishwasher, they get some marigolds and very liquid and wash the dishes. It’s it’s not exactly the end of the world, and are well aware that some people say I pay all this motor and rent while things happen. And that’s really what it’s about. Yes, can get get somebody out. And yes, if it’s a highly priced property, they’re entitled to a higher standard of repair. There’s high court case law saying that, but I think that tenants have got to be realistic as well. As I said, it’s not a service occupancy, they’ve got to give notice of the lack of repair, and they’ve got to wait a reasonable time for the landlord to deal with it. That’s what his landlord tenant, he has five sets. And so if they haven’t given notice, Well, the answer has no liability at all. Although I will say the deregulation guidance. One of the questions I read much my horror said, Do I have to tell the landlord for a good environmental health versus lack of repair? Oh, no, you do not have to tell the landlord at all. Which is a bit silly when the law clearly says you’ve got to tell a landlord of lack of repair. It has not got any obligation to repair until his tool. But I’m afraid that the law actually is becoming very biassed. For that effect. The law is biassed in favour of the tenant. All judges are left leaning or judges are biassed in favour of the tenant. They’re not they’re against the landlord or throwing this person out of a house. Therefore, you really do have to make sure that you’ve got everything documented about repairs, making sure that it’s easily seen by others any delay. And is it reasonable?
Farnaz Fazaipour 15:01
But when we say possession is nine tenths of the law. And I always thought that, you know, the government’s everywhere would rather that a tenant was housed than a tenant was out in the street and their problem.
Marveen Smith 15:13
Yes, you think so. But my friends, the courts actually work in their own little microcosm, they do the judges do exactly what they want. They’re the chief actor on the stage. I think I think let’s be realistic about it, we get tenants who allege that lack of repair, usually we’ve got no defence at all, they never put in defence and at all. And so most judges, if you’ve got a good, good representation in court can argue against that. If it is unfortunate, and the tenant does produce some evidence, one year, you’re feeling more than slightly aggrieved if you turn to your landlord or your agent, and they will look extremely guilty. And then you see this as well, yes, I forgot to tell you, which is not helpful. But it’s a case of if the agent is managing that property, he’s clearly documented everything, he’s got a good system, and most of them have excellent systems, everything is documented, then it’s pretty easy to refute any allegations a tenant is making. And that’s where we want to be. And I think also pointing out to tenants, for example, you must allow access, if you don’t access the property to hear it, we’ll be looking to you for compensation. So I think agents and circumstance like this need to pray use their contractors more. What exactly is the problem? Is it serious, but we can go off at a tangent. All agents should make sure and Lambert as well, that the contractor is told and pain of death, they must not tell the tenant, anything about the repair, what’s caused any issues etc. And definitely do not give them any copies of any reports. The landlord is paid for that information, that information belongs to the landlord, not the tenant. And even under the Freedom of Information Act, the tenant is not entitled to information at all. I did a course recently, an agent was telling me to copy the whole file to give to the tenant about the hissy fit. I said no, you are not. So by the end of the day she was she was dumping most of the paper, the dustbin, you do not give the tenant all that information, he is not legally entitled to it.
Farnaz Fazaipour 17:31
I mean, everybody hates a tenant withholding rent, is it at any point actually acceptable?
Marveen Smith 17:38
I don’t think so. Even a third party, you have a fight that message, the roof leaks because of a storm, and one bedrooms out of action, you still got the rest of the house. So if you’ve got two bedrooms, sitting room, kitchen, bathroom, five rooms, one room set of action, that’s 20% of the rent, probably another 5% for inconvenience. But you still got the rest of the house, you still got heating light. So another bedroom could live there. So yes, you should be paying rent, not all the rent some of the rent. But as soon as people stop paying any rent, they actually put a tenant puts themselves in a vulnerable situation, that I don’t there’s no excuse, if you’re living there, the only time you’re not paying rent is when the post is genuinely uninhabitable. And I don’t mean, it’s under hab talks, I don’t like it. I mean that there’s been a flood, cut from the loft, right through the house, and the ceilings down everything I cannot live there, the house was burned down last night, I cannot live there. That’s when you would be paying any rent at all.
Farnaz Fazaipour 18:42
Now, just to finish off, going back to the tenant like manner being a bit of a changing thing as as, as time moves on, in prime central London, you you know, you have rents these days. I mean, I read something about somebody recently closing a transaction of 45,000 pounds a week. So I guess tenant like manner to those tenants is that they do want their light bulb change yesterday, and they don’t want to even know about it. So what’s that right balance? I mean, what would you advise? I mean, you can’t really I mean, I know that everybody’s equal in this world. But if you’re paying 45,000 pounds a week, the chances of your sense of humour failing rapidly if you’re told to go by very liquid and wash the dishes, is pretty high. So what’s that balance between keeping a happy tenant who will say a happy tenant is a good term and keeping a happy tenant who’s going to continue paying this ridiculous sums of money for your property? And you know, what’s their obligations and what the agent and landlord needs to be doing? What do you say about these mini hotels that are now become slightly common in some parts of prime central London?
Marveen Smith 19:53
I think actually, if you’re paying and yes, I did actually have a case for the tenant was paying that to vote and he said expected repurchase margin the rent and paying, I expect to appear to be done today, I’m not willing to wait even 24 hours, we don’t know, I’d have a fridge. If the agents are collecting commission on that type of standard, they have to agree with their landlord, that they have a lot more autonomy and a big enough float to be able to get the work done. No. And that means because the dishwasher is not working, you remove that you get a new one. And today, that has to be because yes, I quite agree. higher standard repair, but also higher standard of service for very high highly rated properties. I think one of the things by do that a lot of landlords do not do the job provided instructions for a lot of equipment. And you know, if a landlord, if you don’t, it doesn’t provide instructions for the cooling system, the heating system, the sound system, etc. How is a tenant meant to be able to work it. So I think it’s important to do that for the store. I think, yes, these highly priced properties with very, very specialised LED lighting systems, you need an expert to deal with them. You can’t expect the landlord or his or any of his tenant or any of his staff to climb a ladder to change the light bulbs. They’re usually they’re so complicated, it’s possible. And I think if you’re providing that type of property, you’ve got to provide that type of service. And usually your landlords are willing to pay for it, because they want that tenant to stay for as long as possible paying that rent.
Farnaz Fazaipour 21:25
Thank you for clarifying that. Well, Marveen, thank you again for talking to us. And if any of our listeners need to have any expert advice and opinion, then there’ll be able to head over to the experts directory and find your profile and get in touch with you. So thank you again for talking to us.
Marveen Smith 21:44
My pleasure. Thank you. It’s been nice.
Farnaz Fazaipour 21:46
Thanks a lot. And to hear from other experts like Marveen, you can head over to our website and follow our podcast channels where we have over 70 interviews with experts like Marveen where you can find a lot of informative educational content and find the right expertise for when you.
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