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Kimono
04-11-2009, 22:39 PM
My mother (73) is a protected tenant living in her home since 1959 with documentation from the beginning of the tenancy. She occupies the top half of the house and the landlady occupied the bottom half until she went into a nursing home. There never has been a formal delineation of the property, no separate entrances but a shared front door, hall and stairs. The landlady needs to sell the house to pay for her care home costs and she is being represented by her niece in all matters pertaining to the property.

The original agreement we had with them to give vacant possession and my mother security for the rest of her life was reneged on by them in a rather duplicitous manner. My mother will now not be giving up her tenancy.

The niece has said she now intends to split the house into two units via an internal door and develop and sell the bottom unit. My mother would remain upstairs. However, on one level there are three rooms. Two are my mother’s (bathroom and toilet) and one which the landlady used as a spare bedroom.

The niece has said that she wants to still use this room when she is in town on business as she has done since the landlady went into care. Giving that these three rooms occupy a small space with a tiny landing, it is practically impossible for my mother’s portion to be separated entirely from this room. A door in any other location would mean that either my mother’s bathroom and toilet are outside of her ‘front door’ or that the spare room is within her ‘unit’!

The niece would then require a key to my mother’s flat to access the room and have to use my mother’s bathroom facilities as the landlady’s facilities (which she used before) would no longer be available to her. My mother understandably is not agreeable to this.

I would really appreciate your thoughts and advice on this strange proposal. It is our belief that the niece is not fully aware of all the implications involved in splitting and developing a property for sale or the limited reasons a landlord (and she isn't one) can gain access to a property.

Thankyou

Paul_f
05-11-2009, 08:49 AM
I think the neice will find it extremely difficult to do what is proposed and in any event she will almost certainly need a court order, that I feel would not be granted.

Telometer
05-11-2009, 08:56 AM
Landlord ('L') cannot do anything to affect the Tenant's ('T') - your Aunt's - tenancy without T's permission - or a court order, and those are not easily obtained for works such as this.

That includes denying T anything that she has previously had permission to use. What about the garden? Did she ever use any part of the downstairs?

If the answer to these questions is "no", then it does not appear to me that L will be doing anything to prejudice T's tenancy, so on that basis L may go ahead and do what he wishes.

Your aunt will continue to live in the top floor of the house in her bedroom, and the other bedroom will continue to be occupied by the niece ('N') from time to time.

Now, if T previously had sole use of the bathroom, and N now wants to use that as well, then it is a variation of the tenancy and only possible with permission. Which presumably will cost £££.

What does your aunt do for a kitchen?

I suggest drawing a sketch plan of the flat/house/proposals and going to talk to the tenancy relations officer of the local council who will be experienced in dealing with such situations and will advise, for free, and will write letters to L. Don't bother with a costly solicitor, you are anyway unlikely to find one with much practical experience of Rent Act tenancies...

Kimono
05-11-2009, 13:18 PM
Thank you both for your replies.

Telometer, my mother's kitchen is up two more flights of stairs and she has always had sole use of it. My mother has always had sole use of her bathroom and toilet as well.

I have contacted the local tenancy relations officer who has advised that my mother write a letter to the landlady to deny permission for the use of the bathroom facilities as it infringes on her right to quiet enjoyment. However my mum has verbally agreed that the niece could use the room only afterwards realising the implications of the bathroom issue and now wants to withdraw the verbal agreement. Can she still retract?

If she can, can the niece only proceed with the plans with a court order?

Thanks in advance!

Telometer
05-11-2009, 13:38 PM
I do not know for certain, but it seems pretty unlikely to me that a protected tenant could prejudice her tenancy rights by verbal agreement with the landlord. Legislation is there to protect vulnerable Rent Act tenants from being bullied by Rachman-type landlords into agreeing to lose their rights. (Google him if you've never heard of him!)

It seems very unlikely to me that Aunt ever gave permission for N to use the bathroom in perpetuity...

There is no way that N will be given a court order to permit her to share the bathroom. It's quite possible that she would be given one to divide the house into two - it doesn't seem unreasonable to me, and in fact your aunt would surely be better off under such circumstances.

Beware: Aunt will quite probably become liable for Council Tax on the entire 50% share of the property.


Did the landlady always live in the house, from 1959?

Kimono
05-11-2009, 14:20 PM
Yes the landlady has lived in the property since 1959 continuously up until two years ago when she went to the nursing home.

My mother has no objection to the house being divided and welcomes the self containment that would bring. She just does not want the neice coming into her unit or having keys to it as if she were out, there would be nothing to stop the niece going into all the other rooms (bedroom, living room and kitchen)that are mother's.

My mother also has no interest in taking on the landlady's spare bedroom as part of her flat. So this leaves the niece in a bit of a quandry I guess. Potentially she can't use it, my mother doesn't want it and it can't be incorporated into the downstairs unit unless perhaps it could be accessed by a spiral staircase from the room directly underneath it!

Telometer
05-11-2009, 14:41 PM
Self containment of the upstairs would make no difference to N's ability to enter your A's bedroom and other rooms. N currently has that ability, so I don't see how this would change your A's situation at all.


I am not convinced that your A is a protected tenant at all. She does not live in a self-contained letting unit, and lives in a house with her resident landlord. She is therefore quite likely to be a lodger and if so probably has few rights against eviction.

jeffrey
05-11-2009, 14:44 PM
Maybe; but, for all I know, the Rent Act 1977 position might be different from what we're used to under the Housing Act 1988.

westminster
05-11-2009, 14:47 PM
My mother has no objection to the house being divided and welcomes the self containment that would bring. She just does not want the neice coming into her unit or having keys to it as if she were out, there would be nothing to stop the niece going into all the other rooms (bedroom, living room and kitchen)that are mother's.

What's stopping the niece from doing so now?

Ericthelobster
05-11-2009, 14:54 PM
The landlady needs to sell the house to pay for her care home costs and she is being represented by her niece in all matters pertaining to the property.I'm just wondering here, wouldn't it actually be beneficial for the landlady to have a sitting tenant preventing a sale? If the property is sold, then the proceeds go for care home fees; if not, then doesn't the council get to pick up the tab instead? And if the niece is thinking about her future inheritance (in the long-term, after your mum has left the property in due course) then why is she pushing this?

Telometer
05-11-2009, 15:08 PM
Maybe; but, for all I know, the Rent Act 1977 position might be different from what we're used to under the Housing Act 1988.

It is, and it's not obviously clear from the evidence provided, as you note I caveat my earlier statement. Try this 2001 House of Lords case, Uratemp Ventures Limited v. Collins (Ap), which includes an excellent resume of case law to date (including such delightful elderly cases that indicate that an inside loo is not an essential feature of a dwelling...)

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldjudgmt/jd011011/uratem-1.htm

Clearly mother does not have exclusive possession of a dwelling place that includes cooking facilities and living space and bedroom. Whilst having exclusive possession of three such rooms, these are three separate rooms which cannot undoubtedly be described as a single dwelling - L having access to the spare room which is within the same area. Indeed, OP's reservations about the separation of the dwelling place as proposed by N indicate that there is not exclusive occupation of half the house (as initially indicated) albeit without a separate front door.

And apologies for mixing up your aunt and mother...

As for the point about not wanting to lose mother, as it prevents the sale of the home; no it does not. It merely means that the home could be sold - but for a sum considerably less than it would fetch with vacant possession.

westminster
05-11-2009, 15:14 PM
I am not convinced that your A is a protected tenant at all. She does not live in a self-contained letting unit, and lives in a house with her resident landlord.

I've no knowledge of ancient housing law, but have a look at this housing status checker flow chart - Chart # 4:

http://www.bilberrybloom.com/citizens-advice/11/11050010.htm

According to the chart, in the circumstances described by OP "occupier likely to have basic protection, or be a restricted contract tenant...this is a complex area of law". And refers to another page:

http://www.bilberrybloom.com/citizens-advice/11/11050404.htm

which says "an occupier will have basic protection if s/he has a resident landlord who does not share living accommodation with her/him (apart from access, for example, entrance halls or stairways)". Also, further down the page, it says "an occupier with basic protection will have a minimum amount of security of tenure and protection from illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977".

Definitely OP needs to consult a specialist solicitor to confirm the actual status of her mother's tenancy.

Kimono
05-11-2009, 16:16 PM
Thanks so much to everyone answering my concerns.



I am not convinced that your A is a protected tenant at all. She does not live in a self-contained letting unit, and lives in a house with her resident landlord. She is therefore quite likely to be a lodger and if so probably has few rights against eviction.

We've had the tenancy looked at by a solicitor and a barrister. Apparently because the tenancy started prior to 14th August 1974 and the property was let unfurnished to her she is a Rent Act protected tenant.

Yes you're right... there is nothing stopping the niece entering my mother's rooms at the moment. It's just that there may be more of an inclination to once the landlady's facilities are no longer available to her as they will be within the then sold unit. Once the house is split and it becomes two seperate dwellings can the niece continue to enjoy the same 'privilege' of movement throughout my mother's rooms that she currently has? Could it be argued that she always has so my mother can raise no objection to it now?

Telometer
05-11-2009, 16:36 PM
It's just that there may be more of an inclination to once the landlady's facilities are no longer available to her as they will be within the then sold unit.

You should hope for it. It would probably be harassment. The courts take a very dim view of harassment of Rent Act tenants, and your mother would be awarded a large sum of money.

Personally I think your mother would be very unwise to raise objections; there is no material change whatsoever to her access to her part of the property.