The new ITV daytime show Judge Rinder handled its first landlord-tenant case Wednesday, involving a lodger (claimant) and property owner landlord (defendant) with a dispute over deposit, retained property and rent arrears.
Robert Rinder, not a judge but a barrister in real life, studied politics & modern history and French / Russian (Business) at the University of Manchester, and is a close friend of Benedict Cumberbach, who organised his wedding and even conducted the ceremony.
Rinder is witty, rather camp and his theatrical performances, with big sighs and his despairing looks, often have the public gallery, as well as the proponents, in stitches.
No doubt the first of many property cases, this case illustrated the lack of knowledge of most people about the difference between a tenancy and a lodger’s licence.
Lodgers, those who live with and share facilities with their landlord, do not have a tenancy and therefore don’t have the security of tenure or the full legal protection afforded by the Housing Acts.
Lodgers have a license to occupy; something akin to a stay in a hotel, where the owner can ask them to leave with reasonable notice – usually one rent period’s notice, unless the agreement states otherwise, but should be a minimum of 28 days. Conversely, the lodger must also give reasonable notice along similar lines.
This case illustrated the general lack of knowledge of the owner by the fact that he had used a tenancy agreement (Assured Shorthold Tenancy – AST), not a lodger or license agreement. Despite this of course, any agreement will suffice and the terms of the lodger contract will stand whatever the agreement heading.
Lord Templeman, in a House of Lords judgement on the now famous Street v Mountford case on this matter, ruled that where an agreement satisfied all the requirements, whatever it is titled, will stand in law, and he illustrated the point by saying:
“The manufacture of a five pronged implement for manual digging results in a fork even if the manufacturer, unfamiliar with the English language, insists that he intended to make and has made a spade.”
As a lodger agreement falls outside of the Housing Acts, the deposit protection rules needed for an AST do not apply. There is no legal requirement for a lodger landlord to protect deposits.
Judge Rinder listens intently to the stories amid much mirth as he interjects comments when the lodger explains how the property owner had retained all his belongings, leaving him basically with just the clothes he stood up in, when he lost his job and moved away.
The lodger had placed a deposit with the landlord (£80) which was half the agreed amount, promising to pay the difference over a period.
However, this never transpired and the now rent arrears claimed by the owner exceeded this by £160.
Praising the landlord for presenting good documentary evidence, he had presented a good rent schedule with payment receipts, the judge then proceeded to chastise him for retaining the property, including the lodger’s clothes, a laptop computer and other miscellaneous items, as a bargaining counter.
Rather surprisingly, the judge went on to debate the rights and wrongs of this saying that this was not a clause in the agreement. Of course, had such a clause been there it would without doubt have been ruled unreasonable by any English court, and would not have been enforced.
The final ruling from Judge Rinder was that the landlord return all of the lodger’s property that day, that the lodger was entitled to the return of his deposit (£80) because no damage had been caused in the house, and that the lodger then owed the landlord £160, the three weeks rent owed, less the deposit amount.
What appears to be a very sensible outcome given all the circumstances.
The after hearing scene then shows a discussion between the landlord and his erstwhile lodger: the lodger seems to be in complete denial, accusing the landlord of having “no evidence whatsoever” and now claiming he paid the full deposit of £160, even though he never challenged the landlord’s evidence in the mock trial.
By Tom Entwistle
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) August 28, 2014