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My landlord is a tenant!

flatsHere is a question to the blog clinic from Bruce who thinks his landlord may be illegally subletting to him

We have an assured tenancy agreement with a person who provided the tenancy agreement and charges a market level rent.

On several occasions in the last year, we have received post addressed to this person and another person (who is dead) in the form of Statements of Account. On the statement it clearly shows that the flat is a lease between our supposed landlord and the Housing authority who manages the whole estate.

Our so called “Landlord” appears to be a tenant since 1986 with this housing association, but she has not lived in the flat as her primary residents for at least five years.

I feel uncomfortable about this information since I am quite certain, the so called Landlord does not live here and by subletting to us, may in fact be breaking the housing association tenancy agreement and subject to eviction.

If our so called Landlord is not who she says and is in fact illegally subletting to us, what should we do?

Should we break the agreement we have and move. Should we wait for an eviction notice before fleeing. Should we stop paying rent to her?

You may be right about your landlord being in fact a housing association tenant who is illegally subletting.  However so far as you are concerned it is a valid tenancy.

There is a legal rule which says that a tenant cannot ‘look behind’ the landlords title.  So for example the fact that she may not have the legal right to let you, does not mean you do not have a tenancy or give you the right to withhold rent.

Although your landlord may not have the legal right to rent to you, so far as your agreement with her is concerned, and so long as you are in occupation as her tenant, the normal landlord and tenant obligations will apply – for example on her part to keep the property in repair under the landlords repairing obligations and on your part to pay rent.

There is a potential problem of course in that if your landlord is not entitled to actually rent the property to you – your tenancy is at risk.  The ‘head landlord’ – the housing authority – will have the right to bring proceedings to end the head lease and claim vacant possession.

If this happens, then you will a claim against your landlord for compensation.

However unless and until it does (and it may never happen), you are a normal tenant.

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Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.

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4 Responses to My landlord is a tenant!

  1. Your ‘landlord’ is probably making a profit at tax payers expense somewhere a long the line and possibly depriving someone more needy of subsidised housing.

    You may have an Assured Tenancy but it is far from secure given the situation.

    You should find somewhere else to live and then report your ‘landlord’, if only on moral grounds.

  2. The law regarding public housing in this situation may be a little more complicated than at first apparent by the question.

    The possible key to this is the word that Bruce used in his post that “the flat is a lease between ……..”. It is quite possible that the flat is now owned by the landlord as a Right to Buy property in which case the owner would be a ‘leasehold tenant’in which case they may have the right to let it to Bruce.

    It is usually the case that a new owner should not sub-let for the first three years after purchase. As they have not lived there for five and that were a tenant since 1986 that was the first major boom in sale of former council/HA properties this could be a RTB.

    If it is a RTB then it is potentially a lawful tenancy.

    I suggest that in the first instance Bruce should do a Land Registry property owner search. If it is a RTB then it will have two entries, one for the leasehold and the Council/HA as the freeholder. Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks Colin. Thats another reason why tenants cannot be expected to ‘look behind the landlord’s title’ – because the information out in the open could be misleading.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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