There is quite a lot of discussion about tenants evicted unfairly by landlords in retaliation for something that they have done, such as complain about repairs. However there is another type of unfair eviction where tenants do not even get the benefit of the two months notice under section 21 which tenants receive in a retaliatory eviction. I am talking about tenants who get evicted by the landlords mortgage company when the landlord fails to meet his mortgage payments.
I was consulted by tenants on one of these cases recently. They had rented what they believed to be their dream home, only to find two months later, the bailiffs at the door. It was a complete surprise to them because the possession order had been obtained before the property had been let to them!
Yes, amazing though it seems, the possession order was made several weeks before the tenancy was granted, and the date for possession in the order had actually expired the day before my clients tenancy started (by the way they know I writing this and have given their consent). Therefore the notice which mortgagees are required to serve on occupiers of properties did not help them, as it had been served over six months ago!
The property was rented via an agency and the question comes to mind – what is the agents obligation here? Under agency law an agent is generally not liable for the acts or omissions of its principal. However what if the property they are presenting to the public as a suitable home, is one which is vulnerable to repossession from the moment the ink dries on the tenancy agreement?
I had a word with one of my letting agent clients about the sort of checks that are generally done in the business against their landlord clients and the properties they take on. It seems that the answer is ‘not much’ Apparently landlords are sometimes asked to sign a form saying that they are authorised to let the property and that there are no legal problems or other problems with it. Well that’s not much good is it? A dishonest landlord is going to sign that without a qualm.
I can’t help feeling that there should be some sort of obligation on agents to check this sort of thing. After all in this case the agent was offering to let through its business, a property which had a substantial defect – i.e. it was vulnerable to repossession at any moment. It seems wrong for the agent to be able to pocket its commission (taken from my clients rent) and then say “sorry gov, nothing to do with me”. Which is in effect what they are doing.
What do other people think?