A recent case reported in Legal Action Magazine serves to remind us that tenants who rent a room in a shared house and change rooms, are also starting a completely new tenancy.
Pilakoutas v. Schofield, Sheffield County Court, 22 May 2009
Here Professor Pitakoutas was a landlord by purchase of a house in multiple occupation. The tenant, Ms Schofield, had originally a tenancy of flat 5, which she had rented in 1993. The landlord had, very properly served a section 20 notice on her, which was required at that time. However some time before February 1997 (when the requirement for s20 notices ceased) Ms Schofield moved to flat 8, because it was a nicer flat. No section 20 notice was served on her before she did this.
Professor Pitakoutas assumed that she was an assured shorthold tenant, served a s21 notice, and issued proceedings for eviction. His case was that after she moved flats she had entered into a new tenancy of ‘the same or substantially the same premises’. And that her tenancy therefore remained an AST.
The Judge however disagreed. He found that flat 8 was a distinct and separate dwelling. As no s20 notice had been served it could not be an AST and therefore section 21 could not be used. The claim for possession was dismissed.
One of my cases – involving a room change in a shared house
This fits in with a case I ran a few years ago. Like Professor Pitakoutas, my clients were landlords of a shared house where tenants rented individual rooms. One of the tenants had moved from a small room to a large room without my clients consent. They reluctantly agreed to sign a monthly periodic tenancy and then (as he was a bit of a troublemaker) immediately served a section 21 notice on him. I was then instructed to issue proceedings.
Happily this all took place after 1997 so we did not have the problem of the section 20 notice. However due to the efficiency of yours truly in getting the case to court quickly, we came unexpectedly across the problem of the rule against making an order for possession under s21 within the first six months of the tenancy (s21 (5)).
Because the tenant was living in the same house, somehow this point had passed us by. However it did not escape the eagle eye of the Judge who set the case down for hearing.
Fortunately however the six month period expired just within the six week period a Judge is allowed to suspend an order for possession, so we were able to evict the tenant. But it was a good thing we did not have an earlier hearing date.
So if you have a tenant do the same thing to you – remember that the effect of the tenant changing rooms is that it is a completely new tenancy. So the Judge cannot order possession until after the tenant has been in possesison of the new flat/room for six months. And if it is an old tenancy, you will have problems if no section 20 notice was served on the tenant before he moved into his new room.
Have you had any cases involving tenants moving to another room in a shared house. What problems did you encounter? Was an order for possession made?