Here is a question to the blog clinic from Christine (not her real name) who is a landlord
I used an estate agent to find the tenants.
The agent did not provide a good service. So after the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement ended. we decided not go through the agency .
The estate agent is now threatening to take me to court to pay the one month fee. As they have found out that the tenants are still in the property. in my contract it states
“Tenancy means the entire period that the tenant is in the property including any extension or continuation of the contractual tenancy or any statutory periodic tenancy arising after the expiry of the original Term”
Can I do anything – can i ignore them, they are threatening to take me to court. Help!
You don’t give any details about their poor service. If this was serious or involved a breach of the terms of their agreement, then you are entitled to end the agreement anyway on that basis.
So for example
- if they have failed to carry out inspection visits (assuming this was not because the tenants would not let them in, which would not be their fault),
- have not checked the tenants references properly, or
- failed to pay your rent to you at the proper times etc.
Otherwise, we need to look to the clause in their agreement and see if it is binding.
You may be aware that there was a case on this point, OFT v. Foxtons in 2010.
This case is authority for such a clause not being binding under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 if it was not drawn to the landlords attention before signing and if it is open ended, as is the case here.
However, you have not quoted the whole of the agreement and there may be other clauses which are relevant.
There is a world of difference between someone threatening court proceedings and actually issuing them. So ignoring them is one option. Or writing to tell them that you have stopped using them due to their breach of contract (if this is in fact the case).
However if they do actually take you to court (or if you think that they will actually do this) the best thing to do would be to seek legal advice from a reputable firm of solicitors experienced in landlord and tenant work.
Note also that there is a section of Landlord Law which gives guidance on this type of situation here.