Here is a question to the blog clinic ‘fast track’ from Charles (not his real name) who is a tenant renting a room in his home.
I have a lease with the landlord for a 2 bedroom flat, out of which I rent one bedroom. The landlord is aware that I sublet the other room and not bothered about it as long as we do not inconvenience him and we pay rent on time.
I normally rent the other room for a period between 1 month to as long as the tenant wishes to live in the place with 1 month notice either way.
There is no written agreement between us apart form a verbal one. The new tenant pays a deposit which I as flatmate do not hold. The incoming tenant pays a deposit which gets refunded to the outgoing tenant so that way I do not hold the money.
I recently rented a room to a tenant and he is being very difficult. He has agreed to leave in a month, so no issues there. However, recently he started locking his door preventing us from showing the room and securing another tenant who can pay the rent, he is slamming doors and being violent and making personal threats. I believe he is doing this because he wants to be difficult.
Just wondered what my rights are in general to ensure that the room is available to be viewed without disturbing him too much. Can he lock the room and prevent us from showing this? Can we forfeit the deposit if he is being difficult and preventing us from getting another tenant? Can I unlock the door when I have a viewing?
It depends upon the legal status of his occupation. Is he a tenant or a lodger?
If he lives in a room in your property and shares living accommodation with you, and if this was on the basis that you would have the right to go into the room when convenient – then he will be a lodger and not a tenant.
If his accommodation is self-contained and/or if he has the right to keep you out of his room – then he will probably be a tenant. If he is a tenant then you cannot enter without his permission.
I suspect that this is a lodger situation – in which case you should not describe him as a tenant. If you were to do this in court proceedings or in correspondence with his legal advisers, this could be taken as an ‘admission’ that he had a tenancy – even if this was not your intention.
You will find a lot of free information on my Lodger Landlord website.
Note that rights and obligations are normally set out in a written agreement. This is a good reason to have one. For example, I have a lodger agreement (which can be purchased here) which makes it very clear that the occupier is a lodger, and that the landlord is entitled to go into the room when needed (while respecting the lodger’s privacy).
It also has a lot of other clauses to protect your position so is worth having and using.
Rights and obligations
It is all very well to talk about respective rights and obligations but if you have someone who refuses to respect them then it is difficult to do much about it, other than ask them to leave. For example, if you were to force your way into his room against his will this could lead to violence which would put you in the wrong.
This is why the choice of occupier – particularly when this person is going to be living in your home, is SO important.
You ask whether or not he can put a lock on his door. This is something that depends on the terms of your agreement with him. If you don’t have a written agreement – its hard to say. There are no ‘default’ rules on this sort of thing. Although if he is a lodger then there would probably be an assumption that this is not permitted.
So far as unlocking the door when he is not there to show prospective occupiers round – if you decide to do this, I suggest you may want to take a look at the room first before you show anyone round so you can see what condition it is in. If it is a total mess this may just put off prospective occupiers. This could be why he has locked it.
Although you should be VERY wary of going into his room unasked in these circumstances – if he is claiming that he has a tenancy he could get you into trouble with the authorities if he reports you for trespass and harassment.
Remember – you can’t easily prove his occupation type as you don’t have a written agreement. It is his word against yours.
My advice would be to wait until he has moved out before showing round prospects.
I am confused about the situation regarding your deposit. You say that this is paid from tenant to tenant – so where is it then? If you don’t hold it, how can you use it if you want to make a claim against it?
If you have protected it in a deposit scheme then you will need to tell them about the change of tenant – although in fact as discussed above the occupiers are more likely to be lodgers and note that deposits paid by lodgers are not required to be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme.
Note also that if you don’t have a written agreement you will probably not be able to claim against a deposit protected in a scheme.
This is because a tenancy deposit is the tenants’ money and a scheme will normally say that you can only make deductions if the tenant has signed an agreement setting out the circumstances under which deductions can be made.
If you do not have a tenant but a lodger – this should still apply. The answer is that you should not protect deposits from lodgers in a scheme. Unless perhaps if you have a written agreement.
The good news
It may be that the reason your lodger is unwilling to allow viewings is that in fact, he has no intention of moving out.
In that case, the good news is that provided he shares some living space with you – e.g. kitchen, bathroom, living room etc (halls, cupboards and corridors don’t count), you do not need to get a court order to evict him – even if he is a tenant.