FOR both landlord and tenant, residential lettings is full of legal jargon and obligations that can catch you out.
Disagreements over damage deposits, late rent payments and property maintenance are common, and usually easy to rectify if dealt with by professionals at an early stage.
But landlords, tenants, local authorities and letting agents may have to re-read the rule book following recent judgements in property-related legal cases, Valerie Cadman-Jones founder of Cadman Homes, Castle Street, Rugby advises.
Firstly, in the recent case of Forrester Ketley & Co v David Brent (2012), a judge found the defendant (the tenant) in contempt of court and imposed a suspended sentence on them for failing to vacate a property after the landlord had served notice to leave and the court had granted possession.
The defendant (tenant) tried to appeal but it was overturned.
Valerie said: “This may sound like a situation that rarely occurs, but in times of high unemployment and high housing need local authorities often advise tenants to ignore notices and not leave a property if they cannot find council accommodation immediately.
In addition, bailiff, legal and court fees can be added to a CCJ and applied to a tenant in breach of a notice.
Letting agents and local authorities will have to bear this ruling in mind when advising tenants in the future.”
The case of Chadwick v Saxon Weald Homes Limited (2011) illustrates the dangers to landlords of sending ‘standard letters/notices’ to tenants.
Errors can lead to undesirable consequences - in this case, the landlord was unable to regain possession of the property when following complaints of anti-social behaviour his solicitors wrote to the tenant enclosing a notice requiring possession.
Unfortunately, a further letter was then sent to the tenant, in error, by an employee of the landlord.
The letter had not been edited correctly for that tenant.
The wording of the letter (in error) was enough for a County Court judge to revoke the notice and declare it invalid.
The landlord appealed and the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal saying it was not the tenant’s responsibility to investigate any potentially conflicting correspondence if the most recent correspondence was clear and unambiguous.
In this case the second letter was unambiguous and the tenant was entitled to believe the landlord had simply changed his mind. Valerie advises: “This case again goes to show that you have to be clear, precise and pay close attention to detail when serving notices,” .
Cadman Homes have been letting properties in Rugby since 2008, and Valerie has over 25 years experience in the local sales and lettings market.
To talk about your property rental or sale needs Cadman Homes can be found at 1 Castle Street (next to the Rugby Advertiser) or call (01788) 560905 to speak to Valerie and the Cadman team.