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Homes4U not allowing peaceful enjoyment of the property

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581 views 1 replies latest reply: 08 March 2015
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Tenant

Hello Folks

I’m looking for advice on dealing with some issues with our letting agent, ‘Homes4u Manchester’.

Myself and two friends are letting a property under a joint ‘assured shorthold tenancy agreement’. The agreement was entered in to on the 12th September 2014 for a fixed term of 12 months. The problems that we have with the agency are numerous, in-fact too numerous to break them all down here but essentially they are centred around their failure to carry out repairs, charging unspecified fees, failure to provide gas safety certificate and entry to the property for viewings and repairs.
The issue that I seek advice for today is that of access to the property.

Since November 2014, (only 3 months into the 12 month fixed term) Homes4u has carried out 10 group viewings of the property, the frequency of these are ramping up and currently we are having one or two viewings a week.

Our contract states the following:

“15) When this contract ends
1. You agree to allow us to show future tenants around the Property in the last 28 days of the tenancy, except where the Property in occupied by students, in which case we will conduct viewings starting from the first day of November and continuing until a new tenancy is secured on the Property. We will give you 24 hours’ notice if we want to do this.”

It should be noted that one of the three tenants is a student, myself and the third tenant are working professionals. No part of the contract states that this is a student let, nor were we informed so by Homes4U at any point. Also as stated we are in a joint agreement, not separate agreements as you’d expect in a shared student let.

Up until now we have not expressed a wish to vacate the property next September, it was my understanding upon entering the agreement that after the fixed term ended we would then enter into a rolling periodic agreement.We feel that we are not being allowed ‘Peaceful Enjoyment of the Property’ and at times the behaviour of Homes’4U is bordering on harassment.

Upon challenging Homes4U they stated that is a student let and there is nothing we can do about it. We then stated that we may be interested in renewing the fixed term next year but they then asked for a sum in excess of £300 to secure this. Of course I am not paying and committing to this 7 months before my current agreement ends.
Our agreement also states that we are entitled to 24 hours’ notice, on three occasions now, we have been given significantly less than this. We refused these viewings on that basis (but all the others were allowed). After challenging this they now consistently give us 25 hours’ notice.

On the last viewing I has on a nightshift the previous night and again with 25 hours’ notice they sent a text telling us another viewing had been arranged, I immediately called to say it was inconvenient and I’d be in bed but they refused saying they’d let themselves in and that I was being unreasonable, citing that I already cancelled 3 other viewings; Bearing in mind they had not given us sufficient notice.
There has also been one occasion where we were not present during a viewing, Homes4U let themselves in and failed to lock the front door when leaving, and of course they denied this.

We have also been pushing hard for the repairs to be carried out and reported them to the local council. Since then we have had several visits a week from contractors ‘looking’ at issues with no authorisation or work order to carry out proper repairs. Jointly we have now taken around 2 weeks off work waiting on contractors, around half this time they have failed to show up. As a side note Homes4U passed my contact detailed to several contractors without my permission, for a time I was getting several call a day requesting access to the property when I was at work.

I am now at the stage where I feel having strangers wander round my bedroom without me being present twice a week is completely unacceptable. We have tried to resolve this with Homes4U for several weeks now but they have no interest in even entertaining the conversation. We are now looking to exit the agreement on the basis that Homes4U have breached the contract not only on the viewing issues but also the repairs etc. We submitted a notice to quit last week on those grounds but Homes4U replied stating that there is no clause in the contract that allowed us to vacate before the end of the fixed term.

Any advice on dealing with this situation would be much appreciated.

John

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Administrator

Hi John

As a first step have you tried the Homes4U complaints procedure? They are also a member of the Property Ombudsman I see so you could you also investigate the PO complaints process, which can result in compensation for inconvenience, among other things. Basis for complaint would be the lack disturbance, lack of repairs etc. Even if you don’t want to stay it might be worth kicking these off.

I personally find it rather strange that they’re able to do viewings on an ongoing basis from the third month after you move in. I’m not sure why this would be necessary and it seems like it would be a breach of your right to quiet enjoyment, even when the notice is given. I’m not a lawyer but you could consider challenging that term as unfair – which would make it unenforceable. If the term was unenforceable perhaps that coud give you a strong case for breach of tenancy as they would have been showing people around without the right to do it. Unfair would be a term that “causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.” It would be a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading – more info here

Of course all that is time consuming. In the meantime, if you move out at the end of the notice you’ve given the consequences could be a) that they try to hold on to your deposits b) they take you to court for the owed rent.

So, a) is your deposit protected with a deposit protection scheme? If not then you could take the landlord to court as protecting the deposit is a legal requirement.

and b) you need to collect as much evidence as possible with respect to their failings – correspondence about repairs not done, notice not given before visits etc. You might also want to take some legal advice from either the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a law centre.

Finally, the gas safety certificate – this is a legal requirement and the landlord could be criminally prosecuted and fined because this hasn’t been done. Why not contact the landlord direct, let them know what’s going on and say if they release you from the tenancy you won’t report them to the Health & Safety Executive? This document from the HSE states landlords can be criminally prosecuted and fined up to £20,000 – I very much doubt the landlord would want to go to prison and/or pay that fine because the agents haven’t done their job. That is what I personally would do but I’m not a lawyer and I don’t speak for TTV when I say that.

So, a lot there but hopefully it’s helpful. There are service providers on this site who might be able to chip in with advice too.

Alex

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