Verbal Tenancy – When it goes wrong | The Tenants' Voice
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Verbal Tenancy - When it goes wrong

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466 views 1 replies latest reply: 09 June 2016

I moved in to my two bed flat in Watford, six years ago today. The property was owned by a friend and I moved in after a relationship had failed. There was never any deposit, formal tenancy agreement or paperwork in place, being good friends we trusted each other. The initial rent was set at £750.00 PCM.

18 months (2011) after moving in I entered bankruptcy due to a business failure. However, this did not affect the tenancy and I continued to reside there and pay the required rent. In my time at the property I have always paid the rent on time, sometimes a day or two early. I have never been in arrears

In April 2012 after a new boiler was fitted the rent was increased to £800.00 PCM. I have subsequently volunteered/paid additional rent increases in March 2014 and April 2015 of £50.00 bringing the monthly rent to £900.00 PCM. This has been without a request from the Landlord, it only seemed fair and reasonable. While slightly below the potential market value for the area I did not want to get caught with a sudden rent hike.

My Landlord is retiring and looking to relocate his family to Devon later this year, He advised me of this last November and confirmed that they are not sure whether they will retain or sell the flat in due course. I said that this is fine and all I ask is that I have reasonable notice either way.

In early March it was confirmed that they intend to keep the flat but would like to meet to discuss the ongoing situation and a rent increase. I confirmed that this would be fine, I was due to increase the rent at the end of the month by an additional £50.00 as I had done for the last few calendar years.

We met to discuss the property on 9th March. My Landlord confirmed that the rent would be increasing, based on current market conditions they would be looking to increase the rent to £1,050.00 PCM. I agreed that this would be acceptable to me. This would be a 16.7% increase. I thought I had a legal right to 60 days’ notice as the increase is above 10% having checked Google, it seems Google led me to some Californian law. I informed my Landlord that I would increase the rent the additional £50.00 to £950.00 for the interim 60-day period with the full payment of £1,050.00 starting at the end of May. We shook hands on this and the meeting ended. My Landlord did not issue any form of written notification on the agreement, we have always worked on a good basis of trust.

I paid the £950.00 rent on the due dates in March and April. On April 30th several days after I had paid the rent my Landlord contacted me by text message saying my rent was £100.00 short and I needed to transfer the balance. The £950.00 was just for the first month.

I responded pointing out that a sixty-day period was required and the increase to £1,050.00 would come in to effect after the 8th May. That was my understanding of our meeting and would be paying this at the end of May.

My Landlord response was that if I want to be official we could go through and agency and that would mean full market value etc. He was surprised at my response after all the support he has given me over the years. I said fine I just want to avoid further confusion at this point. I also asked to meet to discuss where there has been a misunderstanding. I would like to think that I had some rights, not have a sudden demand for additional money and be threatened with further increases. He refused to discuss this with me.

The Landlord and agents arrived on the 9th May to inspect the property. The agents confirmed that if the property was bought up to scratch. It is very hackneyed and needs new flooring – carpets are down to the backing and decoration is needed. The agency confirmed that the rent would be £1,200.00 PCM through them. Again I agreed to this further increase, the flat needs improving and I have no issues paying to live in a nice home. I have been here six years and don’t want the hassle of moving out. Even if I did move I will have to find a similar rent amount to stay in the area in a similar property. I also want to a level of security and not my Landlord’s whim.

The agency did not get in touch with me after that and I paid my rent increase to £1,050.00 yesterday as agreed. I then get a text from my Landlord informing me that the agents have emailed me, written to me and called me twice leaving voice messages. This most definitely hasn’t happened, it is all I need in the current fractious position with my Landlord him thinking I am being difficult. I asked for the name of the person dealing with this and called the agents. He was out and I left a message. One of his minions called me yesterday asking me to attend their office to start the paperwork. This will include me paying them £200.00 for the reference process.  I certainly intend to contest this fee with them, my reference is six years as an exemplary tenant. I also have a bankruptcy to my name so heaven knows what my credit sore will be!

Sadly, I fear I will have to swallow this along with the additional rent increase as I need somewhere for my son and I to live. I also don’t want to cause further issue with my Landlord and just want to move on, with a level of security that I have a home. It annoys that for six I have looked after the property, worked with the Landlord when worked has needed doing, often doing the work the agents will be doing.  For all of this I seem to have very little option other than to pay up, I do not want to have to up sticks and start all over again.

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Hi Graham- a common story of a laid back friendly arrangement becoming fractious when things become less personal. I always advise people- be thankful for the good times when you really needed the help.

You are right in advising that, legally, a Landlord must give 60 days notice to change terms or terminate however a Landlord can ask for a different time frame and then act as he sees fit according to your response (i.e. dont agree to the price he wants when he wants he may serve notice).

The agents charging £200 given your circumstances does sound strange and referencing certainy shouldnt be needed. However, this will be the agency’s SOP unless instructed otherwise by the agent.

Unfortunately it sounds like, if you want to stay put, you are just going to have to agree and take the hit!

Good Luck- Kristjan

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