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New landlady problems - contract issues?

New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby SyntaxTerror » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:02 am

My 19 year old daughter recently decided to move out with her 3 year old daughter. There's currently five of us in a 3 bedroom council house. My wife suffers from stress-induced fits (similar to epilepsy but without the same cause) and they had been constantly arguing for some time, which didn't help.

Before Christmas she viewed a local property and liked it. The landlady lives in France. While she was thinking about it she received a couple of voicemails from the landlady on her phone. It put her off taking the property because of the landlady's tone. Then she played one of the messages back to me and I just said "no". I told her not to take it. In just that short message she sounded very demanding and someone with little patience. I then sent her an email stating that my daughter would not be taking the property. I had also checked the Rentsmart Wales database and couldn't find the address of the property on there (transpired that daughter had given me the wrong house number) so assumed that she was yet another cowboy - we've had some bad experiences with private landlords in the past. In reply, the landlady responded that she was registered with the RLA and Rentsmart, and had recently taken an RLA exam - and that she was prepared to provide evidence. She also informed me that the property had up-to date certificates for fire and smoke alarms. That made me sit up and take notice.

A few days later she rang me on my phone when I was on my way to taking my wife to the hospital after another of her funny turns. I asked her to ring me back, which she did half an hour later when I was in the hospital ward. I took the call and she seemed nice enough on the phone. So I changed my mind and advised my daughter to take the property. As daughter is only 19, she insisted that we become guarantors. We were confident that she's get housing benefit (daughter spent first two years of 3 year old's life as a student, so taking some time out at the moment) so agreed to it. However, throughout, it was the landlady who was driving this deal. She sounded desperate to get someone in as quickly as possible.

Things started to go wrong just before Christmas. She delayed sending the contract through. I informed her that we wouldn't agree to anything until we'd seen the contract. But she delayed sending that through by a couple of days. It then took a week to arrive from France, which took her aback a bit as she was expecting it to arrive within a couple of days - she just didn't take into account the sluggish nature of the postal service at that time of year. The contract stipulated that there was a £485 deposit and first month's rent in advance of £485. Before she'd even sent the contract I told her that it would be difficult to get both to her by the first of January. Nobody has money to spare around that time of year, right? :roll: Besides, I didn't know how long it would take for the housing benefit application to be completed. In the past, the council offices here were usually shut in the week between Christmas and New Year.

As soon as the contract was in our hands, I called the council to find out what we had to do to make an application for HB. I was told that it involved an application followed by a face-to-face interview. So we planned to go down the following day (I think it was Christmas Eve) but it was stormy. I decided that a day wouldn't matter as they probably wouldn't even start processing the application until New Year anyway. I had also discovered that, much to my surprise, the office was open for three days during Christmas week. Throughout this, however, the landlady was constantly on our back complaining and demanding that things get done. She seemed to think that the UK ran like clockwork over Christmas and New Year, despite being English herself. In the end I stopped taking calls from her.

Unfortunately, when I called the council during Christmas week, I discovered that the HB department was closed over Christmas.

We managed to get the deposit together and transferred it to her account a day or two before the first of January. However, I informed her that the first month's rent would take a little longer but that we'd get it to her as soon as we could. I then discovered, after another call to the council, that we actually had to make an application for HB online then go down to the office with the required paperwork/evidence. So we did this during the first week in January. Unfortunately there was a problem with the contract - the landlady hadn't filled in one box properly. So we had to go over to her agents, take a copy of the form for them to fill in, go back to pick it up the next day and take it back to the council. Which obviously caused further delay in daughter's HB application, plus additional cost to myself in fuel and time (I work from home as a software developer).

And while this was going on, the landlady was holding onto the keys. The contract was meant to start from 1st January. We were able to scrape together the £485 for the first month's rent by the 13th January. Only then did she release the keys.

The council asked daughter to inform them of when she actually moved into the property, which she did. As a result, they only paid her from the 13th January instead of the 1st, meaning that she has a 2 week shortfall in her HB. While she could cover the £120 pm she'd have to pay to cover the rent, there's no way that she could pay £350 - and we are currently maxed out after helping her pay the first month's rent and deposit. So, of course, the 1st February deadline was missed. We're now two weeks in and she still can't pay the rent for at least another week.

Throughout, the landlady has been attempting to blame us for the problems. She entered the contract with her eyes open. I kept her informed of potential issues throughout. However, she was desperate to get someone in to pay the mortgage on the property. Yesterday and this morning she sent my daughter some not very pleasant messages, again blaming us for delaying in putting in an application for HB, amongst other things. The last one I saw was one where SHE WAS SHOUTING!!! Just like that, throughout the message. Immediately after that I wanted to rip her head off, figuratively speaking, via email but have had to give myself some thinking time. My wife still wants to rip her head of.

It's been more than 10 years since I did my law degree and 14, I think, since I did Contract Law. So before I make a complete arse of myself by getting things wrong via email with her, I thought I'd better ask here ...

Did she breach the contract by not handing over the keys on the 1st of January, notwithstanding the fact that she was still waiting for her first month's rent at that time? Even if the delay in getting the rent to her on time, which she always knew was likely, was itself a breach of contract, my memory (which isn't always the best) is telling me that you cannot follow the other party's breach of contract with your own breach.

Further, when did the contract actually become valid? The 1st of January, as agreed by both parties, or the 13th when the rent was paid and the keys handed over?

The contract she used was the standard RLA contract.


My initial instincts about her weren't wrong. She's VERY pushy. This has since been confirmed by the former tenant and even by the handyman who has been at the house to rectify some issues (that is one thing I will say about her - she is on the ball when it comes to ensuring safety and security of her tenants, even though she hates spending money).
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Re: New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby diy » Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:39 am

sorry that's quite a long post. Did she take possession of the property on the date in the contract or after?
If the reason you didn't take possession was because you hadn't paid, then you need to read the contract to see which clause you breached, and what remedy your landlord is entitled to. You of course realise you are entirely liable for the tenancy as you guaranteed it.

If the landlord is just moaning then be polite and explain the situation. If she's after late payment fees then you might argue they don't apply prior to taking possession and that the contract should be changed to reflect the new date.
My suggestions are not legal advice
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Re: New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby SyntaxTerror » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:54 am

After. It was the 13th January. I read the contract prior to signing it. The only remedy it contained was the addition of interest for late payment, which I believe was set at 3%.

My plan is to simply ignore her. I've explained things to her more than once but have noticed that it all goes in one ear and out the other without touching anything in between. So 'explaining things to her' again would be futile. Instead of sending one email, she'll send multiples within minutes of each other. She's started to remind me of Donald Trump. I'm just relieved she doesn't have Twitter!
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Re: New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby diy » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:16 pm

I have to say, with the greatest respect, i'm struggling to see your side in this. You agree to pay rent by a certain day and due to factors beyond the control of your land lord are late. You should have amended the contract start date to be when you took possession. As it stands you are behind and she'd probably have a claim.
My suggestions are not legal advice
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Re: New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby blig » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:10 pm

The tenant could (and perhaps should) ask that the tenancy agreement is corrected to reflect the actual date of taking possession (13th January) in which case the guarantor would owe the landlady the equivalent of twelve days lost rent (as the landlady could not mitigate her loss, being unable to relet for the lost twelve days).

So my thinking on this is the guarantor (you) as opposed to daughter (tenant) is likely to be liable for the shortfall to the landlady. The landlady isn't at fault.

Appreciate that this is not what you wanted to hear.
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Re: New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby SyntaxTerror » Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:59 pm

It's fine. Thanks for the input. I suspected that the guarantor thing might be an issue. I just needed to be sure I wasn't making a prat of myself with any response I might give.

I sent her a curt email. I probably won't be getting a birthday card from her - but four more emails to my daughter today was a little too much. I hadn't checked my work emails since Friday and there were 12 waiting there from her. Actually, we can cover the rent payment this week but I'm going to make her wait until Friday.
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Re: New landlady problems - contract issues?

Postby Boo » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:07 pm

Check your local authority website and see whether your daughter can apply for a DHP ( discretionary housing payment) to cover the shortfall and get her up to date with her rent.
It's worth a shot, at least.
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