I say, bullshit. My family have today been made victim of the Revenge Eviction.
I have written before about our problems with this letting agent. And now they've just Evicted us. Why? Because I challenged their unprofessional, potentially unlawful and utterly incompetent service.
Our first issue with this company was the notice they gave us requesting access for an inspection. They posted a letter through our door stating that they wanted to come as follows:
As you can see, they wanted to come at some point between 1pm and 5pm on the 8th January 2015 and informed us that they would bring keys in case we weren't home.
The tenancy agreement appears to backs this up at clause 4.3.11...
Worthy of note here, and forming the essence of my objections, the landlord/agent cannot enter the property without your permission, unless it's for emergency repairs. It is the legal principle of quiet enjoyment. They're not allowed to do it, and certainly not for inspections. Having been given notice of an inspection, your permission is still required and simply saying that they're coming with their set of keys does not appear to be lawful in the slightest.
They can't assume that if you don't reply to the letter, you're consenting to them letting themselves in.
The fact that the tenancy contains a clause that says we AGREE is a clause which cannot be enforced. It is a term which seeks to deprive us of our fundamental legal rights, and under the Unfair Terms legislation, it is therefore deemed an Unfair Term.
But don't just take my word for it. Have a look at this...
Guidance on unfair terms in tenancy agreements
2.4 Regulation 5 (1) provides that a standard term is unfair 'if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer'.
Rights of entry to the property
18 Guidance on unfair terms in tenancy
3.32 We would object to a provision giving the landlord an excessive right to enter the rented property. Under any kind of lease or tenancy, a landlord is required by common law to allow his tenants 'exclusive possession' and 'quiet enjoyment' of the premises during the tenancy. In other words, tenants must be free from unwarranted intrusion by anyone, including the landlord. Landlords are unfairly disregarding that basic obligation if they reserve a right to enter the property without giving reasonable notice or getting the tenant's consent, except for good reason.
(Here's the link...)
So after challenging this, the landlord got annoyed and requested we go speak to them. Which I did on my own, and immediately got an ear full of guff about how they'd never received an email like mine in their whole 16 year career. It was taken very personally, actually, and led to something of a bollocking from the landlord.
Needless to say, the meeting didn't go very well. I ended up losing my patience and my temper, and they subsequently refused to have any more dealings with me and would only deal with my partner.
* * *
The next thing that caused a problem was this letter:
* * *
We knew at the six-month point that M*****s wanted to renew their credit-checks on us. We knew it, and although we didn‘t like it, we totally anticipated it. But this letter wasn't just saying that. It was saying that if we wanted to allow the tenancy to become a Statutory Periodic Tenancy, (which is an operation of law!) then not only did they want to charge us for renewing all the credit-checks, they also wanted to charge us £80 + VAT for their Rent Guarantee Insurance.
We managed to make them see a bit of sense. Any credit checks on myself and my partner were as much a waste of time as they were at the start of the tenancy, because we're both job-hunting and have NO credit rating. So they agreed to only credit check our guarantors, at the meagre cost of £80 + VAT each.
All well and good. But I also had to object to paying a further £80 + VAT per person for the Rent Guarantee Insurance, and this is why:
Firstly, any insurance policy our landlord chooses to take out is their own responsibility not ours. It was also never drawn to our attention at the start of the tenancy, so for that reason too, I wasn't prepared to pay it. Letting Agents now have to be UP FRONT about all fees at the start, and this had not been mentioned. It was being sprung on us unexpectedly.
But secondly was the fact that the purpose of Rent Guarantee Insurance is to GUARANTEE RENT which is also exactly what our two guarantors were doing.
Why in God's name should we have paid for credit checks on two guarantors, who were guaranteeing rent, only to have to pay another £200 for an insurance policy we hadn't taken out to guarantee the rent? It was complete nonsense.
A fucking scam.
So that also went down like a ton of dog-shit.
* * *
The final straw for them has been a dispute about a gas bill. When we signed the tenancy agreement, we were told that there's only one supply of gas coming into the building that we share with their office. The gas bill comes in on their business account, calculated at business rates. They said they pay 60% of the bill, and we pay 40%. At the time, we had no experience of how much gas the flat we rent would use, so we stupidly agreed. We didn't think to ask for a back-catalogue of previous gas bills so that we could assess the fairness of this split. It's not the sort of thing you think about when you've just signed the tenancy agreement and you're concerned about picking arguments already.
But in April (2015), the gas bill came in, and for the period of 8th January 2015 - 8th April, the bill was well over £1,200. Having worked out the 40% share, we were being told that they expected us to pay £518 for a three month period.
And that's just gas, by the way...nothing else. And only for central heating, too. We heated our water from the electricity. And although we had what was technically deemed a 6 bedroom property, the top floor of the building (with its three bedrooms) had no radiators and therefore no heating. So we may have agreed at the start of the tenancy to pay 40%, I now had reason to suspect that once again we were dealing with an Unfair Term
The tenancy agreement itself did not reflect the 60-40 split. No. This is what the tenancy agreement DID say:
There, at clause 4.1.2 it said that we must pay a "fair proportion of all charges".
£518, although 40% of the gas bill, was not a "fair proportion" and I doubt that many people would think it was. So I wrote and complained and in the end all it got me was our eviction notice.
Here's some key emails:
The gas bill as we agreed the split is 60% office, 40% the flat where you reside, the guidelines to utility bills are in your tenancy agreement 4.1.2 is the clause also we have agreed to this split as per your comment in the e mail we received on 27th April.
Bearing in mind what you said regarding your unexpected usage we cannot foresee the amount of gas you choose to use I m afraid and are sorry your spend has been higher than you anticipated.
We suggest a route forward as follows – please pay BY RETURN an immediate payment of what you feel is an acceptable percentage and we can get a surveyor / consultant in in the next few days to work out the ideal percentage split based on square footage and radiator numbers for the 2 areas but please bear in mind this may well go in our favour as we currently pay 60% of the total figure and as your rented flat is domestic and you are there 7 days a week the comparables or data set used to ascertain this split may turn out higher than 40% as we are an office open 5.5 days a week. I hope you can see we have tried to assist with this by taking a higher than expected percentage of the bill as mutually agreed at the outset.
Or you pay the full amount as requested please again by return
* * *
Clause 4.1.2 of the tenancy agreement obligates us to pay a “fair proportion” of the gas. You've drawn my attention to it in your email, and on a further examination it remains just as silent with regards to the agreed 60/40 split as it did when I first checked it.
...we raised our objection to the amount of £518.67 because we do not feel it is a “fair proportion“ under the written terms of the agreement, and the reason we feel that it is not fair is because we have never, in our long experience of renting, paid that much for gas in a three month period. Added to that is the fact that we moved from one of the coldest counties in England (North Yorkshire), so experience and common sense tells us that this amount is excessive.
You mention in your email how you cannot “foresee the amount of gas we choose to use“. I accept that the usage of gas cannot be foreseen, and I made no assertion that you could. But one of the points we made in our previous email was that our precise usage has neither been determined, nor is it actually even determinable under the current arrangements with your Eon account, so we simply don’t know how much gas we did use. The meter records usage for the whole building, on a business account in the name of 'M*****s'.
We do not think that your assessment of the proportion of usage is correct. You say that we are here seven days a week, whilst your office is open 5.5 days. And whilst there's some truth in that, it is not the sole factor to consider when determining who has used the most gas.
We only had our heating set to two times daily: 6.30am to 9am and 5pm to 9pm. There may have been colder days when we left it on longer. The office on the other hand, is required under Health and Safety Laws to maintain a steady temperature, determined no doubt by the nature of work, the levels of activity and the constant exposure to draught (such as the front door opening regularly). Add to that the fact that we have often heard you work late, and have seen for ourselves your boiler flue active on a very frequent basis, I would suggest that your heating has been used far more than ours. This is not a question of square footage or number of radiators, but rather the length of time, and the frequency with which the heating is used, measured in kilowatt-hours (in excess of 22,000 kilowatt-hours for three months is a considerable amount, and more in our opinion, than any domestic property would use in the same period).
I would not accept that your heating only came on between the office opening hours either, certainly not during the winter. To achieve a comfortable temperature on any given working day, the central heating would more likely have to be set to come on a few hours before the office even opened.
I'm afraid I also do not accept your argument that the surveyor's finding's may well go in your favour. It wasn't us who suggested you pay 60%, and being a business as you are, I am highly reluctant to believe that you would pay the larger proportion out of sheer generosity alone. It is not in the nature of a business to pay a larger percentage of the tenant's gas bill, as their obvious main aim is to make a profit.
We are more than happy to pay a “fair proportion” of this bill, but I am not happy to pay “by return” any amount that is randomly plucked out of thin-air. I think that we need to take our own advice on what amount would constitute a “fair proportion” especially in light of the fact that you haven’t addressed the concerns we raised about our intention to not use any more gas from April onwards.
What happens when the next bill comes in and we haven’t used any gas? 40% of a gas bill we haven’t benefited from is not a fair proportion in those circumstances either, and I am left once again, with no choice but to consider that the term of your tenancy agreement (even if verbal in this context) is a term which once again is Unfair under the relevant legislation to which I have previously drawn your attention.
You suggest having a surveyor attend to work out the ideal percentage. If you feel it will benefit in some way, then by all means go ahead. But I would be extremely reluctant to accept the word of your expert alone, and would of course be keen to have a second opinion on the matter by someone of our own choosing.
Furthermore, it seems to make far more sense to bypass all these difficulties by having a separate, domestic meter installed to monitor the usage of gas in the flat and to keep it separate from the usage in the office. Whilst I accept that this may be inconvenient, it surely serves to be far more logical.
I hope all of this is clear.
* * *
Should the route of a meter be taken then this will be a pre payment on card meter so that you pay as you go and so that we are not covering your utility usage.
As with any utility supplier we have the right to disconnect your supply upon non payment of the invoice should we feel the need and the supply can indeed be isolated
I offered for you to pay what you deem reasonable and you are clearly not taking this opportunity up from reading your e mail
Also note that your gas AND hot water usage is encompassed within this bill, we do not use hot water in the office so we do feel our percentage proportion is acceptable and in fact agreed to in writing by yourself.
* * *
We are now in a position to assert quite firmly that the 60/40 split is Unfair, as previously mentioned. It would seem logical to have a separate meter installed for us to pre-pay our gas on a key/card. That will prevent any further disputes arising. We have said ALL ALONG that we WILL pay a fair proportion, so cutting off the gas supply on the basis that we're refusing to pay you is false, so thank you for putting that in writing to us. Furthermore the tenancy doesn't empower you to do this so I believe that disconnection of the gas will not be lawful.
Our offer to you for what we believe is a fair proportion of the gas bill is £200. This amounts to a breakdown of roughly £15 per week for the period of 13 weeks covered by the bill, some of which encompasses a period where the warmer weather saw a tail-off on the heating usage. At no point had we ever used the gas for hot water. To us, this seems like a very fair amount to pay for a family of five.
We intend to have this paid to you by June 2nd, having looked at our finances.
We are also aware that we have to pay two amounts of £80 + VAT for you to conduct your credit-history check on our guarantors.
As we are effectively paying for a service of sorts, we would like to be provided with evidence that this credit check has been carried out, much like a consumer would expect a receipt.
* * *
We will accept the £200 no later than the 2nd June as a payment on account.
* * *
You say "payment on account"...but payment on account of what?
Are you saying that you're accepting £200 on account of the total amount which you think we owe you, being £518? Your response is so brief as to be extremely misleading.
It doesn't make any sense.
* * *
Can you please ask your partner to come into the office Wednesday this week so we can discuss this face to face.
* * *
No. She will not come in and discuss this. And inviting her only - excluding me - is unfair and unprofessional.
We have said several times that we want this in writing, mainly because you don't want me in the office and are excluding me from face-to-face discussions, as shown in this request. I remind you again that I am a signatory to the tenancy agreement too.
My questions and viewpoints have been explained quite carefully and thoroughly. I don't see what the problem is with confirming these decisions in writing. You wouldn't expect a tenant who lives several miles away to just pop into the office.
* * *
The reason we have not asked you is purely based on your behaviour in my office previously.
A Notice Requiring Possession will now be issued.
* * *
So, there you have it. A so-called professional who lacks any intelligent and reasonable ability to negotiate, and who cannot abide any reasonable challenge to their unlawful and incompetent business dealings.
And just on that point about the gas, here's an email I received from a housing expert in the council from whom I sought a 2nd opinion before making my offer of £200, and I would especially draw your attention to the kilowatt hours, which in this dispute I believe was a crucial detail:
From: ******** South Somerset District Council
Further to our conversation yesterday I can now provide an average example of annual gas consumption (heating & hot water only) for a 4-bedroom family house – 13,500kWh. The cost for this via British Gas on a domestic 1-year fixed term tariff is £590 per year. Given that you have been invoiced for 3 winter months I would advise you to offer M*****s say £200 for 3 months gas consumption in the flat to be a fair proportion of the gas bill, which gives you a little room for negotiation if necessary.
Make sure that you make the offer in writing and keep a record of all your correspondence with M*****s in case you need it in the future.
Please let me know if you need any further advice or assistance
* * *
You'll see here that the average ANNUAL kilowatt hours for gas in a domestic 4 bedroom property is far less than the quarterly kilowatt hours run up in the business account which we were expected to pay 40% of. And we may have agreed at the start. But after not using any gas since April, is it fair to pay 40% in three months time for gas we haven't even used?
I rest my case. So Fuck you, M*****s. Fuck you very much.