Overcrowding due to breach in tenancy agreement. Rookie Landlord.
I have two questions.
1) On dealing with tenants in breach of contract over overcrowding, what are my chances of success.
2) On being forced into a HMO, how can I try to manage this situation at least and ensure that I'm not convicted of a crime that my tenants are committing.
So, some long context.
I'm currently renting out my property whilst on a overseas business opportunity and first time land-lord in London. Before my departure, through a letting-agent whom also took on managing of the property I found what was presented as a Romanian family of four adults whom are also the only registered occupants for the property.
I'll say that I made what is going to be an incredibly costly mistake and miss-read the break clause on a 3 years tenancy and have the break clause on 2 years.
Well, what happened was after 3 months, my neighbours whom I've "had" good relations with started contacting me with concerns. Apparently virtually since the start they've noticed 8-9 people always at the property.
I immediate asked for an inspection and the managing agent reported back that the property is in outstanding condition and the tenants said that it was just friends and family visiting.
The complaints continued and the neighbours getting increasingly frustrated at having a pub in their back-yard.
I sent out another site-inspection and of course the managing agent couldn't find anything. Even categorically swore that only the bedrooms were used and the rest was fine.
I sent out a notice regardless to make sure that the tenants were aware of the fact that 3+ months of friends/family visiting wasn't reasonable.
Frustrated the neighbours ultimately filed a complaint with Environmental Health and low and behold, on the first site visit the office found obvious evidence that all rooms including the living room and dining room were being used as bedrooms. (See, the tenants hid the bed, but they didn't think the officer would open the cupboard...)
A notice was sent by the agent citing a breach of contract and that a inspection will follow to ensure only the registered occupants remain. 6 weeks passed without a word until all of a sudden it all exploded again with neighbours emailing me increasingly aggressive emails to end the tenancy. (I can't, break clause...)
So, the follow-up inspection occurred and the Environmental Health office managed to go along with the visit again. See, I've lost faith in my managing agent.
Never the less, the evidence was there again that it appears that 8 people are staying at the property and of course now truly becomes a concern for unregistered HMO.
So, I've ultimately realized that through the incompetence of the managing agent and ultimately my own stupidity of believing that there is no evil in the world...
What's happening now?
I've contacted solicitors and prepared all the email threads, tenancy agreements, notices sent to the tenants and going to file for a Section-8 on grounds 12 (breach of tenancy) and 14 (anti-social behaviour).
But, I've read too often in my research of this stuff, that these cases are incredibly hard to win and that the tenants may actually be able to walk away from this.
Bare in mind, that I have 3 neighbours whom are willing to testify the case. Honestly, they just want the nightmare of being woken through the night by smoking / drinking outside along with the fact that people hang out on the sidewalk without shirts on for most the day.
I don't really know what else I could have done here though? I got a complaint, I sent the managing agent out, I got a Council complaint, I facilitated trying to help with the problem and now ultimately about to probably spend enough money to cost my own child his university fees.
I will never have a contract >1 year again, and I will have a 2month break clause either way at any point.
So, what can I expect now in the coming months?
On Council and HMO's
So, during this whole ordeal the single biggest thing that leapt out for me was that the Council doesn't actually seem to care whom is at fault here.
It seems that their stance is literally just that the property is overcrowded, you should get a licence.
I keep reading news articles about evil land-lords whom appear to be doing it on purpose to rake in extra cash.
My situation is that I want to return to this house and rented it to four people whilst I'm away.
I cannot make sense how the HMO regulations is written to guard tenants so well, that when it turns out that the tenants are actually breaking the law here (and actively hiding it, but getting caught out), that that just gets overlooked.
When I speak to these people over the phone, I almost get the sense that they find enjoyment out of the situation. I.e. Well, you dared to have some money at some point in your life and rent out a property, so suffer and shut up...
It seems like my tenants, by actually breaching their contract is putting me into a position where I might actually have to add a additional kitchen to the property. I don't know where... In one of the living rooms where someone "isn't" sleeping in?
I don't understand this particular law at all. I mean, if you rent your property out and it get's turned into a "greenhouse". Do the police arrest the land-lord, or the tenants for trading in narcotics?
So the situation here is that the property doesn't require a licence with the 4 people registered, yet they have snuck in people, try to hide it, then when caught out say that it's just friends / family visiting (it's going to be close to about 8+ months now...)
Please help me understand this.
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