Repossessing after 10 years

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As you will quickly realise, we are not experienced landlords! In 1997 my widowed mother became ill and we moved into her house to care for her, and rented out our own. Our current tenants moved in in Feb 97, and remain to date. (I realise that whether they moved in before or after the 25th might be significant, and I could find out if absolutely necessary - a fairly extensive rummage through the attic would be required).

We initially let the house through a local estate agent,I think on an assured shorthold tenancy, as I remember it having to be renewed. The estate agent was hopeless, however - keeping cheques for up to six weeks; sending cheques in an envelope with absolutely no paperwork, so we could not work out which period the cheque was for, which led to problems when we needed to complete a tax return, etc. - so we dispensed with his services.

Since then, things have just drifted I'm afraid, and we have not renewed any sort of tenancy for probably the last eight years at least. I'm not sure if this is an issue, or whether, having started with an assured shorthold tenancy, the tenants cannot be considered to have any other sort, as no other tenancy agreement has every been completed. The tenants have been very good, they have caused no trouble and have kept the house in good condition. However, we have been good to them, as well, we have undertaken any repairs they have requested, and also renewed carpet and kitchen flooring which, your site seems to indicate, we need not have done, as the house was let substantially unfurnished. More importantly, we have not increased the rent in 10 years. The initial rent was 400 per month (per four week period, I think), with the bulk paid by Housing Benefit and the rest by the tenant. However, the tenants have never paid their contribution, and the amount supplied by HB has gradually decreased, as the tenants' circumstances have changed (children finishing education, etc.) Currently we receive 324 per four week period. We have accepted this underpayment as we have been grateful to have long-term, non-problematic tenants.

However, my mother sadly died at the beginning of this month, and we now wish to sell our own house in order to buy my mother's. I have been left a third share, as I have two sisters, but as my mother's house will be worth far more than ours, we need to sell our own. The tenants have always been aware of our reason for renting and that we would need to sell the house after my mother's days, but I don't think any of us thought the arrangement would last 10 years.In view of how long the tenants have been in the house, we are prepared to give them a very reasonable period of notice - we thought about six months.

My query (at last!) however, is: given that the tenant's original tenancy agreement ran out eight or nine years ago (assuming they did indeed have an assured shorthold tenancy) will the length of time they have been in the house give them some additional rights, which will make it more difficult for us to take possession again? Is our reason for wanting them to move out (i.e. so we can buy another house) a valid reason to give them notice? We have not informed the tenants of my mother's death yet as we do not wish to discuss matters with them until we know where we stand legally. I can remain in my mother's house for the six month period of notice, as my sister's are happy for me to do so, but I cannot reasonably ask them to wait longer than that.

I look forward to your reply, and am happy to try to find out any other details you may require.

Many thanks,


01/05/2007 00:00

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