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Mina Counsel, Barrister
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I have a dispute between me and my letting agency - they are

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I have a dispute between me and my letting agency - they are refusing to give me my property back. I have a text explaining all the details.
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
I have a dispute with my lettings agency. Details are below:My property was being managed by letting agents . On 14 October 2020 we discovered that the property was being used as a cannabis factory. The police officers involved commented that the cannabis factory had been in place for 5 – 6 months.The letting agents (or their contractors) had inspected the property on 11 August 2020 to produce the EPC and electrical certificate (see attached). This falls within the timeline of 5-6 months and suggests a possibility of ASLM being aware of its illegal use.Tenancy detailsTo date, the letting agent has failed to produce any details relating to the tenant residing at the property at the time. I had continued to receive rent from the letting agency throughout this period.KeysUpon discovery of the cannabis factory, we agreed with the letting agency that they could carry out the repair works. For the following 2-3 weeks we repeatedly asked for keys to inspect the property. They continually evaded our requests and did not give us the keys.Termination of ‘agreement’As a result, on the afternoon of 3rd November 2020 we terminated any verbal agreement (or otherwise) which we had with them by phone. We were told by the letting agency to confirm the termination via email. We did send the email on the morning of 4th November 2020 and proceeded to change the locks at the property. The property was empty and not occupied this entire time.Later on in the day, we received an email from the letting agency stating that they had entered into a new tenancy agreement on 4th November 2020 and could not give our property back. We said that this not authorised etc. and did not accept any such tenancy.On the morning of 5 November 2020, police officers were called to the property as the letting agency had broken in. In summary, the letting agency builders or other employee had been instructed to enter the property by force (they broke into the property). We took possession of the property however the letting agency insisted on possession. Eventually, the new ‘tenant’ had arrived at the property and the letting agency were demanding entry. We of course did not want to allow this. However, the officers involved took advice from their sergeant who said that we had to give the letting agents 30 days’ notice to retrieve the property (this is legally incorrect) and as a result we had to allow the letting and the fake ‘tenant’ access to the property.‘Tenant’The ‘tenant’ (who showed up on 5 November 2020) claiming that he would be homeless and that his possessions would be arriving etc. is clearly not a genuine tenant. To date the letting agency have not given us any details of the tenancy agreement or ID for him despite repeated requests.Empty propertyFor the following few days we surveyed the property on a few occasions. On 6 November 2020 the property was empty with no evidence of any occupier or tenant (i.e. no furniture etc.). On 7 November 2020 the property was again inspected from the outside and appeared empty.On 8 November 2020 the letting agency's builder was carrying out works to the property. Again, no evidence of this ‘tenant’.
Newspaper articleWe have been informed by acquaintances that the letting have done this with other customers in the past. For example, one person we know let the agency manage his property however it was also used as a cannabis factory. He tried to get his property back however in the end just left the property in their management.ConclusionIt is clear from the events above that letting agency are involved in some form of possibly drug-related criminal operation. They were aware that the property was being used as a cannabis factory – it was impossible for them not to know given that their agents or contractors attended the property twice in August 2020. It is taken them weeks to produce any documents for the tenant at the property at the time.Furthermore, they were so desperate to keep an empty property that they arranged for somebody to show up in front of police officers on 5 November 2020 as a fake tenant. The only logical conclusion as to why a company would be desperate enough to retain possession of an empty property – in the current market where tenants are able to not pay their rent and cannot be evicted – is for criminal activity. Their behaviour has been suspicious and questionable throughout.I require advice onto what steps i should be taking with all the information and previous incidents in mind.
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
The letting agency are now demanding that if we take the management of the property back we will have to pay them 15% every month as we will be taking their tenant
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
we cannot evict the tenant as we have to give them 6months notice

Hello, welcome to Just Answer! My name is ***** ***** I am a London based practising barrister with over 15 years experience. I am happy to assist you today. I may need to ask you some questions in order to determine your legal position and I will provide you with an email advice on the same day. Thank you.

There will be an automatic generated phone call offer should you wish to speak to me directly for a fixed fee with no time limit.

(Please note this is NOT always an instant chat service therefore I may not be able to reply immediately. Rest assured that I am dealing with your query and will get back to you the same day. / within 24 hours if it's outside office hours.)

I am sorry to hear about the situation that you are in.

First of all, a tenancy agreement can be signed between the landlord and the tenant, I do not see how the agent can create a legal binding tenancy without your knowledge and your signature?

In relation to the 15% payment that they demand, 15% of what exactly? Do you have a copy of the agreement you have with the agency so I can take a look for you?

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
I have a copy I will send it to you shortly

Thank you :)

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
File attached (LP1ZP77)
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
This is the previous rent agreement - before the discovery of the house being used as a cannabis factory

Thank you. Please bear with me i will take a look now.

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
Thank you

Is this the only agreement? As it expired in September this year, am I right in thinking that you did not sign a new agreement?

I don't see how the letting agency could insist on possession on 5 November if there was no effective agreement in place?

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
There was no new agreement, they did not contact us to renew it, they kept paying rent (less then the agreement rate) until the cannabis factory was discovered
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
The letting agency claimed they had a tenancy agreement in front of police officers so we were instructed by the police to let them into the property and give them 30days notice
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
we as the landlord did not sign or agree to any new tenancy agreement, we thought the letting agency were doing repairs on the property (damage due to cannabis factory). We wanted to inspect this but they refused to give us the keys and continue to refuse

The 30 days notice is incorrect.

From the information you provided, the letting agency has no legal rights to sublet the property as the original fixed term agreement has already expired. Your agreement does not provide a provision to turn the "tenancy" into a rolling contract.

They are illegal occupants of your property and you have every legal rights to take back possession or they will be liable for trespassing.

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
Am i responsible for the "tenants" inside, or do i have to give them 6 months notice?
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
How do we go about taking back possession of the property?

Not at all! You have no agreement with the "tenant" in the house. They can't just let someone in, call that person a "tenant" and make it legal for them to live there. You gave them no permission to sublet the property so anything they signed is illegal.

Trespassing or Squatting in a residential premise is a criminal offence under s144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LAPOA) meaning that the police can get involved. This is now regarded as a criminal offence and can lead to a prison sentence of 6 months and/or a £5000 fine.

Alternatively, you can sue them for damages or obtain an injunction order to remove them.

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
I see, is it possible to just go to the property and change the locks for example even though there are "tenants" in there
Customer: replied 20 days ago.
regarding the letting agencies 15% fee - would I have to pay this?

Yes, you can change the lock, and if they want to come back to claim back their belongings (if any) I suggest you contact the police for assistance.

No. There is nothing in the agreement that says you have to pay them 15% fee. The agreement is already terminated in any event.

Can i clarify anything else for you?

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
What would I do about the letting agency at this point in time?

Once you got rid of the tenant, you can consider whether to sue the agency for damages. Although that require some legal considerations.

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
I see thank you

You are welcome.

Thank you for using Just Answer and for allowing me to assist you with your legal enquiry. Please do not hesitate to come back to me for further advice on this or any other legal matter. It will be my pleasure to be able to assist you again.

Mina Counsel and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
Hi Again
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
I have some further questions I’d like to ask you
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
A solicitor gave me the following information and I’d like your opinion on it.
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
Thank you for this. I have had a look through the documentation you have provided and I have some idea of what is going on here. As I suspected, the guaranteed rent agreement is in fact a tenancy between you / your mother and this ASLM. They in turn then have the right to sublet it to tenants. That is how they can guarantee payment of rent even when the tenant doesn’t pay. However in exchange for this you have very little control or say in the manner in which the property is let and/or managed.
Since the agreement is silent as to how it is to be ended, and since it is not an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (because a company cannot hold same) nor a tenancy within the context of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 (because it is not let to them as their place of business), they arguably don’t have any right to hold over and in any event the fixed term has come to a close after 12 months.
I therefore think there is an argument that we should be able to regain possession of the property from them. I think the way forward would be to write to them firstly saying that their tenancy agreement has expired and explaining why we are entitled to possession and then saying that if they will not give up vacant possession of the property we will issue proceedings in Court for same and seek costs from them. If there is a tenant in the property this does not prevent you from gaining possession, contrary to their belief. If the tenant is occupying it under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy then by operation of law they directly become your tenant if possession is granted against ASLM.
In respect of costs, I would estimate that to put together a pre-action letter to ASLM and enter into initial correspondence with him would be around 2 hours of my time at £210.00 + VAT per hour. Then thereafter, if we do need to issue proceedings I would estimate a further 4-5 hours work to get to the initial hearing of same, plus the Court fee of £355.00. We would also be seeking to recover our legal costs from him together with any damages we may be entitled to for, for instance, damage caused to the property and similar.
If you are okay with this please say as much and I’ll get a file open. I will need to see some form of photo ID and proof of address from your mother since she is the legal owner and also if you are going to be handling this on her behalf a signed authority from her will also prove necessary.
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
Could
You please assist me on whether this is correct?

Hi, I am a barrister and I am not in a position to provide you with my advice on someone else's opinion. All I can say is £210 +VAT per hour is excessive for this type of work from a solicitor because if this case goes to court, you will have to pay for a barrister to represent you anyway.

Customer: replied 15 days ago.
I see thank you

You are welcome. Just be aware of who you instruct make sure the legal fees are transparant. Take care.