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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 17205
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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In February 2017 my father-in-law purchased a 2/3 bedroom

Customer Question

In February 2017 my father-in-law purchased a 2/3 bedroom house for us to live in on the understanding that we would pay him £550 via bank transfer and £50 cash per calendar month to live in the house on the understanding that we would be responsible for repairs and maintenance of the property and that once my wife reached retirement age we would no longer need to pay rent and could remain in the property until my father-in-law passed away at which point the house would become ours.Approximately one year after moving into the house my wife and her father had what was a relatively minor disagreement/fall out over politics and the different views they shared with such politics, as a result my father-in-law insisted on increasing the rent to £550 via bank transfer and £100 cash per calendar month, although we felt this was rather unfair to increase our rent just because of a minor fall out we felt we had no choice but to pay the extra £50 cash.We continue paying this agreed rent for a further eight months at which point Covid came along and my father-in-law told us he no longer wanted the cash payment and we could reduce the rent to £550 per month via bank transfer.In recent weeks and upon our return from holiday my father-in-law has been in touch to tell us that he wanted to increase the rent to around £750-£800 per month (The reason he gave was because my wife didn’t call him whilst on holiday) and that we would still be responsible for repairs and maintenance of the property, this I did not agree with us after renting in this area for the last 5 to 7 years we thought that the rental price of the property we were in was worth a rental income of around £800 - £850 per month under a normal tenancy agreement which of course the landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance, we therefore agreed that we would pay £650 per calendar month through the bank and that we would still be responsible for repairs and maintenance, gas checks etc.As we had agreed on £650 per month we started paying this amount through the bank on the next rental due date.We have today received a solicitors letter from my father-in-law’s solicitor advising us that he will be increasing the rent to £875 per calendar month and that he is arranging for a gas check and electrical inspection there is no mention, there is no mention of the terms of this rental increase and whether he will be responsible for maintenance, repairs etc.We do not have a tenancy agreement with my father in-law other than a document that was drawn up on the advice of his solicitor at the time of moving in to the house (I have copied and pasted this below, unfortunately the only signed copy is in my father in-laws possession.I would like to know where we stand in this situation, if we would be right to request a formal tenancy agreement in order to give us the protection we feel we need as it seems every time we do something very minor that my father in-law disagrees with he punishes us by a rental increase and also whether we can request formally that he will be responsible for repair and maintenance.
JA: What steps have you taken so far? Have you prepared or filed any paperwork?
Customer: no
JA: Where is the house located?
Customer: East Devon, England
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No
Submitted: 7 days ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 7 days ago.

Welcome to Just Answer.

I will be happy to assist with your question today. I need some time to consider this and compose a response. There is NO need to wait online because you will get an email when I respond. Sometimes it will be minutes, sometimes longer.

I apologise for any unavoidable delay, but rest assured I have not forgotten your question.

it appears that he 'punishes' his daughter when he feels she has not been attentive enough - is this correct?

and if he doesnt want to give you a tenancy agreement - would you consider leaving and renting something he doesnt control?

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
that is correct, he is very controlling and indeed punishes his daughter in this way.
Yes we would consider leaving and renting elsewhere as the relationship between my wife and I with her father has irretrievably broken down.
Unfortunately in the last 3 months I’ve spent £2,400 completely redecorating and carpeting the house.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 7 days ago.

Let me deal with the repairs first.

You may have a claim in the stopper. There are 2 difference types:

1 Promissory Estoppell. This is a technical legal doctrine not used very often. It says that if anyone has been promised something during the lifetime of a person and they relied on that promise to their detriment then they are entitled to have whatever was promised.

The classic case is indeed the young man on the farm, who is told by the old man “don’t go off to seek your fortune son, but stick with me and work on the farm and I will leave it to you when I die,”.

So the young man doesn’t go off to seek his fortune and stays and works on the farm and it turns out that when the old man dies he leaves everything in his estate to the prize cow, Daisy or his new girlfriend, who is 30 years younger than he is.

In that case, the young man having given up a future (to his detriment) on the basis that one day (he was promised) the farm would be his and he believed it and relied on it, he can get a court order that the farm is transferred to him.

Such claims are not cheap or quick to bring in do require a large burden of proof of the promise and reliance to detriment.

2 Proprietary Estoppel is similar although it’s not reliance on a promise its reliance on an expectation that if you did a whole load of work or paid money or whatever, you would have a reasonable expectation that you would get something out of it.

So you would almost certainly have a claim impropriety estoppel to get your GBP2400 back if you have to move out because you spent that money on the basis that you were going to be there for the long term.

You now need to tell the solicitor that you do not accept the increased rent and you wish to have a “fair rent” fixed. That is fixed by the rent tribunal. It may be less, and it may be more, but the new rate will be applicable from the date you were given notice of the increase.

He may not like the confrontation and he may give you notice to quit but if he does, he has to give you at least six months notice under the Corona Virus Act. Indeed, you simply stop paying him rent he still has to give you six months notice and then chase you for the rent. The market rent would normally be the rent assuming that the landlord does all the repairs.

I am glad to help.

Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand.

I would be more than happy to clarify anything else for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.

I am happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

Please be aware that my answer is based strictly upon the information you have given me.

If you still need any points clarifying, I will be happy to reply because the thread does not close. In fact, it remains open indefinitely.

I am always happy to answer any further questions you have on any new thread in which case, please start your question with, “ For FES only”.

You don’t need to do it on this thread, just a new thread. You have me exclusively on this one.

Thank you.

Best wishes.

FES

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Thank you for your advice which was very thorough.
Would we be correct in assuming we could continue paying the £650 a month that we had verbally agreed on whilst we agree on the ‘new’ confirmed rent ?
Also regarding a tenancy agreement, would we be correct to in some way insist on one as I imagine we have little protection without one ?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 7 days ago.

I would always carry on paying the GBP650 a month that you have agreed. Better have an argument over a couple of hundreds than an argument over 800.

Yes, insist on a tenancy agreement.

The father-in-law has clearly taken legal advice because now he is sending you all the statutory stuff such as the energy performance certificate, and gas safety certificate. However he also has to send you the how to rent in England look at otherwise he still hasn’t complied with all his statutory duties. Don’t mention that to the solicitor, you can use that potentially to your advantage later if ever he tries to get you out of the property.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
Thank you again for your replies, one more quick question.
My father in law has arranged for a gas safety check and electrical inspection to be carried out next week which is the first one in 3 years.
Should I allow this to go ahead or not ? I wonder if allowing it will in some way be interpreted as accepting his new rent increase ?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 6 days ago.

I apologise for my typo earlier. Voice recognition software. I suggest they may have a claim in the stopper.

As you properly gathered it should be Estoppell.

Go ahead with the gas safety check for no other reason than if there is a problem and anyone gets injured, if you deny the cheque, you could be held liable.

In no way does it, in my opinion, indicate that you ask excepting the rent. However belt and braces say that you don’t accept the rent you are happy for the inspection to go ahead.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
Excellent, thank you for your help.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 6 days ago.

No problem at all. I am really glad to help. Come back to me at any time if anything else needs clarification. Kind regards

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
Thank you
Expert:  F E Smith replied 6 days ago.

It’s my pleasure.