THE DIRECTOR’S FRIEND BLOG – Breaches of Directors’ duties for health and safety offences can be costly!

Directors Desk

The Director’s Friend

Breaches of Directors’ duties for health and safety offences can be costly!

 This is the next in the series of blogs for the Director’s Friend Blog.

 Introduction:

One area of law that impacts upon the duties of directors that appears overlooked is that of the personal liability and potential loss of liberty suffered by directors of companies in breach of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (the “Act”).

The national regulator for work place health and safety is the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”). Investigations and prosecutions of individuals for safety related breaches are increasing.  The fines imposed upon companies and individuals can be expensive.

Who can be prosecuted?

A wide range of entities and individuals can be prosecuted to include limited companies, individuals and directors or senior managers. Section 37 of the Act states:

“Offences by Bodies Corporate

(1) here an offence under any relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director (emphasis added), manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who is purporting to act in such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly”

Case Summary of a prosecution by the HSE:

In a recent press release the HSE confirmed that a Rochdale based car repair company and its director were fined after failing to comply with Improvement Notices (“IN”) issued by the HSE.

Rochdale MOT Centre Limited (the “Company”) and its director a Nazar Hussain (the “Director”) failed to comply with three INs.  The INs required the thorough examination of three two-post vehicle lifts by specified dates in the IN.  These offences were considered by Manchester Magistrates Court on 10 June 2016.            

Section 33(1)(g) of the Act makes it an offence for a person:

…to contravene any requirement or prohibition imposed by an improvement notice or a prohibition notice…

The Company and the Director of the Company pleaded guilty to breaching this section of the Act. They were ordered to pay fines of £1,500.00 and £3,000.00 respectively. In addition, both defendants were ordered to pay the full prosecution costs in the sum of £15,609.14.

Comment by the HSE Inspector:

The HSE Inspector, Sarah Taylor said that:

This case highlights the impact of HSE’s work, ensuring duty holders are held to account for their failings and taking the appropriate action to ensure workers are safe.

 All workers have the right to return home from work safe and healthy, but the Company and Director (emphasis added) in this case placed employees at risk of harm by failing to address concerns raised by HSE Inspectors.

A Director Disqualification?

The Magistrates Court would likely have had a jurisdiction under Section 2 of the Company Director Disqualification Act 1986 to disqualify the Director upon conviction of the offence under the Act which may have resulted in a maximum period of director disqualification of up to 5 years.

It would appear fortunate for the Director that he was not also disqualified as a company director and therefore possibly barred from continuing to trade his business. Although there are other options available.

Comment:

It can be seen that the duties of directors can extend in to areas that directors of companies wouldn’t necessarily consider such as health and safety law at issue here. The Director’s Friend says that the well-advised director would be wise to consider their duties and obligations under the Act bearing in mind the potential personal liability and possible director disqualification action that can arise following a prosecution and conviction of that individual director personally.

A final thought:

Sometimes directors may have insurance policies that will likely cover defence legal costs for these kinds of actions. However, the Director’s Friend says that any fine imposed upon a company following a conviction certainly will not be.  As a general principle, it is against public policy to be able to insure against a criminal act.  Similarly, where a Court orders the defendant to pay the prosecution’s reasonable costs in bringing a case, these costs are rarely covered by business insurance and may have to be funded by the business/individual themselves.

So, it is even the case that if you have protected yourself by way of taking out an insurance policy that is not a panacea to pay off all or any liability that the company or you as a director may face under the Act.

What to do now:

If you are faced with:

  • Potential personal liability in your capacity as a director under the Act;
  • Director disqualification; and / or
  • All other forms of personal liability in your capacity as a director

then talk to me today on +44(0) 01992 558411.

 That is in order to protect your position without delay. The earlier that you speak with me the more than a can likely help.

I am a Hertfordshire/London based solicitor and a full member of both The Insolvency Lawyer’s Association and The Association of Business Recovery Professionals.

Until the next time …

THE DIRECTOR’S FRIEND

 

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Testimonial for the Wills and Probate team

“Finally may I thank you and your colleague Donna for the efficient and professional way you have dealt with my requirements. It’s not the easiest process to go through and you have reduced any stress that would normally come with this to zero. So thank you.”

B. Longley

01/12/2017

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Stamp Duty relief for First time Buyers

Piggy Bank Budget savingsThe budget is out, with £15.3 billion new financial support for house building over the next five years and with the Government setting aside £1.2 billion to buy land and £2.7 billion for related infrastructure.  The Government announced plans to create five new so-called ‘garden’ towns, and there was a headline-grabbing cut in stamp duty for first time buyers.

Stamp duty is currently paid on property purchases over £125,000, with a ‘slice’ tax where buyers pay at the relevant rate for each band, rather than a flat rate across the whole amount.  With immediate effect, stamp duty is abolished for first-time buyers on properties worth up to £300,000, or on the first £300,000 of a property worth up to £500,000.

Property law expert and Solicitor Johanna Withams based in our Bishop’s Stortford office said: “The change in stamp duty has caught most of the attention.  It’s certainly a move that will be welcomed by first time buyers, but does add yet more complexity to the application of this particular tax, where we already have different rates for second home owners and landlords.

“Buyers need to read the small print before rushing out to make an offer, as there are clear distinctions on who is eligible. It will not apply if any property has been owned at any previous time, whether here or anywhere else in the world, and it must be the only or main home for the buyer.  In a joint purchase, everyone would need to qualify as a first-time buyer.  Buyers will need to check out the detail with their solicitor, and the benefit must be claimed when the Stamp Duty Land Tax return is made to HMRC during the purchase process.”

If you have any questions, or wish to discuss your potential purchase through with us, please give us a call at any of our offices based in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertford and Enfield. 01279 715555, 01992 558411 or 0208 366 6411

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Reference:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/autumn-budget-2017-philip-hammonds-speech

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/autumn-budget-2017-documents

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Beware the Expiring Lease

Signing Document

Lease Extension

I have noticed a huge increase in enquiries for lease extensions as Mortgage companies are becoming increasingly nervous about lending on shorter leases.  The less years to run on your lease the more expensive the premium to extend. Delaying could end up costing you thousands of pounds more.

 

What are your options?

You can extend your lease on a voluntary basis with your landlord or alternatively if your Landlord is unwilling to agree to a lease extension you can make a claim under the Leasehold Reform Housing & Urban Development Act 1993 (“the statutory route”)

If your landlord is willing you will need to agree a price and the terms which could include  an increased ground rent or other terms for agreeing to extend the lease.

If you use the statutory route, 90 years will be added to the remaining term and ground rent will be reduced to zero.  However in order to use the statutory route you have to satisfy certain criteria, one of which is that you have been the registered proprietor of the property for at least two years.

It is important in both cases to obtain a lease extension valuation by an experienced Surveyor to make sure that you are not paying too much or you are agreeing to terms that may be detrimental and unattractive to a prospective buyer.

What else do I need to think about?

If you use the statutory method you are required to pay your landlord’s reasonable legal and valuation costs.  If you are agreeing a lease extension with your Landlord it is likely that they will still want their costs paid by you as part of the agreement.

If you use the statutory route and you are unable to reach an agreement with the Landlord you are able to apply to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a determination of the premium and also the Landlord costs if you think that these are unreasonable.

Need more information?

Please ring Rita Wright for further information or even a chat to discuss your options on 01992 558411 Rita.Wright@BreezeandWyles.co.uk

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The Director’s Friend and a winding up petition – a testimonial received:

 

Directors Desk

The Director’s Friend

 

This blog post features a testimonial from a director client whose company was faced with a winding up petition in a substantial sum presented by H M Revenue & Customs. The client was recommended to the Director’s Friend by their business adviser.

A winding up petition:

A winding up petition presented by a creditor asks the Court to order a company into compulsory liquidation. Part of the process pre order is that the winding up petition is advertised. The Director’s Friend says that this can be terminal for the company as its bank and the wider world becomes aware of the winding up petition. That usually means that the company bank account is frozen and suppliers cease trading with the company and/or support the winding up petition. Therefore, a winding up petition is very serious for a company.

Details of the The Director’s Friend and a winding up petition – a testimonial received::  

The client’s company was faced with a winding up petition for National Insurance Contributions, income tax PAYE, company tax, VAT as well as interest and surcharges.

The Director’s Friend was able to help:

 This is the testimonial for the advice of the Director’s Friend:

I instructed Richard Cole (the Director’s Friend) in respect of a winding up petition that had been presented against my company by H M Revenue & Customs. I was a director of that company. I was extremely concerned and worried by the winding up petition. I was referred to Richard Cole who was able to take instructions and the worry away from me.

 After negotiating with H M Revenue & Customs over a protracted period of time Richard Cole was able to negotiate to pay a lesser sum than was demanded by way of the winding up petition and importantly to me personally obtain time for payment from the sale of a property.

I was very happy and impressed with the service that Richard Cole as the Director’s Friend provided to me. Richard Cole certainly is the Director’s Friend! I would have no hesitation in recommending Richard Cole to you for insolvency / company / directors advice.

SH, Kent, United Kingdom’

The winding up petition was dismissed.

If you or someone you know is a director of a company that may be insolvent or is facing a winding up petition, contact the Directors Friend for help

As the Director’s Friend, I was very grateful to receive this testimonial. It demonstrates the approach that the Directors Friend takes with the experience and knowledge that the Director’s Friend can bring to bear for you in your corner.

My name is Richard Cole. I am an insolvency Solicitor who formerly worked at the Insolvency Service carrying out director disqualification investigations. I am now the Director’s Friend. Why not contact me to discuss on: +44(0) 1992 558 411. The earlier that you speak with me the more that I can likely help.

Until the next time…

The Director’s Friend

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THE DIRECTOR’S FRIEND BLOG – No ‘Wrongful Trading’ here

Directors Desk

The Director’s Friend

This is the next in the series of blogs for The Director’s Friend blog.

The case:

 This is a discussion about a recent case decided in the Chancery Division of the High Court – (1) Nicholas William Nicholson and (2) Stratford Edward Hamilton (As Joint Liquidators of Main Realisations Limited) and (1) Thomas Geoffrey Fielding and others a judgment by Deputy Registrar Prentis (it would appear unreported).

Summary

 In summary, prior to Mainland Car Deliveries Limited (In Liquidation) (the ‘Company’) being placed into Administration is was alleged by the subsequently appointed joint Liquidators of the Company that the three directors of the Company had caused the Company to wrongfully trade and that they were liable to personally contribute over £2.12M to the assets of the Company. The Deputy Registrar appeared to be less than impressed with the Liquidators evidence and dismissed the application.

Section 214 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (the ‘Act’)

In the Director’s Friend earlier blog this section of the Act was explained.

In summary, the issues that the Court considers includes:

  • Whether the directors of the Company should have known or ought to have concluded that from a date that there was no reasonable prospect that the Company would avoid entering into insolvent liquidation (i.e. not that the Company is insolvent);
  • The focus is on the individual director’s conduct;
  • The maximum loss that the Court can take into account is the loss to the Company (not to creditors) as a result of the liquidation being delayed (net deficiency);
  • How far there is a sufficient connection between the increase in net deficiency and the factors which made the directors decision that the Company should trade on wrongful; then
  • What would be a fair order as between the various Respondents.

The judgment

The Deputy Registrar went through the detail of the evidence in some detail to consider whether or not there was any wrongful trading (paragraphs 54 to 96 of the judgment).

At paragraph 97 the Deputy Registrar found:

The hallmark of the Company’s correspondence with HMRC is that of ongoing detailed consideration of its position, entirely consistent with the evidence of Mr Fielding and Mr Tait that the directors were constantly monitoring and discussing the situation. They were doing so backed by exemplary management accounts prepared by Mr Tait, and they were taking tough decisions: laying off staff, laying up trucks.

 98. All this was against a background of an uncertain financial world, oscillating fuel prices, and an industry entering a significant downturn of uncertain duration. The evidence is that the directors were doing their best to take account of those, and they cannot be criticised for not predicting their full effect.

At paragraph 105 the Deputy Registrar was mindful of the fact that HMRC (a large creditor) ‘… was willing even in early 2009, after multiple failures of the Company to meet its promises, to enter into a further time to pay agreement.

The Deputy Registrar’s observations

The Deputy Registrar did not appear impressed that a deficiency account had not been prepared by the joint Liquidators (per paragraph 112) nor was an explanation provided as to why not.

In addition, he observed at paragraph 112:

I am left without any real clue as to what losses would have been incurred anyway consequent on an earlier liquidation.

The Deputy Registrar was also less than impressed (at paragraph 113):

Next, it seems to me that to rely now without qualification on the statement of affairs in the administration, prepared more than 7 years ago, is utterly inappropriate. Quantum is not an assessment of a notional figure. It is in this context assessment of the loss to the Company caused by ongoing trading.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the application was dismissed.

The Director’s Friend comments

This is another application for wrongful trading that has failed due to a lack of the required evidence being put forward by the Liquidators. The Court did not appear impressed in this case with that lack.

The Director’s Friend says that from the perspective of the directors it would appear fortunate that there was enough contemporaneous evidence in the Company’s correspondence with HMRC to explain the position. The directors were constantly monitoring and discussing the situation backed up by the exemplary management accounts prepared by one of the directors. The situation that the Company found itself in was not found to be the fault of the directors.

Finally, there is no reference to possible consequent director disqualification for participation in wrongful trading, however, with this type of claim there is always a risk of being subject to director disqualification as well. Please see the Director’s Friend earlier blog for more details.

What to do now

If you are faced with:

  • worrying insolvency issues with your company;
  • a claim against you for wrongful trading or perhaps misfeasance; and / or
  • director disqualification

then please talk to me today on +44 (0)1992 558411.  That is in order to protect your position without delay.  The earlier that you speak with me the more that I can likely help.

I am a Hertfordshire / London based solicitor and a full member both the Insolvency Lawyers Association and the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.

Until the next time…

THE DIRECTOR’S FRIEND

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Fixed fee divorce package at a cost of £750 plus VAT plus Court fee

Here at Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Ltd, we offer a fixed fee divorce package at a cost of £750 plus VAT plus Court fee

Our service enables you to be fully represented, by a qualified family specialist Solicitor, throughout your straightforward and undefended divorce for a one-off fixed fee payment.

Our experienced and dedicated family Solicitors will fully explain the divorce process to you and deal with any concerns or queries you may have. They understand that it can be a stressful, difficult time and they will take responsibility for the preparation of all relevant forms and will also deal with the Court on your behalf throughout the entire matter to conclusion.

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Ltd are also able to offer expert advice in respect of all issues surrounding divorce or a relationship break up, such as advice on financial settlements as well as matters relating to children. We are one of an elite few firms in Hertfordshire and North London to offer all of the alternatives to going to Court such as; Negotiation, Mediation, Collaborative Law and Family Law Arbitration.

Contact us at our head office on 01992 558 411 or email lisa.honey@breezeandwyles.co.uk

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THE DIRECTOR’S FRIEND – A director fails to validate his obligations to a company

Director's Desk

The Director’s Friend

This is the next in the series of blogs for the Director’s Friend.

 

The case:

This is a discussion about a recent case decided in the Chancery Division of the High Court – Officeserve Technologies Ltd (In Liquidation) v Anthony-Mike [2017] EWHC 1920 (Ch) by HHJ Paul Matthews.

Summary

In summary, prior to Officeserve Technologies Ltd (In Liquidation) (the ‘Company’) being placed into Compulsory Liquidation and importantly post the presentation of a winding up petition. The director asserted that the right of the Joint Liquidators to bring a Misfeasance claim against him had been compromised by a settlement agreement entered into between the Company and the director post the Petition being presented and prior to the liquidation in respect of what was expressed as the director’s employment by the Company.

Section 127 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (the ‘Act’)

This section of the Act renders void any ‘disposition’ of property made by a company between the presentation of a winding up petition and the winding up order.

Section 129(2) of the Act deems that the winding up commences as a matter of law at the time that the winding up petition is presented (to the Court).

This is to protect the creditors of a company and to ensure that the assets of that company are distributed fairly or ‘pari passu’.

Surprisingly

Perhaps surprisingly to those that practice insolvency was that at the time of the negotiation of the settlement agreement post the Petition being presented was that (per paragraph 52) there was no discussion between the two sides of the possible application of section 127 of the Act.

Findings

At paragraph 59 the judge found that:

The claims put forward in the present litigation against the respondent, however, arise out of the respondent’s holding of an office. I therefore conclude that on its true construction the settlement agreement does not in any event protect the respondent against claims of the kind which are being put forward now.

At paragraph 90:

‘The mischief against which the section (127) is directed is clear. The destruction, or at least the reduction in value, of a property right belonging to the company, causing an immediate and equivalent accrual in value to another person, is well within that mischief.’

At paragraph 98:

‘I consider that I am therefore free to hold that the release of contractual rights such as a debt by a creditor company in favour of the debtor constitutes a ‘disposition’ of the property of the company within the meaning of s 127.’

At paragraph 99:

‘In my judgment, it is sufficient that identifiable property by some act having legal consequences (so excluding mere effluxion of time) ceases to be in the ownership of the company, so that it is no longer available to the liquidator of the company for the statutory purposes, and the value accrues to some other person (so excluding consumption or waste), even though that other person cannot necessarily be said to become the owner of the same property.’

At paragraph 104:

In my judgment, if the settlement agreement on its true construction extended to the claims being made against the respondent in the present application, that agreement would be void pursuant to s 127, to the extent that it operated either to release the respondent from those claims or to create an enforceable promise not to sue on them.’

At paragraph 110:

  • ‘In my judgment, s 127 is not, and is not intended to be, a prescription for the behaviour of company directors in future.’
  • At paragraph 118:
  • I hold that, on its true construction, the settlement agreement does not release the respondent from his obligations to the company in his capacity as a director, but that, if it did, section 127 of the Insolvency Act 1986 would operate on the releases of such obligations and avoid them, and that I would not validate such releases under the discretion given to the court by section 127 itself.’

The Director’s Friend comments

It is clear therefore that the Court is not going to allow a compromise of the company’s claims against a director or former director post the presentation of a winding up petition and pre-liquidation to bind subsequently appointed liquidators from bring a claim against that person in misfeasance.

In order for the actions of the director to be retrospectively validated under section 127 of the Act then at the very least it should be shown by the director that matters have turned out well for creditors. That may also go some way to assist in defending a misfeasance claim.

The fact that it turned out well for creditors is also likely to assist with responding to any subsequent director disqualification / compensation investigation brought by the Insolvency Service.

WHAT TO DO NOW

If you are faced with:

  • worrying insolvency issues with your company;
  • a winding up petition (and have payments that need to be made);
  • a claim against you for misfeasance; and / or

then please talk to me today on +44 (0)1992 558411.  That is in order to protect your position without delay.  The earlier that you speak with me the more that I can likely help.

I am a Hertfordshire / London based solicitor and a full member both the Insolvency Lawyers Association and the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.

Until the next time…

THE DIRECTOR’S FRIEND

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Good practice vital for employers in managing tribunal claims

notarising_documentsIn July, the Supreme Court ruled that employment tribunal claim fees were unlawful, and now it’s been confirmed that an ex-employee has been granted an extension of time to pursue their out-of-date unfair dismissal claim, on the basis that the original action was dropped due to the fees.

In giving the go-ahead for an extension in the case of Dhami v Tesco Stores Ltd, the claimant could show they had lodged the original claim within the three-month time limit and the fees were an important reason for not proceeding.  It is likely that many more out-of-date claims will be put forward, and, as a result, employers may find themselves firefighting situations that were considered closed.

The Supreme Court ruling in July in R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor put an end to the requirement for a fee to be paid on submitting a claim, known as the issue fee, and another a few weeks before the hearing.  Introduced in 2013, the cost was more than £1,000 for complex claims, and the number of tribunal claims dropped by two-thirds as a result.

The public service union UNISON brought the case, arguing that the fees undermined the fundamental principle of access to justice for all, and that it was discriminatory as women generally earn less and so were likely to find it harder to pay. The Supreme Court agreed, saying it was unlawful under both domestic and EU law, and the fees were abolished with immediate effect, and  payments made under the scheme are to be refunded.

Commentators and employer groups were quick to predict a steep increase in claims back to previous levels, arguing that with no financial risk involved, employees will be more likely to make a claim, whether legitimate or bogus.

Said employment law expert, Sharon Matchwick of Hertford town solicitors Breeze & Wyles:  “For now, employers who focus on best practice and knowing their responsibilities will be better placed to manage any such claims.  This is the time to identify any potential claims that may be made, and having reviewed the circumstances take steps to avoid such things recurring.  Demonstrating a positive attitude to any Employment Tribunal will stand a business in good stead.”

She added: “It’s more important than ever to have a positive working environment, as well as complying with the many laws applying in the workplace. It’s good for business, as well as minimising the risk of claims.

“If you do find yourself facing a claim, then think about maximising mediation efforts, and using ACAS Early Conciliation as an opportunity to resolve things swiftly. Equally, if having investigated the claim and having tried to resolve the matter by conciliation, you believe that the employee is just trying it on because they have nothing to lose, it may be worth being bullish and going for costs, a deposit order or applying to strike out proceedings.”

If you want to know any more, feel free to contact our Business Services Department on 01992 558411

 

R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor

Dhami v Tesco Stores Ltd

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Giving rookie renters a helping hand

StudentFollowing the recent A level results, many first-time students will be looking for last-minute accommodation, if they aren’t heading to their first choice of university with an assured place in the halls of residence.

Parents can help guide the rookie tenants through the process, but may themselves not be aware of how things have changed since their uni days or first-time flat rental.

All too often both parents and students get focused on the emotional upheaval or logistics, rather than the important details of checking out the property and making sure the landlord is a safe bet.

Privately-owned student accommodation is likely to be an HMO – or house of multiple occupation – if it accommodates three or more students, which places extra obligations on the landlord. For example, an HMO will need to satisfy special requirements regarding fire and general safety, utility supplies and management of communal areas, which could include fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets on every floor. You can also ask to see landlord’s HMO licence. If a landlord doesn’t have a licence when they should, they can be prosecuted and you may be able to reclaim up to 12 months’ worth of rent paid during the time that the HMO was unlicensed.

Whether the property is classed as an HMO or not, all landlords should ensure that gas appliances are covered by an annual check, that all electrical installations are checked every five years by a qualified electrician and that any appliances like washing machines, kettles or toasters have a PAT certificate.

In privately-owned student accommodation, any agreement is likely to be based on an assured short hold tenancy. This can be for a fixed term such as the academic year, for 12 months, or periodic, which may run from month-to-month. Most lets include the summer holiday period these days, with either full or reduced rent due.

A written agreement should be provided by the landlord, and as a minimum this should be a statement of the main terms, including the date it will begin, the rent due, when and how it must be paid, if the rent can be changed and how long the agreement is for. Under some agreements the tenants may be jointly and severally liable for the rent. This means that, if one of the tenants does not pay their share, the landlord can sue any of the other tenants for the unpaid rent and may pursue the easiest option.  For example, in a house share with a mix of home and overseas students, the landlord may choose to pursue one UK resident for the whole sum, rather than any of the overseas students. Also, it’s likely that every student will have to be backed up by a guarantor such as a parent.

By law, any deposit must be held by the landlord in a registered deposit protection scheme and you should ask to see evidence of this being done within 30 days. The deposits may be held in the name of one or more designated tenants.

The property should be checked carefully against the inventory, and whether this is a comprehensive record of all contents and the general condition of each aspect of the accommodation or a simple list, it’s worth taking photographs of the condition of everything, including any damage or poor condition that you pick up as you go round the property, to ensure that you have a strong case for the full return of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Recently, a group of student tenants in Bristol took a letting agent to court and managed to overturn a deduction of £780 worth of charges which was being taken from their deposit to cover redecoration and cleaning. The students had photographic proof of the state of the accommodation when they took it on and could show it was cleaner when they left, as well as having evidence to demonstrate that works claimed for by the letting agent had not subsequently been done. Their attention to detail helped them secure a County Court judgement, and the return of the deposit.

Explained tenancy legal expert Rita Wright, of solicitors Breeze & Wyles Solicitors based in Hertford: “Thanks to the huge rise in demand for university places over recent years, many different types of investors and private landlords have entered the student accommodation sector. There’s been a big shift away from the scruffy digs that people used to experience at university, but there are still many older properties that may be more likely to pose problems in terms of repairs and general condition, and no sector is immune from difficult landlords.

“The important thing is to make sure young people have some guidance, and if necessary get the contract and terms checked out professionally. It’s likely to be the parent who is on the line as guarantor, so it’s worth taking time to be sure, and not just jumping to secure a last-minute property.”

Some tips from Rita include:

  • If you’re using a letting agent be sure of their procedures and where a holding or advance rental deposit is required, find out if it will be refunded if the application fails to complete, for example if you don’t pass a credit check
  • Ask to see the relevant licences, such as for a House in Multiple Occupation, and for any gas or electrical installations and appliances
  • If the letting agent or landlord says that any work will be undertaken as a condition of you taking on the tenancy, get it in writing before signing any agreement
  • Read the small print on the tenancy agreement and if anything doesn’t sound right then get it checked out, as once you’ve signed, you’re committed
  • Check the inventory – dispute anything that’s not accurate and take photographs when you move in
  • Make sure the deposit is being held in a Government-backed scheme.

If you have any questions about Tenancy agreements and Landlord Disputes, please contact our Landlord and Tenant department on 01992 558 411 and we will be happy to discuss this in greater detail with you.

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Reference:

Licensing of houses in multiple occupation in England: a guide for tenants

News coverage of student getting back their deposit after court action

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