I found out this bloke had moved into my flat even though I hadn’t agreed to him being there and I hadn’t received a penny from him. No rent upfront, no deposit, nada.
You might think this was careless of me, that somehow this chap sneaked in when I wasn’t looking, but he was invited to live there by the three other tenants.
One of their flatmates had moved out, but as they wanted to stay for another year, I’d agreed that they could find a new sharer, but I warned them they might struggle to find someone willing to replace their friend as I’d require the tenant to sign a new joint tenancy agreement with them.
I didn’t want to end up with a messy situation where I had three tenants on one contract and a fourth tenant on a separate agreement. I’ve done this in the past and it’s awkward to manage, plus I end up out of pocket.
When you have tenants on different contracts, no one takes overall responsibility for the property and any problems end up on the landlord’s shoulders.
For instance, if someone burns a hole in the worktop, but doesn’t own up to the accident, who does the landlord charge? If all the tenants are on a joint contract, they are jointly responsible. If they are on separate contracts, you would struggle to get anyone to pay.
Anyway, these tenants promised they’d find another friend to take the spare room, but instead they found this guy through an online advert.
I spoke to him over the phone, he said he was happy to sign a joint contract, but I told the other tenants not to let him move in until I had the paperwork in place. Naively they gave him the keys straight away, without asking for any rent upfront.
When I then presented him with the contract — surprise, surprise — he refused to sign it, saying he didn’t want to be locked into a long-term agreement with three strangers.
It wasn’t ideal, but as he’d already moved in, I said I was prepared to give him a separate agreement as long as he paid a deposit and the first month’s rent upfront.
He said he didn’t have the cash. From where I was standing, he was starting to look less like a tenant and more like a squatter. I asked him to move out. “Yeah, I will,” he said cockily, “but it won’t be any time soon.”
Worried that the longer he stayed, the harder it would be to get him out, I told him, in my sternest voice (last used to reprimand a toddler) that he had 15 minutes to leave.
I must have sounded pretty scary because within 10 minutes he was piling his stuff into a friend’s car and five minutes later he was gone.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you have to evict a bona fide tenant, this isn’t the way to go about it. You should do it properly by issuing a Section 8 notice, the wording of which changed on April 6, so if you’ve got a copy of an old one, that will no longer be valid. Further advice is available at gov.uk.
It’s not nice evicting a tenant, but sometimes it can’t be avoided, especially if they sneak in.
- Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock.