Tag Archive for: Disputes

Leaseholders: Right to Manage your Block

By Megan Bedwell, a Paralegal in our Commercial Litigation Team.

Many leaseholders are finding that their service charge demands are increasing but the level of service is not improved because of those additional charges.

Most leaseholders are aware they have a statutory right to collectively purchase their freehold but there is another and much cheaper route to consider if they wish to take control of the management of their block, without having to find the funds to buy the freehold.

Right to manage is available to leaseholders in a building which enables them to take over management responsibilities of the freeholder.

There are several qualifying factors which allows the leaseholders to exercise their right:

  1. The building must be made up of flats (houses don’t qualify).
  2. At least two-thirds of the flats in the building must be leasehold – with leases that were for more than 21 years when they were granted.
  3. At least 75% of the building must be residential – for example, if there’s a shop in the building, it can’t take up more than 25% of the total floor area.
  4. They must live somewhere else if there are less than 4 flats in the block – unless the block was purpose-built as flats, rather than converted from another type of building.
  5. There is no requirement (unlike collective enfranchisement) to hold no more than two leasehold properties so one person owning all the flats can still exercise their right to manage their block.
  6. Any number of owners can set up an RTM company – but at least half of the flats in the building must be members of the company before it can take over management.

The tenant who wishes to be part of the right to manage must be a long leaseholder (has a lease of 21 years or more) and the lease must not be a business tenancy. The leaseholder does not have to reside in the property, and they can hold more than two flats and still be involved, unlike the enfranchisement route.

There are many benefits to pursuing the right to manage route as opposed to enfranchisement.

Right to manage is a procedure which leaseholders can pursue without permission or authority from the Landlord or Management Company. If the requirements above are satisfied, then the right to manage can proceed.

If leaseholders are frustrated by their landlord’s actions of poor management or upkeep of the building, there is no requirement for the leaseholders to prove that this is the case and therefore no requirement to justify their application of a right to manage. This provides a substantial benefit for leaseholders in that they can proceed down the right to manage route without needing to gather evidence to support their decision. It provides ease for all leaseholders pursuing this route.

The right to manage is a cheap and cost-effective route in comparison to looking to acquire the freehold.

Legal costs will still be involved, but this will not involve the leaseholders covering the costs to purchase the freehold. The right to manage process is also quick, especially if it is not disputed with a counter-notice.

The leases do not need to be varied when the transfer of management takes place. The management responsibilities are acquired once the acquisition date is provided.

Another advantage has been shown in the recent case of Eastpoint Block A RTM Company Ltd v Otubaga [2023]. The Court of Appeal held that a right to manage has a right to enforce untransferred covenants ‘in the same manner’ as the landlord and they can commence an action for damages for breach of covenant or for an injunction restraining breach (in the county court) or a claim for section 168(4) determination (in the First Tier Tribunal). This allows the right to manage company the opportunity to recover losses where they have experienced a breach of a covenant, which provides members of the company with more confidence and reassurance in pursuing the process.

The overall process of right to manage is straightforward and can save you money in the long run. It provides you with control over the building, enabling decisions to be made mutually between parties who hold the same interests. It can help maintain a positive relationship with your neighbours and allows discussions to take place that are in each other’s best interests in establishing the best way forward on crucial management matters for the building.

If you would like to arrange a free initial consultation with a member of our litigation team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

 

Sarah Mansfield

Public right of way claims – what are they, and can they be prevented?

Public right of way claims

What are they, and can they be prevented?

As a landowner, you may have heard of the term ‘public right of way’ and wondered what it means. A public right of way is an area of land that is open to the public for passage, such as a path or roadway. In some cases, this right of way may be established through legal means, which can be complicated and frustrating for property owners.

In this article, we will discuss what public right-of-way claims are and how to prevent them.

What is a public right of way claim?
A public right of way claim is a legal process that allows the public to use a certain area of private land for passage. These claims can be made by government bodies or by individuals, and they are typically made when there is no existing public access to a particular area. Once a claim has been made, the landowner is required to allow public access to the claimed area.

How are public right of way claims made?
Public right of way claims can be established through various legal means, including:

Right of way through lengthy time period
When someone uses a portion of private land for a specific period of time without the owner’s permission, rights of way can occur. This is known as prescriptive easements. If this use is continuous and open, the user may be able to claim a right of way easement.

Voluntary
When a landowner voluntarily gives a portion of their land to the public for a specific use, such as a road or pavement, this is known as dedication. This dedication can be done through a written agreement or by simply allowing public use of the land for an extended period.

How to prevent public right of way claims
If you own land and want to prevent public right of way claims, there are several steps you can take. First, it is important to be aware of any existing rights of way or public access points on your property. This can be done by reviewing your property survey or consulting with a real estate solicitor.

If there are no existing public access points on your property, you can take steps to prevent claims from being established. One way to do this is to clearly mark the boundaries of your property with fences, signs, or other barriers. This can prevent people from entering your land and claiming a right of way.

Protecting your property
Public right of way claims can be a complicated and frustrating process for landowners. By understanding how these claims are established and taking steps to prevent them, you can protect your property rights and avoid potential legal disputes. If you have questions about public right of way claims or other property issues, it is always best to consult with a property solicitor for guidance.

If you have any concerns about public right of way claims and would like to arrange free half hour consultation with a member of our litigation team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk.

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

Ajith Prasad

It’s time to mediate

It’s time to mediate

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has recently confirmed that mediation will soon be compulsory for civil claims valued up to £10,000 (small claims track), with changes coming into effect during 2024. This will see mediation become more common in most small claims proceedings.

Compulsory mediation
Compulsory mediation will apply only to specified money claims, but it will eventually expand to all small claims i.e. claims up to £10,000.

In terms of how this will look in practice, a Claimant will bring proceedings in the usual way, however when a defence is filed and the case allocated to the small claims track, the parties will be advised by the court that they must now mediate.

The parties will complete a directions questionnaire (a document used by the Court to determine how to allocate the case) and the claim will move to the Small Claims Mediation Service where mediation appointments will be offered within 28 days.

Crucially, the mediation will be free, and the parties will have a separate 1-hour long telephone conversation with a mediator. If a settlement is agreed, a legally binding formal agreement will be recorded with the court. If agreement is not reached, the dispute will be heard by a judge in the usual way. The judge will be able to impose sanctions on parties that did not comply with mediation. The sanctions could include automatically ruling in one party’s favour or ordering that one party pay part or all the other sides legal costs.

Pros and Cons
There are a number of advantages of mediation including claims being settled more quickly and at less cost to the parties when compared to litigation. Also, compulsory mediation may remove the stigma of being the first party to propose it, which might encourage more parties to engage in mediation.

In terms of downsides, forcing parties to mediate where it is clear the parties will not reach an agreement may lead to time and resources being wasted.

While compulsory mediation will only apply to cases up to £10,000 for now, it is likely that the MoJ will increase the scope to higher value claims up to £25,000 (fast-track) and possibly those over £25,000 (multi-track).

While compulsory mediation may not be to everyone’s liking, it is ultimately a positive step by the MoJ and should help parties resolve disputes more effectively and alleviate pressure in the court system.

If you are considering filing or defending a civil claim and would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Litigation team simply click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

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

Isabella Martindale

Garden Alterations and Neighbour Disputes – Resolving Summer Conflicts

Garden Alterations and Neighbour Disputes – Resolving Summer Conflicts

With summer here, many residents take to their gardens to enjoy the warm weather and make alterations to enhance their outdoor spaces. However, these garden alterations can sometimes lead to disputes between neighbours, causing tension and impacting the enjoyment of the summer season.

From planting trees on boundary lines to a new fence or maybe even a new shed for your new gardening plans, conflicts between neighbours happen, but resolving these conflicts amicably and understanding the legal considerations surrounding garden alterations can help you maintain harmonious neighbourly relationships.

In this article, I will explore common garden alteration issues, offer guidance on resolving disagreements, and shed light on the legal aspects relevant to property owners.

Common Garden Alteration Issues
Garden alteration issues can arise due to a variety of factors, including changes to garden structures, planting of trees or hedges, installation of fencing, or construction of outbuildings. Concerns may include obstructed views, loss of privacy, noise disturbances, potential damage to property, or impact on natural light.

All of these occurrences can impact you or your neighbour’s enjoyment of their property, so it is important to approach these issues sensitively. Understanding the specific concerns and interests of all parties is crucial when attempting to find mutually agreeable solutions.

Open and Respectful Communication
Resolving neighbour disputes begins with open and respectful communication. Initiating a conversation with your neighbour to discuss concerns and explain your perspective can help alleviate tensions. Listening to their concerns and demonstrating empathy are equally important. A calm and respectful dialogue can often lead to compromises or mutually beneficial solutions that address both parties’ interests.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
If direct communication does not yield a resolution, seeking mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods can be effective. Mediation involves a neutral third party facilitating a discussion between the parties to find a mutually acceptable solution. This process encourages constructive dialogue and can help neighbours identify common ground and reach compromises. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as arbitration or expert determination, may also be considered, depending on the nature and complexity of the dispute.

Understanding Legal Considerations
Garden alterations must comply with local planning regulations and legal requirements. Familiarise yourself with the relevant laws, such as permitted development rights, which dictate the types and sizes of structures that can be built without planning permission. If planning permission is required, ensure that the necessary approvals are obtained to avoid potential legal issues. It is advisable to consult with a law firm specialising in property matters such as ourselves to ensure compliance and mitigate any risks.

Boundary Disputes and Encroachments
Garden alterations can sometimes lead to boundary disputes or encroachments. It is crucial to ascertain the exact boundaries of your property and engage a professional surveyor if necessary. Clear documentation, such as title deeds and land registry records, can provide clarity on boundary lines. If a dispute arises, seek legal advice to understand your rights and options for resolution, which may involve negotiation, mediation, or, in extreme cases, legal action.

Seeking Legal Advice
When neighbour disputes become challenging to resolve or involve complex legal issues, seeking advice from a law firm experienced in property disputes is highly recommended. Property lawyers can provide expert guidance, assess your legal position, and help explore potential solutions. They can also represent your interests in negotiations, mediation, or court proceedings if required, but by taking proactive steps to address disputes, property owners can maintain harmonious relationships with their neighbours and enjoy a peaceful and pleasant summer season.

If you have any concerns about garden alterations and neighbour disputes and would like to arrange free half hour consultation with a member of our litigation team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk.

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

Sarah Mansfield

Renters Reform Bill – Update

Renters Reform Bill – Update

The government introduced the Renters’ Reform Bill on 17 May 2023 to deliver on the it’s commitment to “bring in a better deal for renters”, creating “safer, fairer, and higher quality homes”.

The aim of the bill is to tackle some of the problems in rented housing, namely lack of homes, lack of security for tenants and failure to meet basic decency standards.

The Second Reading of the Renters Reform Bill – expected some weeks ago – will now not take place until the autumn. The House of Commons went on it Summer recess on July 20th 2023, but this Bill was not included in the business timetable released by the government. Although there has been no progress on the Bill being debated, government has released some information related to the proposed Private Rental Sector Ombudsman.

This Scheme is proposed to operate as a non-profit body and may also be utilised as a combined letting agent, tenant and landlord redress scheme. Many of the details are still being discussed. A round table discussion between a member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, and senior representatives from lettings agencies is proposed this Summer. There is currently a survey being conducted with letting agencies to prepare for this opportunity to discuss the terms of the Bill.

The main items in the Renters Reform Bill include:

  • Abolishing ‘no fault’ 2 months’ notice pursuant to section 21 Housing Act 1996 and assured shorthold tenancies, instead making all tenancies assured and periodic. Government states they hope this will provide more security for tenants and empower them to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of eviction. Concerns envisaged from these substantial legal amendments are that it will become more difficult for non-commercial landlords, such as landlords with one or two properties as their pension, to evict tenants and manage their assets. Many Landlords are turning to short term lets such as Air B&B as the return is better and the management costs and compliance requirements much lower. There is a risk this change will have a “knock-on” effect, compounded by increased tax burdens for landlords will reduce the amount of private rental property, rather than make it more freely available.
  • Government intends to introduce more comprehensive possession grounds to counter the effect of removing “no-fault” grounds for eviction, by including a ground enabling a landlord to sell their property or move in close family and to make it easier to repossess properties where tenants are at fault for rent arrears and anti-social behaviour. It must be noted these grounds are already partly included in current grounds, but these new grounds cannot be used if a tenant has been present for less than 6 months. By default this will create a fixed term even though the new tenancy will be periodic, if action cannot commence for six months for some grounds.
  • The Government highlights the right for a tenant to appeal excessively above-market rents purely designed to force them out, however, it is questionable whether this is a serious problem for many tenants. Landlords retain the right to increase rents to market value. The First-tier Tribunal will continue to be able to determine the actual market rent of a property if an application is made by a tenant or a landlord. Rents are increasing due to the increased costs of living with most landlords not charging “excessive” rents, simply market rents. This provision will assist a minority of tenants struggling with excessive rent increases but may not change the position of most tenants but will increase costs for landlords if faced with a number of rent review challenges.
  • Government plans to introduce a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman which they hope will be faster, cheaper, and less adversarial than the court system. It is unclear how this will be funded at this stage and what powers will be provided to the Ombudsman as Regulations for the Scheme are not yet being considered.

A proposal to create a Privately Rented Property Portal to assist landlords with understanding their legal obligations and compliance requirements; linked to local councils’ licensing schemes. This is to assist with targeting enforcement action, but that is already the aim of local licensing schemes. In reality the licensing schemes need proper funding so without that will this proposed scheme improve the position for tenants or landlords?

We now wait for Government to put this Bill before the House of Commons for the Second Reading and await feedback from ongoing discussions on the proposed changes.

If you are a landlord or tenant who would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Proerty Litigation team simple click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

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

Ajith Prasad

Your role as a Landlord – A quick guide

Your role as a Landlord – A quick guide

It is important as a landlord to know your rights and responsibilities. Generally, when managing residential property, your role involves maintenance and ensuring any repair work is completed, as the property cannot have any hazards or breach any health and safety laws. Along with this, there are deposit protections you must also follow.

This guide looks at the role of a residential landlord and the key obligations you will have, including your financial responsibilities and health and safety obligations.

Financial responsibilities
This section covers:

  1. Tax
  2. Deposits

1. Tax
As a landlord, you are required to pay tax on your earnings, including national insurance, if you run your rental properties as a business. Income tax must also be paid on your income, the money brought in through rent, but your day-to-day running expenses can be deducted before the tax bracket is decided.

2. Deposits
When a tenancy begins, you are more than likely going to collect a deposit. This money must then be placed in a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. This is to protect your tenants and ensure the money is returned if their tenancy agreement terms are met at the end of their tenancy. However, the TDP schemes also protect landlords as it means the deposit money is there if the agreement is not met and repairs need to be made, or missed rent payments need to be covered.

In England and Wales, the following schemes are available to you:

Health and Safety
This section covers:

  1. Health hazards
  2. Gas equipment
  3. Carbon monoxide detectors
  4. Fire Safety

1. Health hazards
Landlords owe a duty of care to their tenants, and this includes ensuring there are no health hazards to your tenants. The most serious hazards that you must deal with as soon as you are made aware of them include:

  • Mould on the wall or ceilings
  • Pest or vermin infestations
  • Dangerous or broken boiler
  • Leaking roof
  • Exposed wiring
  • Poor security caused by broken locks or doors

When you are made aware of the above issues, you must act fast to repair the property back to a safe living standard.

2. Gas equipment
As a landlord, it is your duty to ensure all gas appliances are safe and in working order. This is a legal responsibility and can be broken down into three steps, as outlined below.

  • Gas safety checks must be carried out annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Once this is done, you will receive an outline of all checks completed in your Landlord Gas Safety Record (LGSR).
  • As well as being kept for your own records, the LGSR should be made available to tenants within 28 days of the gas safety check. At the start of a new tenancy, the most recent LGSR should be provided.
  • Maintenance of all gas pipework, chimneys, appliances and flues is also your responsibility. These must all be kept in safe working order and typically require an annual check unless your Gas Safe engineer suggests otherwise.

When starting a new tenancy, it is also recommended to show the new tenants where to turn off the gas in the case of a gas emergency.

3. Carbon monoxide detectors
From October 2022 you must provide a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in every room where there are gas appliances, other than those used for cooking. These detectors must carry a British or European approval mark and should be checked the day a new tenancy begins and annually, particularly to ensure the batteries are still working.

4. Fire Safety
Similar to CO detectors, you must also ensure there are working fire alarms throughout the property. Fire safety regulations can change depending on which local authority area the property is in, so you should always check you are meeting the local regulations.

Generally, there must be a smoke alarm fitted on each storey of the property, and these must be checked regularly, along with always being checked at the start of a new tenancy. If the property you are providing is furnished, all furniture should be fire-safe, and there should be fire escape routes available.

If the property is a multiple occupation property (HMO), fire extinguishers also must be provided by the landlord.

If you are a landlord who would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Proerty Litigation team simple click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

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

Sarah Mansfield

Mould and maintenance in rented housing

Mould and maintenance in rented housing: Tragic case of must be wake-up call for landlords

A lesson must be learned from the recent tragic case of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died after his health was compromised by mould growing in the rented home where he lived.

Both private landlords and providers of social housing are being urged to go above and beyond when it comes to maintenance and repair responsibilities.

At the inquest into the toddler’s death, the coroner heard that Rochdale Boroughwide Housing had taken no action, despite Awaab’s father reporting the problem repeatedly over a period of years. Ruling that the child’s death was caused by exposure to mould in the one-bedroom housing association flat he shared with his parents in Greater Manchester, the coroner said the incident should be a “defining moment” for the UK’s housing sector.

Those sentiments have been echoed by Government housing minister Michael Gove who has said: “Every single person in this country, irrespective of where they’re from, what they do or how much they earn, deserves to live in a home that is decent, safe and secure.”

Landlords have a legal responsibility and duty of care to make sure a property is free of damp and mould, among other things, under section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 but interior condensation and damp in the property may arise through the actions of the tenant, such as lack of ventilation and may not arise from a direct breach of s11 or the express repairing obligations but nonetheless makes the property unfit for human habitation.

Rather than look to shift the blame, landlords are being encouraged to work with tenants to resolve problems. If no structural problem can be identified, such as rising damp or leaking roofs and gutters, damp and mould might arise from lack of heating or from condensation caused by drying clothes inside, showers with little ventilation, or by not opening windows on a regular basis. This lack of clear structural defect should not prevent Landlords from taking steps to help and educate their tenants and continue to monitor the property; as they are likely to be able to offer assistance to tenants to reduce mould build up and to identify a structural defect that exists, but is not yet apparent.

The problem is likely to be high on the agenda in the coming winter with tenants expected to turn down, or even turn off, their heating in the face of record fuel prices, which is likely to create or exacerbate problems with damp. Landlords could take action now to help tenants understand how best to manage this – the solution could be as simple as fitting an extractor, or making sure ventilation isn’t blocked.

Working together in this way may help avoid bigger problems in future.

Some tips have been suggested by Citizens Advice Bureau and the housing charity Shelter to help tenants manage condensation and ventilation. These include:

  • Avoid using portable gas or paraffin heaters which can generate a lot of moisture into the air
  • Ensure tumble dryers have extractor outlets and are vented outside, unless they are self-condensing
  • Dry wet clothes outside rather than on heaters or radiators, or use the bathroom where the door can be closed and extractor switched on.
  • Do not block ventilation such as air vents, or disable extractor fans, as an attempt to warm up the property, as this will see moisture build up and make the place colder in the long run.
  • Everyday activities like cooking, showering and drying clothes create moisture in your home which can lead to condensation.
  • Cover pans when cooking and close internal doors when you cook or shower
  • Make sure there is a gap between furniture and external walls for air to circulate and open bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes when you get up as moisture builds up overnight.
  • Try to keep a low background temperature of at least 15 degrees in all rooms, rather than extremes of heat and cold which may happen when heating is turned off for most of the day and boosted for a short time in the evening.

There is also a regulatory impetus for housing associations and local authority landlords to act. Following the Rochdale case, the Regulator of Social Housing has written to registered providers of social housing, highlighting their responsibility to take action to protect tenants from hazardous damp and mould.

The regulator has said that all social landlords will need to provide evidence to show they have systems in place to deal with damp and mould issues and manage health risks to their tenants.

Further regulation is on the horizon, with the Social Housing Regulation Bill which is passing through Parliament. But whether you are a private landlord or managing social housing, this regrettable case should certainly be a wake-up call to ensure you do right by your tenants before it’s too late.

If you are a landlord or tenant facing mould or maintenance issues in rented housing, and would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Proerty Litigation team simple click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

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

Sarah Mansfield

Is this crunch time for residential landlords?

Proposed new legislation is latest in a fast-changing landscape for private rented sector

Is this crunch time for residential landlords?
Residential landlords already struggling to keep up with legislation and guidelines, including the tenant protections extended by the government during the pandemic, may feel they have been experiencing constant waves of change so far – from fast-diminishing returns following cuts in tax relief through to the complexities of right to rent checks. But now, gathering power out to sea, lies a potential tsunami.

And while it includes a raft of legislation designed to curb poor practices and unscrupulous landlords, it will, nonetheless, impact the whole sector, with those ‘accidental’ landlords and small-scale property owners likely to be most affected, potentially leading to a significant sell off in the sector.

The Government’s long-awaited White Paper – A fairer private rented sector – finally arrived in June. It sets out structural changes, the biggest for renters in a generation according to the press statement from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The aim is to improve conditions and rights for those in all housing. As well as changes in the law for privately rented property through the Renters Reform Bill, the Social Housing Regulation Bill will make all registered social housing providers subject to a tough new regulatory regime, with rigorous inspections and stronger powers to tackle failings by social housing landlords.

Re-shaping the renting landscape
For private landlords, the headline takeaway is that the sector will be subject to the Decent Homes Standard for the first time, giving all renters the legal right to a safe and warm home, and previously, Government had indicated it would ban Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.

This latter change is one of the most fiercely debated for landlords. The ambition of the legislation, abolishing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and re-framing the grounds on which a landlord can regain possession under section 8 of the Act, is intended to protect tenants from unscrupulous or unpredictable landlords.

Alongside, the Government had planned to introduce a simpler tenancy structure which it says will be more secure for tenants, yet more flexible for both parties, to re-balance the effect of removing section 21 no fault claims for possession, there is no current evidence this will now take place. No further steps have been made regarding the abolishment of section 21 and there is no evidence it is high on the current Government’s agenda.

If implemented, there will be a shift from assured tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies onto a single system of periodic tenancies for all privately rented accommodation. The effect of this change will be that a tenancy will only end if the tenant chooses to do so, and gives two months’ notice to the landlord, or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession. This will have an impact on the private rented sector, particularly on those Landlords who own just one or two properties they rent out. They may find they simply cannot recover back their property as their reason for ending the tenancy does not fall within the provided grounds or any of the new proposed provisions.

As landlords will only be able to evict a tenant in reasonable circumstances, the Government is making changes which it says will strengthen the position for landlords with legitimate grounds for taking back their property. This includes making it easier for them to evict tenants who are wilfully not paying rent, or who are repeatedly engaging in anti-social behaviour, and with scope to end a tenancy when a property is intended to be sold, or for the landlord’s own use.

There are also plans to create a passport form of deposit, to overcome the need to raise second deposits when moving home. A topic which has also been the source of much discussion among landlords, who see problems in releasing deposits before they may have had full opportunity to check for tenant damages.

Also, rent increases will be restricted to once annually, with an easier route for tenants to challenge increases through the First Tier Tribunal, and rent review clauses abolished altogether.

A new Ombudsman service will be established to provide a faster, less adversarial dispute resolution service instead of going to court, and all private landlords will have to participate. Other mediation and alternative dispute resolution procedures will be introduced to enable landlords and tenants to work together to reduce the risk of issues escalating.

And a new Property Portal will give landlords, tenants, and local councils a one-stop route to demonstrate and check compliance and other information, the intention being that tenants can check on landlords before taking a property and for local councils to have the necessary data to tackle criminal landlords. There are also plans to integrate the existing functionality of the Database of Rogue Landlords into the planned Property Portal, to make these publicly visible.

It will become illegal for landlords or their agents to apply a blanket ban on renting to families with children or those receiving state benefits. In future, this may be extended to include other groups such as those leaving prison.

Landlords will have to demonstrate good reasons for refusing tenant requests to keep a pet in their property, although landlords will be able to require an insurance indemnity from the tenant to cover the cost of any potential damage by the pet.

Against this backdrop of increasing complexity and lower yields, many private landlords, particularly those who may have fallen into the position accidentally – following a career move or perhaps inheriting a property – may be considering whether to divest and move out of renting altogether, or to move into short term, holiday letting.

As ever, there are pros and cons, and it’s worth considering some of the other potential changes being considered by Government.

If you are a landlord or tenant who would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Proerty Litigation team simple click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

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

Sarah Mansfield

Garden predators such as Japanese knotweed invade the courts

Garden predators are taking root in the courts, as householders take action to fight off plant invaders that can be highly destructive and undermine property values.

One of the most common reasons for garden-related legal action is when Japanese knotweed has taken root. This highly invasive, aggressive and fast-growing plant can cause structural damage to building structures, with roots that can spread seven metres.

Even the smallest amount of root material is enough to allow new growth, meaning removal usually involves costly specialist waste disposal. Classified as hazardous waste, landowners can be fined up to £5,000 or sent to prison for two years if they allow contaminated soil or plant material from Japanese knotweed to spread in the wild.

Property values may be downgraded significantly where knotweed is present, and a landmark ruling in 2017 established that landowners are responsible if they do not prevent the plant from spreading from their land to adjoining properties. Here, a group of homeowners in South Wales took action against Network Rail after Japanese knotweed grew into their garden from adjoining railway sidings. In spite of there being no physical damage, the court ruled in their favour saying that the presence of Japanese knotweed was sufficient reason for compensation, as it had the potential to seriously affect the market value of a property. The judgement was later upheld by the Court of Appeal.

A further case in 2019 saw a £50,000 compensation pay-out being made after a surveyor failed to tell a buyer about knotweed at a £1.2 million flat.

And in one of the latest cases to reach the courts, the owners of a property in north west London are claiming £250,000 in compensation from their neighbours, saying that a failure to deal with knotweed has devalued their house, which would otherwise now be worth £1.67 million.

Typically, mortgage lenders have restricted their lending on properties that are affected and homeowners have found themselves having difficulty in selling, or finding the value of property significantly reduced.

But there may be a shift in attitude in future. For this year the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has issued new guidance for valuing property where knotweed is present. The RICS guidance for its surveyor members on how to assess the impact of any infestation suggests that previous parameters were overly strict and marks the end of the so-called “seven metre rule”. It also marks a shift in stance on managing any infestation, from permanent removal to achieve eradication towards management of the problem through herbicides.

While there may be a shift in future, until we see clear evidence of a greater acceptance of knotweed from surveyors and lenders, the message has to be to keep on top of any infestation, whether on your own property or in a neighbouring garden.

If it’s on your land, while there is no legal requirement to remove Japanese knotweed (unless it’s causing a nuisance to neighbours), inaction is likely to result in a bigger problem in future. Potential buyers will be concerned over the presence of knotweed so I you do not take active steps to remove/reduce the spread of the invasive plant then you are likely to struggle to sell your house in future.

Where you know it to be present on adjoining land, you should get a request on record for the neighbour or landowner to ensure it does not spread over the boundary. And once there is evidence of it crossing the boundary to your property, you may have grounds for a nuisance claim, and to ask for an eradication programme and guarantees from a specialist company, as well as seeking compensation.

Your home is usually your biggest asset, so it’s important to protect it – whether you’re planning on moving in the near future or not. Certainly, when a property is being sold, part of the conveyancing process includes a comprehensive questionnaire for the owner, which includes asking whether Japanese knotweed has ever been found on the property.

Why use us to support you with your Dispute?

Our team has more than 70 years’ experience of helping clients to resolve disputes and in as cost effective and stress-free manner as possible.

Our team are all experts in this area of law and specialise in helping, supporting and advising clients in finding solutions and resolving these kind of issues.

We understand the distress and disruption that disputes can create. We will work with you to resolve these issues and provide solutions which work for you.

What our clients have said…

“What a fantastic service provided by Cullimore Dutton. Sarah Mansfield who represented my difficult case delivered nothing but the very best. A strong no nonsense approach who got the job done. I highly recommend A++++++”
Cullimore Dutton Disputes client

If you have any concerns about Japanese knotweed and would like to arrange free half hour consultation with a member of our litigation team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk.

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

Isabella Martindale

Isabella Martindale​ promoted to the role of Paralegal within our Commercial Litigation team

We are delighted to announce that Isabella Martindale​ has been promoted to the role of Paralegal here at Cullimore Dutton and will take up the position with immediate effect.

Isabella​ joined our Commercial Litigation team in November 2021 as a Legal Assistant having graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2020 with a first class Law degree and recently completed both her Legal Practice Course (LPC) alongside a Masters in Business Law at the University of Law in Liverpool.

Isabella​ will take up her new role in our Litigation team under the guidance of Legal Director Sarah Mansfield​ who said: “Having supervised Isabella since she joined our team, I am delighted for her and believe that she truly deserves this promotion and the new challenges it will bring. Isabella​ is a hardworking and dedicated colleague and a real team player, she has shown a real desire to learn from senior colleagues throughout her time with us and is always willing to go the extra mile for both clients and colleagues. I have every confidence that Isabella will excel in her new role and I know she will continue to be a key member of the litigation team.

Isabella​’s appointment follows four other recent promotions within our team with Paralegals Jesca Knott and Patricia Taylor alongside Legal Assistant Francesca Crank all being awarded training contracts and taking up the role of Trainee Solicitors within the last 18 months. In addition, Legal Assistant Jessica Jones was also promoted to the role of Paralegal in April 2022.

All of these appointments clearly illustrate the career pathway which is available to all our team and further demonstrates our commitment to changing the lives of our Colleagues, Clients and Community. We hope many more of our colleagues follow in their footsteps and advance through our career pathway during their time with us.

We wish Isabella​ every success as she begins this new chapter of her career and offer her our continuing support.

Good luck Isabella​.
The Cullimore Dutton team