As part of Noise Action Week 21-25 May 2007, Mary Anne, MD of the Ringley Group and creator of Leaseholdersupport.co.uk reveals what really goes on behind closed doors
The unwanted noise of a prostitute operating in an otherwise lovely block of flats is not the type of noisy sex most of us want on our doorstep.
Nearly half of the complaints that our legal team receive are about noise. Some of these complaints are particularly disturbing.
We all make allowances for a little noise from our neighbours but if it gets too bad, noise can be incredibly stressful. Being woken up by noise or not being able to hear your own TV above the noise can become unacceptable.
On a large Ringley managed estate of over 300 flats and some 30 houses in a very pleasant canal-side setting in North London, the rental of a small first floor flat to a young woman and her small child seemed reasonable, as the lessee had taken what he felt were sufficient references.
However, the sudden appearance of a much older man who moved into the flat shortly afterward the woman was the first clue that not all was as it seemed. The man seemed to be entertaining a stream of callers that would knock on the door at all hours, and it quickly became apparent that the man was acting as a pimp to the woman who was residing in the flat with her child.
The noise coming from the bedroom was uncomfortable for those whose flats adjoined the bedroom and in addition, the constant comings and goings of callers was disturbing for the whole block, especially as there was the noise of banging doors, mobile phone calls, and the sounds of anti social behavior such as weeing in the corridors which went on until the early hours of every morning.
In situations like this the owner / lessee might not even know that he or she is renting their property to rogue tenants, especially in this case as the tenant came through the council, who had received complementary references.
Usually once it has come to the leaseholder attention that the tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement they will accept that it's his/her responsibility to resolve the problem. However, what most owners are unaware of, is that even though the tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement, the leaseholder is also in breach of their lease, which can then result in either a LVT against them or a tribunal.
In this case, the Estate Management Division of the Ringley Group, a one-stop property shop with an in-house Legal Services Team, were the managing agent for the block of flats. in sensitive situations such as these it is hard to get neighbours to accept that due process will take a little time before the problem will be resolved says MD Mary-Anne Bowring. Where a flat is being used for immoral purposes, whilst the managing agent is responsible for contacting the owner of the flat (not the sub-tenant) it is the owner of the flat who is in breach of lease. The specific breach may be letting the flat without consent (if the lease requires consent) or that the owner is permitting the flat to be used for immoral purposes. The managing agent can take action against the lessee for breach of the lease but they will need evidence as since February 2004 action for breach of lease, otherwise known as forfeiture action under Section 146 of the Law of Property Act 1925 will require consent from the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal or a judgement in the County Court to precede service. Remember the owner may be blissfully unaware that the flat is being used for immoral purposes until the managing agent identifies this to them. It is generally the goodwill of the managing agent is not only advising the owner of the problem but also helping them understand what legal rights and remedies they have under the tenancy agreement between them and their sub-tenant that gets things moving. In one case Ringleys Legal Services Team were paid by the owner to serve notice under the Housing Act 1988 on his sub-tenant to end their tenancy.
Part of the managing agents job is to make sure that every lessee in the block of flats was made aware of the situation by issuing a newsletter which informed them of problems of sub letting a property. This helped to educate the lessees as most were unaware of the problems that can arise from rouge tenant. A good managing agent will see their role as management of the necessary communication at each stage including ensuring that everyone is informed when the bailiffs are to be sent round on eviction day.
Now peace has now been restored to the block of flats with a new tenant in residence. If issues like this, or have other problems are ruining your block of flats then please get in touch, www.leaseholdersupport.co.uk who offer low cost packages for small blocks through to Block Care 500 which is full 24/7 property management for larger sites.
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