Tenant who claims ownership?

by Stuart Roffey

Tenant who claims ownership?

by Stuart Roffey
Stuart Roffey
Case Owner
A buy to let landlord with an unusual case needing help.
on 03rd November 2022
pledged of £5,000 target from 0 pledges
Stuart Roffey
Case Owner
A buy to let landlord with an unusual case needing help.

We bought a 2 bed semi house in Nottingham in  2008 on a "sale and rent back" (when it was legal to do so without a specific licence. ) 

The owner and subsequent tenant (Mrs J) was in financial difficulty with her mortgage and in danger of repossession.

We bought it and rented it back to the lady on an AST. There was another owner on the title , a Mr M , who, to the best of our knowledge, was not included on the mortgage. He was not included in the AST when we completed with Mrs Jackson. We thought nothing further of it and Mrs J advised he had left and was her former partner. 

A year or so later the tenant fell into arrears due to illness and due to the level of arrears we pursued a claim for eviction.  We were made aware that she was applying to the Nottingham Council for housing benefit but it was having to go to appeal. The relevance of this will become apparent. 

In Court we were given possession by the judge due to the arrears , but we took pity on Mrs J due to her illness (brain cancer). We therefore agreed to at least wait for the result of the housing benefit appeal. We were rewarded in this respect a few months later when the council paid nearly two years of rent arrears directly to us. 

This took place in the years 2010 to 2011. 

Contact and access to Mrs J was very difficult due to the illness and we tried to give her room to live. A brief inspection once year was sufficient. 

The rent continued to be paid by the council on a monthly basis and Mrs J topped this up every month. 

In November 2017 we received a phone call from a relative of Mrs J to say she had sadly died. 

Upon receiving the news I travelled to Nottingham to take possession of the house, only to find that Mr M was also living there. We had no knowledge of this. He was not on the AST and never mentioned in any communication. Nor were the council aware as he apparently works and presumably no housing benefit would have been received, had the council known. We had even had a request from the council to install a wet room downstairs at their expense to assist with Mrs J's disability in the months prior to her death. We had agreed to this. 

Taking the route of "least resistance" we offered to establish a new AST with Mr M on the same terms. This was refused and we received communication from his solicitor claiming that he had no knowledge of the original sale and believed he was still the owner. He refused to sign any tenancy agreement. However, he did offer to pay the £550 rent monthly . At the time we accepted this as times were hard for us and got more difficult in the lockdown. 

We tried many times to get updates and communication from his solicitor in relation to their claims , but alas they were mostly ignored. 

So whilst we were receiving rental payments, Mr M was refusing access to the house . We could not even access , for legal , gas safety etc. He even claims that the monthly payment is "goodwill" and he will want this returned in the event the house is given back to him. 

You should also be aware that there is a buy to let mortgage on the property . We have advised the lender , but they are not very interested. We have "toyed " with the idea of not paying the mortgage to see what happens. We know that if he was evicted we could pay the arrears at the last minute to regain the house. Perhaps not the best idea, but it is such a frustrating situation. We do at least need to know our rights in respect of paying the mortgage in such a situation. 

Following the removal of lockdown we contacted a local agent to establish contact with Mr M and try to get a legal tenancy in place or at least allow access for our legal responsibilities. We had not heard from the solicitor for a long time and emails and phone calls were unreturned. We did manage to get a gas certificate done but the agents also confirmed that the house was in need of repairs and maintenance. Which we were refused access to perform. 

The only option for us was to "force the issue" and apply for a Section 21 eviction.  We also served a notice of increase in the rent from £550 to £750 (an assessment of the local rates confirmed this was entirely reasonable This was served in February and required him to vacate the house by April 18th. On April 19th the local agents confirmed he had not left and was refusing. Again no communication had been received from either Mr M or his solicitor. 

We sent a new claim for accelerated possession. We are now aware this was the wrong one but all the facts contained were correct. This was defended and we just are unable to remove this person from our house. 

We are on title and we have a mortgage. 

 Their claim is that basically Mr M  still owns the property on the basis that his signature was forged on the title document and he has a witness to verify this. Needless to say this is news to us and we are very clear that as far as we are aware the conveyance was correct and without issue. We have no knowledge of this allegation. He also claims to have lived there all along. Which is not only a shock to us but news to the Nottingham Council too. They sent a letter confirming that Mr M only registered for Council tax in November 2017. Which seems rather suspicious. 

The questions that occur to us are :

1. If Mrs J (our actual tenant)  was in financial difficulty and under threat of repossession , how is it possible that Mr M was not aware? 

2. With all the paperwork , surveys and various items required in a conveyance , how was Mr M not aware? 

3. A housing benefit claim was made and presumably was false. Again, how was Mr M not aware ? Especially when we were in Court being granted possession for non payment of rent. 

4. We owned the house from August 2008 and 9 years later Mr M appears to claim ownership. Blissful ignorance on his part ? Was there collusion to defraud the Council? 

5. The first news of this affair was communicated to us in 2017. Even now his solicitors are making allegations , with no actual facts . 5 years on from the initial claims we would have expected to receive some formal claim . Surely it is incumbent on them to progress the matter and prove their claim. We have not received any formal legal claim. 

Hence why we took the matter into our own hands to force the issue of possession. 

So we have to take this to Court or request a formal claim to be made as this matter has dragged on for some time. 

We were advised by our solicitor to secure the services of a barrister.

That is as short as I can make it. 

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