Who is my Landlord?

Who is my Landlord?

11/03/2024

When granting an assured shorthold tenancy (an “AST”), landlords often seek assistance from a professional letting agent. However, instances arise where letting agents mistakenly identify themselves as the landlord in the AST. Such an error can have legal implications for all parties involved. Understanding the consequences and how to address such a mistake is essential for landlords, tenants, and letting agents alike.

Legal Background – Assured Shorthold Tenancy (an “AST”)

An AST sets out the key terms of the tenancy and the legal relationship between the parties. It is a legally binding contract between those parties involved. Each party to the contract has rights and responsibilities detailed in the AST and inferred by law. Examples of this include the landlord’s right to serve a notice to quit, or the tenant’s responsibility to pay rent.

Consequences of the Mistake

When letting agents mistakenly identify themselves as the landlord in an AST, this can give rise to several consequences:

  • Legal Standing: Misidentification of the landlord can undermine the legal standing of the AST. If the letting agent was never authorised to grant an AST, what is the legal status of the tenant’s occupation or their obligations?
  • Responsibilities and Liabilities: If the letting agent is incorrectly named as the landlord, they may have assumed the responsibilities and liabilities reserved for landlords under the AST. These can include: maintenance and repairs, deposit protection, and the power to serve legal notices.
  • Loss of Rights: By the landlord not being listed as the landlord on the AST, they may lose the power to make decisions concerning the AST. This can include: the level of rent, permitted occupiers, or when the AST should be ended.
  • Agency Relationship: The misidentification of the landlord may affect the clarity of the agency relationship between the letting agent and the landlord. This can lead to confusion regarding the extent of the letting agent’s authority to act on behalf of the landlord.

Correcting the Mistake

Upon discovering the mistake, the options available to the letting agent and landlord depend upon at what stage the parties are at:

  • Correction before signing: If the AST has not yet been entered into, then an amended version of the AST should be issued to the parties with explanation.
  • Correction after signing: If the AST has already been entered into, then the current AST may already be a legally binding contract. Specific legal advice should be taken on the status of the AST and transferring it into the name of the correct landlord with the agreement of all parties.

Conclusion

Misidentification of letting agents as landlords in AST agreements can have significant legal implications and cause serious confusion for all parties involved. It is imperative that drafting an AST is approached with seriousness and the understanding that it creates a legally binding contract.

How Pinney Talfourd can help

Pinney Talfourd are experts in commercial and residential property litigation and can advise you on changes to the law so you are given up to date advice.

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver-James Topping on 01708 463227 should you wish to discuss anything further.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Oliver-James Topping, Associate in the Residential Property Litigation Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of March 2024.

11/03/2024

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