Legal Advice. UK Ideally!

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by thecritix, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. thecritix macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Location:
    West London, England
    #1
    Hi Everyone
    I'm a student staying in halls in the UK, the problem with our halls is that rather than being owned by the university, they're owned by a private company who do everything they can to save money or charge us extra.

    Basically they've gone too far this time and are taking away our cleaners, and saying we have to clean the kitchens ourselves. (We clean our own rooms) Previously the kitchens were cleaned once a week

    Now, I wouldn't object to this if it wasn't that its now 2/3 through the year, we're still going to be paying the same and over £100 a week is a massive amount of money for student halls!

    In the contract it states that 'Shared areas shall be cleaned and rubbish shall be removed PERIODICALLY however the trust cannot be held responsible for any TEMPORARY problems with this due to third parties'

    (Thats not the exact wording but periodically and temporary are the key words) Periodically doesn't really enter into it, as they're not going to do it at all.

    Temporary well they've admitted in an email its a 'from now on' thing.

    What I wanted to know is what rights I have, If i threaten to sue them would i have a case, could they have a get out elsewhere in the contract saying 'these terms can be changed at our discretion' or something like that, which would let them get round them?'
    Is that legal?

    Just after some advice really!

    Cheers
    Nick
     
  2. djellison macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Location:
    Pasadena CA
    #2
    I got out of Uni about 7 years ago - but experienced similar issues during my time as a student. Here's what I'd say.

    -Pay your rent, on time, in full. Witholding rent doesn't work.
    -Try and speak to people in person instead of writing emails or letters
    -Find your renters agreement ( contract ) and take it to someone in charge
    -As its a private company - they'll have an on site representative I would expect - speak to them - show them the contract - tell them that you think what they're doing breaches this contract. Suggest that you would find a once-a-week cleaner if they are happy to pay for it if, for some unforseen problem, they are having difficulty finding one.
    -If you don't get a response - try the Student Union - it's purpose is to represent students, and it's very useful in this case ( we had a landlord get a warning from Union representatives to be taken off the approved accommodation list for our Uni - he soon upped his game ). There will be someone, I'm sure. If not the Union, maybe some sort of University office dedicated to accommodation.
    -If none of that works, find new halls/accom for next year and try Citizens advice - they're helpful guys as well.

    Words like 'sue' 'legal action' 'illegal' etc do more damage than good. Contracts can be changed - but they have to notify you in advance. If you've not received such a notification, then they're in breach of contract.

    Doug
     
  3. thecritix thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Location:
    West London, England
    #3
    But presumably our only actual leverage is the rent?

    I am a little scared of the idea of bailiffs etc though...

    Surely they would rather cut our rent, or something similar to get rid of us then have to get their own lawyers involved etc?

    What do you think?
    Nick
     
  4. LouisBlack macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Location:
    Balham, London
    #4
    I agree that talking is probably the best way to go at first. Withholding rent is sometimes good - we did at uni because our house was so damp that it was considered unihabitable.

    Speak to the student union or your university's housing department, it is their job to help you.

    Good luck - it seems that students always get treated like crap by landlords and I hope you get it sorted out.
     
  5. MacClarence macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2008
    Location:
    West London
    #5
    Your first move should definitely be to approach the Sabbatical Officer at the student union who is responsible for this sort of thing. Often called something like "student welfare officer".
    These people get paid by you (via funding from the University) to sort out this sort of thing.
    They may be useless - all too often unfortunately - but they are likely to carry a lot more weight with the Uni/Housing company than you do.
    You cannot lose anything by asking them
     
  6. AppleMatt macrumors 68000

    AppleMatt

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    UK
    #6
    This is very difficult ground. Firstly I advise you strongly not to withhold rent. In the terms of tenancy law, you'd go from being in a very strong position to a very weak one. On the first day that the second months rent is due, they can (and probably will) serve notice against you. If it did go-to court, you'd be looked very unfavourably upon.

    To be honest if you do go down this route, it's not going to get to the 'lawyers stage.' They're going to rely on the fact that as students your knowledge of contract and tenancy law is limited, and you will all probably balk at the initial costs of filing in the small claims court. Finally, what amount would you file for? It's a non-starter. I'd suggest payment in protest.

    Try writing to them, stating that you're happy for this change however as it is a service you are currently paying for, you look forward to them sending you an adjusted rent figure. If you do take more drastic action (withholding rent etc), as you're in the UK, I'd strongly recommend becoming a member of Which? legal advice service. It's very cheap and the lawyers are excellent.

    You stated that they 'charge you extra.' What for? If you didn't pre-negotiate these charges (for example they were set out in the contract some where, or a letter drops on your doorstep telling you that you owe them) Charges above what it costs them to complete and administer a service are unlawful.

    AppleMatt
     
  7. djellison macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Location:
    Pasadena CA
    #7
    Nope - your leverage is to have stuck to every letter of the agreement. If you with-hold rent - then both the landlord AND yourselves are in breach of contract.

    If you're not, and they are - then you are in a better position.

    We had a damp issue in a student house. Instead of witholding rent - we just phoned the council and they came around, found LOADS wrong with the place and bitch-slapped the landlord into the middle of next week.

    In your case - Student Union is the first port of call...but keep up your end of the contract, so that you have a leg to stand on when criticising the landlord for not keeping up theirs.

    Doug
     
  8. r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a

    r1ch4rd

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Manchester UK
    #8
    As others have said, try to go through your University or SU. The last thing that a private halls wants to do is get a bad reputation with the University or SU. Does your University offer legal advice or have an accommodation service? If so, these are the people to see. There's always citizens advice as well!
     

Share This Page