Ownership & Property Disputes

Practice Area Specialist:

Steven Wood

Steven joined Stillwells in 2015 as a partner, bringing with him 18 years’ experience in the areas of civil and commercial litigation, dispute resolution and a niche specialism in housing and asset management work. Steven’s extensive experience has seen him litigate in County Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and various tribunals such as the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)  - acting for clients in a number of significant high profile cases.

Disputes relating to property can often be very distressing – particularly when involving  parties who live or work within close proximity. Stillwells’ philosophy is to try and help clients resolve issues amicably outside the court arena where possible to avoid unnecessary time and expense.

Should an issue not be resolved through alternative means, Stillwells is also highly-experienced in representing clients in court for ownership and property-related disputes. The types of disputes we are able to assist clients with include:

  • Boundary disputes, e.g. a neighbour installing a new fence without consultation, housing extensions or overhanging shrubbery.
  • Rights of way disputes, e.g. disagreements about uses of shared driveways and common access paths.
  • Neighbour disputes, e.g. nuisance neighbours
  • Landlord and tenant disputes relating to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

Recommended in the Legal 500, Stillwells pride themselves in providing a high quality service, with all clients benefitting from direct contact with the senior solicitor who be handling the case personally. We work hard to keep you updated throughout each stage of the process and are on hand should you have any questions.

Contact us today on 023 8072 7164 for a free, no obligation initial consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an assured shorthold tenancy?
An assured shorthold tenancy has been the default form of residential tenancy in England and Wales since 28 February 1997. It is a form of assured tenancy with limited security of tenure, meaning that is relatively simple for a landlord to regain possession. The majority of assured shorthold tenancies are for a fixed term, usually six or twelve months. At the end of the fixed term, if the tenant remains in the property and no new agreement is entered into, the assured shorthold tenancy continues on the same terms and conditions but is referred to as a ‘statutory periodic tenancy’.
What is a tenancy deposit?
Most private landlords require tenants to pay a tenancy deposit, which provides security for the landlord against damage to the property or financial loss due to unpaid rent.
What does the law require regarding tenancy deposits?
Landlords are required to:

  • Protect in a government-backed scheme any tenancy deposit paid by an assured shorthold tenant;
  • Provide the tenant with information (known as ‘prescribed information’) about the scheme used; and
  • Give the tenant a copy of the deposit protection certificate, signed by the landlord.

This must be done within 30 days of the landlord receiving the deposit.

What happens if the deposit is not protected?
There are two consequences for landlords who fail to comply with the deposit protection requirements:

  • The landlord can be ordered to pay compensation to the tenant of up to three times the amount of the deposit; and

The landlord’s ability to terminate the tenancy using a section 21 notice (see below) is restricted until the law has been complied with or the deposit has been returned to the tenant.

What else must a landlord do at the start of the tenancy?
In addition to complying with the deposit protection regulations, there are other legal requirements for landlords to comply with at the commencement of the tenancy and before a section 21 notice can be served. The tenant must be provided with: (a) the Energy Performance Certificate for the property; and (b) a current gas safety certificate. Absent this, no section 21 notice can be served. Further, the landlord must have given the tenant the Department for Communities and Local Government booklet ‘How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England’. The booklet can be provided in hard copy or, where the tenant has given an email address for service of notices, by email. Once the landlord has complied with this requirement it is not required to supply a further copy each time a different version is published during the tenancy. This requirement to provide the prescribed information does not apply: (a) where the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing; or (b) where the tenancy is a replacement tenancy, the information was provided under the earlier tenancy and the version of the information provided under the earlier tenancy is the same version that is in effect on the first day of the new tenancy.
How is an assured shorthold tenancy terminated?
In addition to the grounds of possession available for assured tenancies, the landlord is able to serve what is known as a ‘section 21 notice’ requiring possession of the property without there being any element of fault on the part of the tenant.
Is there a set form of section 21 notice?
There is a prescribed form of section 21 notice which must be used for all assured shorthold tenancies starting on or after 1 October 2015; this form may also be used for existing tenancies.
What is the end date for a section 21 notice?
Until recently calculating the end date for a section 21 notice was a real headache, especially when the notice was served to terminate a statutory periodic tenancy. A recent change in the law has removed the need for any section 21 notice for property in England to expire on the last day of a period of the tenancy. This means that a landlord only needs to give two months’ notice (assuming, of course, a weekly or monthly rent period).
Are there time limits in relation to section 21 notices and proceedings?
For property in England:

  • A section 21 notice cannot be served in the first four months of a tenancy or, in the case of a replacement tenancy, within four months beginning with the date on which the original tenancy began;
  • Proceedings for possession cannot be commenced after the end of the period of six months beginning with the date on which the section 21 notice was given;
  • Where a section 21 notice has been served and the date in the notice is more than two months after the date the notice was given, proceedings for possession cannot be commenced after the end of the period of four months beginning with the end date specified in the notice.

Put simply, a landlord can no longer serve a section 21 notice at the commencement of the tenancy and leave it in place for the duration of the tenancy.

Does the landlord have to repay rent where the tenancy ends before the end of a period?
Usually, yes. An assured shorthold tenant of property in England is entitled to a repayment of rent from the landlord where: (a) as a result of the service of a section 21 notice the tenancy is brought to an end before the end of a period of the tenancy; (b) the tenant has paid rent in advance for that period; and (c) the tenant was not in occupation of the property for one or more whole days of that period. There is a set formula for calculating the amount of the repayment. The court must order the landlord to repay the relevant amount if it has not already been repaid by the date when the court makes an order for possession under section 21.
What is retaliatory eviction?
Retaliatory eviction is when a landlord evicts a tenant for asking for repairs to be carried out or for complaining about poor housing conditions. It is most common with assured shorthold tenancies which, as stated above, are relatively easy to terminate.
What does the law do to prevent retaliatory eviction?
The law restricts a landlord’s ability to rely on a section 21 notice in respect of an assured shorthold tenancy if a tenant has made a written complaint to the landlord regarding the condition of the premises or common parts and the landlord has not responded (or its response is inadequate) and it then serves a section 21 notice. The tenant can complain to the local housing authority, which can serve various types of enforcement notice on the landlord. If the local housing authority does this, the landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice within six months of the date of service of the enforcement notice. The provisions do not apply where:

  • the tenant is in breach of their duty to use the premises in a tenant-like manner or an express term of the tenancy agreement to the same effect;
  • the premises are genuinely on the market for sale;
  • the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing; or
  • the premises were mortgaged before the grant of the tenancy and the mortgage lender wishes to exercise its power of sale and requires vacant possession.