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I have a question regarding tenancy laws in the UK.

I took over the tenancy for the place that my dad was living in as I needed somewhere to go in an emergency. I didn't have a deposit so my dad told the landlord to keep his deposit. The landlord didn't bother inspecting the property when my dad moved out, instead he asked me to sign a contract stating that I would take liability for the state of the property - I signed this since it was my dad's deposit anyway and I needed to move out ASAP.

One of the first things I noticed about the property was that the carpets are in disrepair. There are stains, frays and matted areas all over. It is impossible to keep feet or socks clean and the dirt from the carpets is enough to permanently stain socks. I started wearing flip-flops indoors as a hygienic solution.

Since the carpets are in disrepair, I sent an email to the landlord asking for him to replace the carpets. The landlord's response was that it must be a cleaning issue and therefore he will not be replacing the carpets.

My dad lived in the property for 5 years and did not once clean the carpets. I wouldn't be surprised if he barely used a vacuum cleaner in that time either. That being said, the landlord said that the carpets were "like new" when my dad moved in. I have been here for 8 months now. This means the carpets are likely around 6 years old.

My dad is disabled and was paying for rent with disabled benefits. My brother and his girlfriend lived with him for a few years and I lived with them all for about a year. This means there was probably substantial wear & tear to consider on the carpets (which span the entire house except for the bathroom, which is lino).

In addition to all of the above, when I mentioned the carpets to the landlord during an inspection, he said "We have already noted the carpets. We will replace them after you've left." This to me says both that they were aware they needed replacing before I signed the contract to transfer liability, and that they recognise that they need replacing.

My questions are as follow:

  1. Should the landlord not replace the carpets regardless of the situation, since they are presumably at the end of their lifespan and they have practically admitted that they need replacing?

  2. Just how much liability have I taken over from my dad? Is it even possible for someone without a disability to take liability from someone with a disability?

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  • Please clarify: did you sign a new tenancy agreement (containing a clause saying you were liable for existing damage) or did "take over" (as per your words) your dad's contract? In order to do the latter you would have signed a contract which specifically states something to the affect that you are replacing your dad in the old contract, and your dad would also have been required to agree to this.
    – JBentley
    May 16 at 11:07

2 Answers 2

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I'm going to take different view to @DaleM and say you cannot take liability for damage caused by a previous tenant, notwithstanding that you purported to agree to that.

I know you stated that you "took over the tenancy" but I'll start with the assumption that what you mean is that you signed a new tenancy agreement with the landlord (containing a clause agreeing to be liable for past damage), as this is by far the most common scenario in practice. I'll then examine the alternative scenario. I've asked in the comments for you to clarify how you entered into the tenancy agreement.

New tenancy agreement

In a new tenancy agreement, you cannot take liability from a previous tenant in , due to the provisions of the Tenant Fees Act 2019. I'm open to being convinced otherwise if anyone has an alternative interpretation of those provisions.

A landlord must not require a tenant to make a prohibited payment:

Section 1(1): A landlord must not require a relevant person to make a prohibited payment to the landlord in connection with a tenancy of housing in England.

Section 1(9): In this Act “relevant person” means — (a) a tenant, [...]

The starting point is that all payments are prohibited. Exceptions to this are then listed in Schedule 1 of the Act. If it's in the Schedule, you can require payment; if it isn't, you can't.

Section 3(1): For the purposes of this Act a payment is a prohibited payment unless it is a permitted payment by virtue of Schedule 1.

Payment for damages relating to breach of contract is permitted:

Schedule 1, Paragraph 5: A payment of damages for breach of a tenancy agreement or an agreement between a letting agent and a relevant person is a permitted payment.

In a typical tenancy agreement, failure to return the property in the condition you found it (allowing for fair wear and tear) is a breach of contract. Hence, it is not prohibited for landlords to require their tenants to pay for damage to property.

The issue here is that your dad committed the breach under his tenancy agreement. Under your tenancy agreement there has been no breach. Therefore, requiring payment from your dad is permitted; requiring payment from you is not. Any clause which purports to do so is unenforceable on the tenant:

Section 4(1): A term of a tenancy agreement which breaches section 1 is not binding on a relevant person.

Novated tenancy agreement

It's possible that instead of signing a new tenancy agreement, you novated the old one. This means that all three parties (the landlord, your dad, you) agreed to substitute you for your dad as a party. It is not possible for only you and the landlord to agree to a novation. That's because the outgoing party gives up their rights as well as obligations; hence their consent is required.

Although this is commonly be described as "stepping into the shoes" of the outgoing party, strictly speaking this is not what happens. Rather, the old contract (between A and B) is extinguished and a new contract (between A and C) is formed on the same terms (or partially on the same terms, depending on what the novation states).

Under a novation, the default position is that pre-novation liabilities remain with the outgoing party. It's possible (and common) to expressly provide something different, which is what has purportedly happened in your case.

That raises an interesting question as to the effect of Schedule 1, Paragraph 5. In my view, while you can expressly provide that liability can transfer from B to C in a novated contract, you cannot provide that breaches can transfer. A breach is a factual occurance and it's nonsensical to rewrite history by saying that C committed a past breach which in fact B committed. Instead, what you can do is say that C agrees to be liable for that past breach. Saying otherwise would be incompatible with the principle that a novated contract is a new contract which extinguishes the old.

Accordingly, my view with regards to Schedule 1, Paragraph 5 is the same as if you had signed a new tenancy agreement (which is effectively what you have done with a novated tenancy agreement). You did not commit the breach, therefore asking you to accept liability for it under the novated contract is prohibited.

Note also that it is permitted to require payment of £50 or the landlord's costs in relation to the novation, whichever is greater. However, in my view this applies to only to the outgoing party, being "the tenant" who makes the payment "in consideration" of the novation of "the tenancy" which is done "at the tenant's request" (all of which implies we're talking about the existing tenancy, not the new one). The language would appear to exclude the possibility that the incoming party can legally be required to make the payment:

Schedule 1, Paragraph 6:

(1) A payment is a permitted payment if it is a payment — (a) to a landlord in consideration of the variation, assignment or novation of a tenancy at the tenant's request, [...]

(2) But if the amount of the payment exceeds the greater of — (a) £50, or (b) the reasonable costs of the person to whom the payment is to be made in respect of the variation, assignment or novation of the tenancy, the amount of the excess is a prohibited payment.

If I'm wrong and the landlord also released your dad from liability for damage to the carpet (which is not necessarily implied by the fact that you agreed to be liable), then it could perhaps be argued that such release is a "cost" for the purposes of sub-paragraph 1(b) above. However, I would counter-argue that it isn't really a "cost" since it was taken on voluntarily (the landlord could have simply had your dad remain liable which is the default position) and it isn't "reasonable" for the same reason.

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  • Hello JBentley, I did sign a new tenancy agreement. I'll read up on your answer and the relevant legislation and may get back to you soon once I understand what you're saying properly May 17 at 11:33
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From the description this appears to be the tenant’s problem

A carpet can be expected to last 5-15 years depending on quality and usage. Signs that it’s reaching the end of its life are wear, damage and tears.

But that’s not what you’re describing. You’re describing carpet that is dirty due to inadequate maintenance, and that’s the tenant’s responsibility. This is a direct result of your dad “did not once clean the carpets. I wouldn't be surprised if he barely used a vacuum cleaner in that time either.” Carpets should be vacuumed about once a week and steam cleaned every 12-18 months.

It’s your responsibility to clean the carpet if you can. If the tenants lack of maintenance has damaged the carpet beyond repair then that is not “fair wear and tear” and the tenant is responsible for its replacement. Or, at least, for a proportion of the cost commensurate with the reduction in life, say half.

You have taken over whatever liability your dad had

That’s not even slightly controversial. The landlord accepted you as a tenant only because you agreed to assume the liability of the previous tenant. That’s a valid and binding contract.

Why do you think disability has any role here?

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  • The carpet has been here about 6 years. There are tears in some places and the edges of the carpets are frayed and in some places even coming away from their fixtures, leaving exposed pins that have scratched my son's foot in the past. My argument is that, since the carpets seem to have come to the end of their life anyway, should the landlord not replace them regardless of their cleanliness? Moreover, I mention disability because it seems odd to me that someone with full capacity can take liability for someone with limited capacity. Can you prove that this is a legally binding contract? May 12 at 9:08
  • So, who were you trying to scam by entering an agreement you thought you could get out of: your dad or the landlord?
    – Dale M
    May 12 at 10:06
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    Your assumptions are rude. If you can't answer the question then don't. I entered the agreement expecting to be bound to it. My dad didn't purposely damage the property, he has neglected some cleaning responsibility and is registered disabled. Hence, I am wondering how much of the 'damage' I am actually liable for, and how much the landlord is liable for due to the fact that he knowingly accepted a disabled tenant. I think you should be more considerate of others or at least only stick to subjects that you know. May 12 at 11:21
  • @JordanRegan I apologise. However, the obligations of a party to a contract are those of a reasonable person - not a person who may be under any disability or, for that matter, extraordinary superability. A disabled person is held to exactly the same standard as anyone else.
    – Dale M
    May 12 at 12:29
  • Thank you for adjusting your stance. I apologise too for being demeaning. Thank you for all your advice May 12 at 15:04

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