Threats of Possession notice to force me to remove tree/play house
25/10/2009 9:47 am
I was wondering if you can help me or give me some advice, my housing association have sent me another threatening solicitors letter this time seeking possession. This is all because they disagree with the treehouse in my garden a friend made for my daughter, it is build on top of an existing shed, as its base, it is structurally safe and can bear the weight of several adults as my friend has strengthened the shed prior to this.
It is nestled into a background of Leylandi trees and has a cherry tree in front of it, it is in the secluded end of terrace garden and doesn’t overlook anyone or cause any invasion of privacy.
The H/A’s first objection was that I had not asked permission first (the tenancy agreement ‘8’says the tenant has the right to make improvements in the property with the consent of the landlord who shouldn’t unreasonably withhold consent) I apologised as I had not been aware that this was a problem as it was in the garden not the house and not a permanent structure, it was only I childs playhouse after all.
The H/A came to see it and said that it should be removed because it ‘could easily overlook’ was ‘unsafe’ and I hadn’t asked permission.
So I went to see all the neighbours, some were unaware of it, some liked it but none felt it was a problem and all of them signed the petition I made for it to remain which I presented to the H/A along with photos of all views from the treehouse and a friendly letter asking for their understanding and acceptance and offering to talk and compromise, such as I would remove it the moment I moved out or would remove it should it ever cause a problem ect.
The H/A wrote back demanding it be removed within 7 days, I was stunned as it had only just been build and would take a lot of effort to remove as it had to make!
I asked for an appeal which I was told was unsuccessful, though I had not been invited to it, I Pointed out that much bigger structures an sheds were present in other neighbours gardens, but I was told these had been granted permission. The H/A made no attempt to talk to me or compromise in any way before they made a complaint to the council about the treehouse, and a council planning officer visited, he said the laws on wooden structures had changed and would have to check but even he said he didn’t think it was possible the tree house overlooked or was dangerous.
A few weeks later I received a letter from the council, saying it needed planning permission.
Since then Ive had a steady stream of letters from H/A or their solicitors, eventually I asked my H/A why I wasn’t asked to attend the appeal meeting and was told this is only for complaints, and I was entitled to make a formal complaint and in the meantime the solicitors action would be put on hold whilst my complaint was being dealt with.
I wrote a letter of complaint against the H/A because of the way they’d dealt with it, they have caused me a lot of stress almost to point of harassment, I felt they had ‘unreasona
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26/10/2009 10:30 am
I'm afraid if you've erected a structure without planning permission that the council deems would require it, unless you can apply for retrospective planning consent, you'll have to take it down or potentially be the subject of enforcement action from the council.
I can't offer a knowledgeable opinion about the HA actions, although I can understand how even if your treehouse is perfectly safe it would set a dangerous precedent for the rest of their properties if they allowed people to build things in their gardens without knowing about them first.
27/10/2009 8:43 am
Yep, the council are right. Simple as.
27/10/2009 12:00 pm
I understand the council are right, and Im willing to go down the route of obtaining planning permission but its the Housing association, that are giving me the trouble, I accept your point that they would worry that lots of people might start building structures in their garden but if they were proved to be safe and had planning permission or no-one objected, what would be the problem?
I am applying for planning permission and my neighbours are not bothered by the tree house, only the Housing association are bothered and it is them who are claiming I am causing nuisance to others and so breeching my tenancy, which isnt correct.
Further more they tryed to add rent arrears as another dirty trick as a ground for possession also despite the fact we had a written agreement that I would pay these back at a set amount each week.
27/10/2009 12:17 pm
You are breaching your tenancy as you said yourself as you have erected a structure without the consent of your landlord (the HA). The clause is a standard one and means that permission needs granting before and not retrospectively.
27/10/2009 12:19 pm
"rebecca french Tue, 27 Oct 2009 12:00 GMT ....
Further more they tryed to add rent arrears as another dirty trick as a ground for possession also despite the fact we had a written agreement that I would pay these back at a set amount each week..."
It is the old trick from social landlords, when they do not like a tenant, to start harassing them over rent arrears to scare them off... that's why ground8 should be abolished.
27/10/2009 12:30 pm
"I am applying for planning permission and my neighbours are not bothered by the tree house, only the Housing association are bothered and it is them who are claiming I am causing nuisance to others and so breeching my tenancy, which isnt correct..."
Ask in writing and demand an answer in writing from HA what is precisely the nuisance they claim you are causing to others, and if the others are neighbours or not (do no ask for names as they are not supposed to give names). Then once made sure the exact nature of the nuisance (if there is one) try to explain to them in writing how you would go about sensibly avoiding their alleged nuisance.
It is not uncommon for some tenants to build or do things and only later to realise they needed permission, however if you show your concern to avoid any nuisance as soon as you have realised there might be one, I do not see why the HA should not allow to keep the tree house (if the council has nothing against it)...
However you have to make clear to them that all and any repsonsibility and mainntenace connected wit hthe tree house will be only yours and not the HA's.
27/10/2009 12:45 pm
Kass - it can only be an old trick IF the tenants is in arrears cant it? And if someone owes you money do you have to trick it out of them?
Kass - you say often enough you are not a housing professional so is it wise to give advice on whether the HA will allow this structure to remain in situ?
As to why the HA may be against it and refuse and insist you take the tree house down. When you leave the property and say this is in 10 years time when your dauhter no longer needs or uses a tree house (or even sooner), then if you leave it at the property the landlord is liable for its safety. It would likely have no option but to dismantle it at a cost to themselves as they couldnt be guaranteed it was safe.
Hence to avoid that cost to them they can ask you to dismantle it. Personally I hope they dont but there are legitimate reasons why they might ask you to dismantle it.
27/10/2009 1:18 pm
"Joe Halewood Tue, 27 Oct 2009 12:45 GMT
Kass - it can only be an old trick IF the tenants is in arrears cant it? And if someone owes you money do you have to trick it out of them?.... "
so why they seem to bring arrears up now then?
As for my advice, that's how I would go about it, and it's for the benefit of the tenant to consider. She wants to keep it and I am trying to help her, but you have not noticed have you?
27/10/2009 1:38 pm
Yes I have noticed and I make my view clear that I want her to keep it. That doesnt detract from my points which were (a) you state clearly that you dont work in housing so Rebecca should know that and (b) consider your views in that light.
I just gave a possible scenario as to why it may not be a smooth a process as you advised. Why anyone should have a problem with that I dont know?
27/10/2009 1:51 pm
Joe Halewood ....Tue, 27 Oct 2009 13:38 GMT...
Where did I advise that it would be a "smooth process"... ?
From which hole are you talking?... On the contrary I do not see many processes beeing smooth when dealing with a social landlord.
I am not a social housing professional and I am not a lawyer, it's my experience. It is also my experience to have proved on occasion a few housing professionals wrong, included you.
27/10/2009 4:03 pm
I did say in my original letter to the H/A that should I ever move out or treehouse becomes dangerous or a problem I would remove it, I would be willing to sign something saying so.
They promised to hold off solicitors action as they said I had the right to complain, so I did and their response to my complaint is the latest solicitors letter saying remove the treehouse by 6th nov or we will use the possession order inclosed in this letter!
I dont call that a fair complaint system!
The only people the treehouse bothers is them, all the other neighbours signed my petition for it to remain.
I should havr asked permission but it was a misunderstanding as I didnt realise I needed to as I wasnt making alterations to the house, as soon a s I realised I did apologise and ask their permission and enclosed the petition to prove others didnt mind. I feel they are acted unreasonably, its not an eye saw and is bearly visable to all but immediate neighbours whom it doesnt overlook.
28/10/2009 10:20 am
Rebecca - I don't mean to sound unduly harsh, but this seems quite clear. Whilst it is obviously your home it is somebody else's house (or flat). It sounds like the lease is pretty clear on this issue, and you've broken the terms of it. Risking losing your home over this seems madness, what's the point in a playhouse when you don't have a real house?
I can quite understand the stance taken by the Housing Association. They may be of the opinion that rather than putting your energies into the construction of treehouses you should be ensuring your arrears are cleared first.
28/10/2009 11:34 am
If you have not done so already you should go to a housing lawyer you trust or CAB... If the HA has decided for whatever reason however unreasonable it seems to you,that you must remove the tree-house, you should not run the risk of losing your home... It might help your case if you could conduct a research and find out as many as you can examples where the HA might have given permission to other tenants to build similar structures but not to you, and you could prove discrimination if that is the case... You can do this also after you have removed your tree-house, so if you can prove it you could ask for the tree-house to be rebuilt at the HA expenses.
28/10/2009 11:45 am
Rebecca, you need to give the full circumstances here if seekign advice her is what you are looking for. For example you state above:-
"They promised to hold off solicitors action as they said I had the right to complain, so I did and their response to my complaint is the latest solicitors letter saying remove the treehouse by 6th nov or we will use the possession order inclosed in this letter!"
Are you saying that they already have a (suspended) possession order? If so what is that for? Is it arrears? If so have you complied with the terms?
The reason for the above questions is I find it incredulous that a landlord would seek possession on the grounds of the non-removal of a tree house alone.
That said the advice to see a solicitor is very good advice that you should take
29/10/2009 10:16 am
As practitioner, it does frustrate me when people say 'I didn't know I had to ask permission'. I do understand that new tenants can be so desperate for keys that they'll take a tenancy on any terms offered but that doesn't stop them reading their tenancy agreement or handbook about what they can and can't do? To prevent this very situation, wouldn't a quick phone call to check first have been worth the effort? I agree it is your home, but it's not your property. You won't be there forever and if your children succeed to your home, will they be prepared to foot the bill for its removal? Planning permission aside, if, as you say, the structure is not overlooking or causing a problem then common sense and reasonableness could come into play in letting it stay as long as the right agreements were in place for its maintenance and removal at end of tenancy.
As for the rent arrears question, I'm assuming if they've started steps for repossession, then a revised Notice Seeking Possession will include ALL current grounds for possession as best practice suggests there should only be one live NSP - so if you had already received an NSP for rent arrears then a new one for breach of tenancy (improvements without permission) could prejudice the earlier one. Bringing them all together on one just continues their right to commence action on any of the grounds covered if required.
Another ominous sign here is that there appears to have been no face to face discussion - always in my book a sure fire way to create a stand-off.
In any event now that you have applied for retrospective planning permission, the HAs actions might be immaterial as the Local Authority Planning Enforcement team might seek its removal if your application is unsuccessful.
29/10/2009 11:13 am
TC Thu, 29 Oct 2009 10:16 GMT...
well, you have given some valuable advice, I think... However the tenant posted here seeking help about a 'fait accompli' and not to frustrate anybody or be preached about it... Besides Landlords often forget their own duties about tenancy agreements just as tenants do, and landlords you'd expect, being qualified professionals in the matter, would never do that, now how frustrating that is?...
29/10/2009 1:40 pm
Do keep in mind that if your landlord did give permission and god forbid your child fell out and was seriously injured, there may be a substantial liabilities claim against the landlord. We had this with gym equipment in a shared cellar - shared between residents, all responsible professional adults, all signed an offered contract to clean, maintain and keep it safe. Sorry, we'd still be liable if anything went wrong and someone got injured, had to turn it down and make them get rid of it. They weren't happy but what can you do?.
29/10/2009 5:36 pm
The answer to your problem lies in your tenancy agreement. If your tenancy agreement does not allow you to do what you have done then you HA have a right to require you to remove the structure. If you refuse to remove the item, the HA can commence possession proceedings but it will be up to a judge to decide whether your breach is so serious that the only way of dealing with is to order you to give up possession of your home. If you can resolve matters pragmatically with your HA that is obviously preferable to stressful legal proceedings.
30/10/2009 12:49 pm
Ged Quayle Thu, 29 Oct 2009 13:40 GMT....
this is very valuable to know for tenants, like me, with a private garden... so from what you say I am right to assume that for any structure erected in a garden, whether authorised or not by the landlord, and whether or not included in the tenancy agreement, if something untoward happens because of them, there responsible is the landlord and not the tenant?
30/10/2009 3:29 pm
Kass, clearly it wouldn't apply to any structure not granted permission by the landlord. Nowehere in Ged's post does it mention unauthorised equipment/structures. The only "loophole" in this would be where Housing officers have neglected to check what previous tenants have left behind, or thought they would be doing the next residents a "favour" by leaving, a wendy house in the back garden for example. If proper waivers/paperwork isn't completed then it just causes headaches. One of my major gripes when doing voids was when you often ripped up good carpets, as policy said you had to, the concern being, if left then the resident in the future could claim they were part of the property when they moved in, and as such should be maintained/replaced.
Sounds ridiculous? I can think of many claims, particularly if white goods were left in a property "as a favour" if said property had been abandoned and a homeless person was moving in, for example. Said person would be "oh so" grateful when they were left, but if the cooker then broke down, ran to the law centre to get a solicitor. End result? All voids emptied, all gardens emptied, no potential help to future tenants.