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Repossession Advice for Landlords Letting to Employees

Published on November 3, 2016 by Sarah Mac

Most landlords dread having to evict a tenant, but sometimes it’s the only way forward. The Housing Act 1988 sets out all the procedures to follow to stay within the law. It gives eight mandatory grounds for a landlord to regain possession of a property, and nine discretionary grounds. In the case of the latter, it has to go before a court which will decide whether it would be reasonable to grant possession under the circumstances.

Ground 16 is one of the discretionary grounds that may seem pretty strange. It is the one about someone living in a property connected with their job. You would think that, if the job comes to an end, it would be mandatory that the landlord could reclaim the property and the tenant would have to move out. Yet there may be circumstances where that might not be reasonable, so it does remain discretionary.

Reasonable or Unreasonable

For example, if the employer simply offered a nearby tenancy to make life more convenient for a new recruit, it might not be reasonable to evict them, especially if the end of the job was not due to any failure or breach of contract on their own part. It will be up to the court to make a decision on this, based on all the circumstances of the case.

An example of where it would obviously be reasonable is where a person was employed as a housekeeper or caretaker of a property and was required to live on the premises. It would be reasonable to assume that, if the employment ceases, the accommodation would be needed for the next incumbent, and the tenant would have to vacate the premises. However, in this case Ground 16 does not apply because the property is not considered to be a tenancy, but a licence in the eyes of the law.

Importance of the Contract

All of this should, of course, be written into the contract of employment, and the tenancy agreement. When the details are in writing in documents signed by the employer and the worker plus the landlord and the tenant, if the landlord is also the employer, he or she will be signing both documents, as will the tenant who is also the employee. When the agreements are signed in this way, there should not be any way the eviction can be refuted. Most probably, it wouldn’t even get to court.

This would also be likely to apply if the grounds were considered discretionary, but the agreements were carefully worded to allow no ambiguity. The only exception might be if the employee decided to sue for wrongful dismissal and the findings were in their favour. In that case it might be considered unfair for the worker to lose their home as well as their job. Certainly, in any contested case where the accommodation was not mentioned in the employment contract and/or the job was not adequately covered in the tenancy agreement, the court would be much more likely to find for the tenant.

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