Q. Last year I started a business and rented an office with a licence, which allowed us to give a month’s notice to leave. The landlord asked for a year’s rent in advance, and in return we received a discount of £25 a month. We have now given a month’s notice to leave, but the landlord refuses to refund the remaining three months’ rent. He says paying in advance forms a contract.
A. Paying a rent does form a contract – but it depends what the contract is! If it is a month-to-month “rolling” contract (and you have exclusive occupation) the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 applies. This means you can leave on a month’s notice and are entitled to your money back. If necessary you can issue a claim in the County Court.
Q. For the last ten years I have received a basic salary of £32,000 plus a “market supplement” of £8,000. I’ve been aware the supplement could go up or down, but it’s stayed the same. My employer wants to halve the supplement this year. Can they do this?
A. Presumably the “market supplement” is based on figures, perhaps the firm’s profitability. If your contract refers to the supplement going up or down it will surely explain the circumstances in which this might happen. Look at your contract and make sure your employers are complying with its terms. It depends on what is in your contract and what could be considered to have become custom and practice.
Q. I am buying a 100-year-old cottage in Wales which sits on the property line with the neighbour. The neighbour is refusing to allow me to go on to his land to carry out maintenance work. Do I have any legal right in this matter?
A. This is a common problem with older properties. You may be able to get a court order giving you permission to go onto the neighbouring property for this purpose. But this will cost and it’s a built-in problem which will keep resurfacing. You should consider very carefully whether to buy a cottage that will be difficult to maintain where there’s an unhelpful neighbour.
* Fahmida Ismail is a partner at Sydney Mitchell solicitors, based in Birmingham. Write to Legal advice column, Birmingham Post, Floor 6, Fort Dunlop, Birmingham B24 9FF. Or you can e-mail: enquiries@sydneymitchell.