Neighbour taking over our cellar space

(32 Posts)
stretto Tue 02-Sep-14 12:00:07

How should we deal with this and how concerned should we be?

We have a upstairs flat conversion which we let out. The downstairs neighbour is the letting agent for the property and lives there.

There is a small cellar space which is ours. The neighbour has had permission to use some of it (not in the title deeds, just an act of goodwill from us). There are laundry facilities in the space but the neighbour, in capacity as letting agent, has told the tenants they can't use the laundry, and they have to go to a laundrette. He has now put a combination lock on our cellar space without asking us, and we had to ask him for the entry code, i.e. we were locked out of our own space.

He has put his own filing cabinets in the space, which in principle is OK, but the combination lock issue is worrying.
We have been allowing him access for three years. Is it time to put a stop to it?

OcadoSubstitutedMyHummus Tue 02-Sep-14 12:02:19

I'd be having serious words and withdrawing his access. He is abusing his position as letting agent.

chockbic Tue 02-Sep-14 12:06:14

Its not up to him to tell your tenants they can't use the laundry room.

Cheeky fecker!

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 02-Sep-14 12:10:31

Yes, I would be reminding him that the cellar belongs to YOU & that either the combination lock is removed and your tenant allowed access to the laundry facilities or he will no longer be allowed to use the space at all.

Unless, of course, he pays you rent for the use of the space.

reddaisy Tue 02-Sep-14 12:13:16

I would put a stop to it, someone more knowledgeable will come along but I think if they have regular access to a path or area then it can become a right of access somehow.

stretto Tue 02-Sep-14 12:17:24

We have let him handle the lettings, and don't really have contact with the tenants, so it has just come to our attention that they aren't allowed to use the laundry facilities. He says he can hear the sound of the washing machine in his house, but I'm sure he could arrange access hours with the tenants.
Does anyone know about how many years are needed before access turns into a right?

minkah Tue 02-Sep-14 12:20:42

Just be conversational about it. "Hey, what's going on with our cellar space?!"

Give him time to speak.

"We need to access it, so do our tenants!"

Give him time to speak.

He's in the wrong, not you. If he doesn't figure that out as he's replying to your friendly simple statements of fact...well, cross that bridge if you come to it.

Good luck.

chockbic Tue 02-Sep-14 12:21:44

I'm sure they can use the laundry facilities at a reasonable time.

He just wants the space to himself and nefarious activities. Who knows what's hidden in those cabinets?

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 02-Sep-14 12:33:24

Who owns the washing machine? Or is there plumbing there for your tenant to attach their own?

Surely the noise in his flat is only the same as for anyone who lives in a flat and has a neighbour with a washing machine!

Something like 8am-8pm sounds like a reasonable period to be "allowed" to have a wash on, noise wise.

stretto Tue 02-Sep-14 12:36:46

It's our washing machine and dryer and is all plumbed in properly.

We could go to a different letting agent, but feel that he is a good person to stop any noisy parties etc, as he lives downstairs. Also, he could make our lives difficult by complaining about our tenants, possibly on trumped-up issues, if we offended him by engaging a different letting agency.

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 02-Sep-14 12:42:38

Oh, wow, so it's YOUR equipment - presumably purchased for the use of your tenants - in YOUR cellar.

I think I would be exchanging the combination lock for one of my own & only giving the tenant the code.

PausingFlatly Tue 02-Sep-14 12:44:09

He's complaining he can hear the washing machine in the basement? He doesn't know he's born!

If the washing machine weren't in the basement, it would be in the upstairs flat. And if the soundproofing wasn't just perfect, he'd really have something to complain about then.

PausingFlatly Tue 02-Sep-14 12:45:00

I don't understand what you mean by making your lives difficult by complaining about tenants? What can he do?

stretto Tue 02-Sep-14 12:52:08

Well, I don't know if he would do that, I'm just speculating.
For instance, he could phone us to complain about noise from the tenants. Even if they have the TV on at a reasonable level, he could make a fuss and say it was annoying if he really wanted to. But maybe that wouldn't happen.

DancingDinosaur Tue 02-Sep-14 12:58:08

Well he can complain all he wants. If the tenants haven't done anything wrong theres no issue. He sounds cheeky and power crazy. I'd get another agent.

Pinkje Tue 02-Sep-14 12:59:12

Who pays the electricity bills for the laundry? You I suspect.

bonborez Tue 02-Sep-14 12:59:52

well you don't necessarily need to change agents but you do need to resolve the basement issue. Laundry facilities are a fairly basic requirement in a let property these days. I wouldn't know where to find a laundrette now. I would say that you insist the lock is removed but you will ask your neighbour not to use the basement between, for example, 11pm and 8am - giving him 9 clear hours to sleep (unless he's a shift worker in which case you could agree accordingly).

WookieCookiee Tue 02-Sep-14 13:01:24

He is appropriating your property without your permission and denying your tenants access to facilities they are entitled to and, I assume, that they reasonably expected to have access to when they signed up to the tenancy. He is not being a good letting agent.
You do need to broach it with him, if only to stress that the cellar is yours, not his, and he only has access with your permission.
I would seriously think about revoking the goodwill agreement as he has significantly overstepped the boundary by adding a combination lock.

MarchEliza Tue 02-Sep-14 13:03:05

This is crazy and I think you should put a stop to it immediately.

BTW - most tenancy agreements have a clause in them about using the washing machines within appropriate hours for the consideration of neighbors and other tenants. I'm sure this is something you could implement.

It sounds like he's simply colonizing your cellar and I would be concerned about him claiming legal ownership of it in the future (though I am totally unqualified about how this would work.)

PausingFlatly Tue 02-Sep-14 13:29:05

So, standing back and looking at this.

You are charging someone money for a flat including a washing machine (and w/m or space for one would be a deal breaker for most people choosing where to live).

You have now discovered that, through no fault of yours, the tenants - your customers - are not getting the access to the washing machine.

You are paying someone to carry out a service for you, and he is harassing your customers.

And your response to this is to carry on charging the customers for the thing you're not longer providing. Because you're scared of hypothetical meaningless phone calls from someone who has no power over you and whom you are actually paying to carry out a service for you, which he's not doing properly.

Can you see how you absolutely have to put a stop to this?

PausingFlatly Tue 02-Sep-14 13:33:18

And that's before even getting on to him moving his own stuff in there.

stretto Tue 02-Sep-14 15:34:29

Thank you so much for all your replies. We have decided we will book a tradesman to come in and do some maintenance work, and that the neighbour will have to remove his filing cabinets to allow access, then we will change the locks and offer the tenants access to the laundry. Thank you all again.

It's adverse possession that you need to be wary of. Think the time is something like 9 or 11 years. If you break his lock and reclaim possession, the time starts again.

Google it or get legal advice to make sure though; my knowledge is only a vague recollection!

wowfudge Tue 02-Sep-14 19:13:45

To add to what has already been stated - you are doing the agent a favour by letting him use some of your space and paying him to manage the property letting for you and he has done that: clearly a case of give him an inch and he'll take a mile. Glad you are taking action. If I were you tenant I would be so pissed off.

steppemum Tue 02-Sep-14 21:10:10

stretto, that will certainly get him out, but I don't think it is entirely the way to go.
Book the tradesman, get the filing cabinet out, but then nicely tell him that he can't have the cellar. I think you need to be very clear to him that the arrangement is over, and you need to tell him that the tenants will have access to the washing machine.

I think if you just change the locks and assume, then he will change them back, or stop the tenants using the machine etc.
You need to spell it out.

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