You and the Law – 26th October 2010

Vanishing Dad

My father left my mother over a year ago and has disappeared without trace.  The house is in his name only.  Could he sell it without my mother’s consent, or could he leave the house in his Will (he is 66) to someone outside the family?  If my father doesn’t reappear, will my mother ever be able to sell the house?  SM

Your mother should see a solicitor urgently in order to register her matrimonial home rights.  The house couldn’t then be sold, and she would be notified if an attempt were made to transfer ownership via your father’s Will.

Although the house is in your father’s name your mother would most likely be entitled to a share if they come to divorce.  The solicitor will probably engage a tracing agency to track your father down.  It will be difficult, although not impossible, to divorce him or do anything with the house until he’s found.

Drain on student cash

My grand-daughter is a student and is sharing a house with three others.  She signed a Tenancy Agreement accepting responsibility, among other things, for maintaining the drains.  Recently they had to pay £180.00 between them to have these cleared.  Is it right that a landlord should expect young students to be responsible for drains?  DS

Such maintenance clauses are standard in Tenancy Agreements, the fact that your grand-daughter is young and a student doesn’t absolve her from these responsibilities I’m afraid!

However, tenants are only responsible for maintenance, not repair, and if there’s a long-standing problem with the property’s drains it will be the landlord’s job to sort them out.  Ideally the landlord should have approached the tenants and given them the opportunity to remedy any problem.  If the landlord organised the work without reference to the tenants I would insist on seeing the bill, since it seems on the high side.

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