You and the Law – 8th February 2011

Hands off our customers

I have just left a firm where I worked for 10 years to join a competitor.
Five years ago I was bullied into signing a contract which barred me from contacting any of their customers within six months of leaving their employment.  I have already received a letter from their Solicitors reminding me of this. 

In this industry all customers or potential customers advertise widely, and are not solely the customers of the company I have just left.  Can my previous firm hold me to this?  PN

The courts don’t much like these restrictions, known as ‘covenants in restraint of trade’ because they limit the individual’s freedom to find employment as they choose.  However the clause in your contract is quite narrow; it doesn’t bar you from working for a competitor for six months, but only from attempting to poach your previous firm’s customers.  It’s not stopping you approaching their potential customers.  I think the courts might well uphold this, so you should tread carefully.

Light-fingered tenant

I have been renting out a flat for years.  For the first time recently a tenant left owing hundreds of pounds in rent.  How can I recover this money owing to me?  He also took fixtures and fittings without permission.  EH

If you’ve had no trouble before you’ve either been very lucky or very astute in selecting your tenants.  If you know where your tenant is you can sue him for the money he owes you in the County Court.  Write first letting him know this is what you intend.

If, as is often the case, your tenant has disappeared without a trace there are agencies you could employ to find him, although this would cost you money.  You need to take steps to prevent a recurrence, for example by setting the deposit at a sufficient level and taking immediate action when a tenant defaults on a rent payment.



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