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> Another allotment rent rise on the way
Simon Kirby
post Sep 25 2010, 10:18 PM
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Early signs from Newbury Town Council are that there's a 33% allotment rent hike on the way next year, hot on the heels of this year's 47% rise. Cllr Arthur Johnson is apparently costing a proposal for a 25% pensioner discount and as not even Newbury Town Council could be idiotic enough to cut rents right after the unholy ballyhoo this year's increase created it's likely that the plan will be to create the differential with a 33% increase for non-pensioners. Early indications are that around a quarter of tenants would qualify for the discount so the Council will still hope to make an additional £4.5k of revenue which would be comparable with last year's gain.

The Council reported at Monday's Community Services Committee that only half of the tenants have so far signed the new Tenancy Agreement, and the Council will be following up with the other half soon. As it is, the thirteen months notice of any rent rise that the new Agreement provides is not unreasonable.

Not so good for me though. The Council have so far failed to respond to my Letter Before Claim so legal action looks increasingly likely if I am not to be evicted in December.


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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 02:30 PM
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I now understand from Newbury Town Council that they do not intend to honour the terms of the new allotment Tenancy Agreement. The Agreement was drafted in cooperation with Trading Standards after I complained that the rent review term was unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 because the increase was unilateral and imposed without notice. The new Agreement which obliges the Council to give 13 months notice of any rent increase was approved by Trading Standards and ratified by the Town Council on 26 July, but a senior source within the Council now tells me that the Agreement does not infact give 13 months notice.

This is what the Agreement says:

QUOTE
The Rent will be reviewed by the Council every year. (Notification of any price change, which will take effect from the 1st April will be made known by the 1st February of each year ...

The Rent shall be paid on the FIRST day of MARCH each year for the following 12 month period commencing 1st April.


So how do you understand this? Notice of any increase will be given by 1 February, and any increase will take effect 1 April, one months after the rent for the year becomes due on 1 March. Can you understand this to mean anything other than an obligation to give 13 months notice?


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Bloggo
post Sep 29 2010, 02:48 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Sep 29 2010, 03:30 PM) *
I now understand from Newbury Town Council that they do not intend to honour the terms of the new allotment Tenancy Agreement. The Agreement was drafted in cooperation with Trading Standards after I complained that the rent review term was unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 because the increase was unilateral and imposed without notice. The new Agreement which obliges the Council to give 13 months notice of any rent increase was approved by Trading Standards and ratified by the Town Council on 26 July, but a senior source within the Council now tells me that the Agreement does not infact give 13 months notice.

This is what the Agreement says:



So how do you understand this? Notice of any increase will be given by 1 February, and any increase will take effect 1 April, one months after the rent for the year becomes due on 1 March. Can you understand this to mean anything other than an obligation to give 13 months notice?

The way I read it is as follows:
Notice of increase given Feb 2011. Increase to take effect April 2011 one month after the rent for the year 2010 becomes due in March 2011.
Given that thr financial year runs March to April.


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Iommi
post Sep 29 2010, 03:08 PM
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Simon, the agreement is ambiguous. It could mean 1 month or 13 months.
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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 03:35 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Sep 29 2010, 04:08 PM) *
Simon, the agreement is ambiguous. It could mean 1 month or 13 months.

I agree it's not well drafted, but I can only construe it to mean 13 month's notice because it is explicit about when the increase takes effect - one month after the rent becomes due. As the rent is due at the prevailing rate the it won't be until the next year that the rent is due at the increased rate. Can you say how to read it to get one month?

Interestingly enough, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 has a clause about ambiguous terms: "If there is doubt about the meaning of a written term, the interpretation which is most favourable to the consumer shall prevail".


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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 03:38 PM
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QUOTE (Bloggo @ Sep 29 2010, 03:48 PM) *
The way I read it is as follows:
Notice of increase given Feb 2011. Increase to take effect April 2011 one month after the rent for the year 2010 becomes due in March 2011.
Given that thr financial year runs March to April.

The rent is payable in advance, so rent for the year 2011/2012 is due 1 March 2011.

So how much notice do you understand it to give Bloggo, 1 month, or 13?


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Iommi
post Sep 29 2010, 03:58 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Sep 29 2010, 04:35 PM) *
Can you say how to read it to get one month?

It could be read as Bloggo said.

Before the rent for the year is due in March, you are advised in February what the new rate will be. That new rate applies to April and on wards. I presume you pay rent in March for April 1st to March 31st. So in other words the rent for the new year is in effect due one month before the new rent year commences, but you are advised, one month before the rent is due.

It's definitely badly drafted and could be misconstrued.
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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 04:14 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Sep 29 2010, 04:58 PM) *
It could be read as Bloggo said.

Before the rent for the year is due in March, you are advised in February what the new rate will be. That new rate applies to April and on wards. I presume you pay rent on for April 1st to March 31st. So in other words the rent for the new year is in effect due one month before the new rent year commences, but you are advised, one month before the rent is due.

It's definitely badly drafted and could be misconstrued.

It's a yearly periodic tenancy from 1 April to 31 March and the rent is due 1 March for the whole of the following period. It's a little unusual that the rent is due a month before the start of the period, but it's valid.

It doesn't matter when the period runs from, what matters is the rate on the day the rent falls due.


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Iommi
post Sep 29 2010, 05:22 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Sep 29 2010, 05:14 PM) *
It's a yearly periodic tenancy from 1 April to 31 March and the rent is due 1 March for the whole of the following period. It's a little unusual that the rent is due a month before the start of the period, but it's valid.

It doesn't matter when the period runs from, what matters is the rate on the day the rent falls due.

Falls? huh.gif

You are advised on calendar month before you are due to pay for the new season.
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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 05:37 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Sep 29 2010, 06:22 PM) *
Falls? huh.gif

You are advised one calendar month before you are due to pay for the new season.

Yes, that's right.

Sorry, I don't understand the query of "falls".


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Richard Garvie
post Sep 29 2010, 06:11 PM
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Simon, what is the cost of rental for a year???
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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 06:51 PM
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QUOTE (Richard Garvie @ Sep 29 2010, 07:11 PM) *
Simon, what is the cost of rental for a year???

Hi Richard. It depends how big the plot is. The rate is now £6.41 per pole and a pole is approximately 25m2. A 10 pole plot used to be considered a full plot, and that's what I've got, but people have tended to want smaller plots and I think the average plot size in Newbury is now 4.3 poles. So in 2005 when the popularity of allotments really started to pick up a 4.3 pole plot cost £15.05 for the year, last year it cost £20.25, this year it cost £29.84, and next year it might cost 39.69. Cllr Johnson last year proposed a £25 per pole rate which would have made the cost of the average plot £107.50 and if all plots were let at that rate the Council would cover the cost of the service team's administration costs and that looks like their intention. To cover all of the allotment service's administration costs and overheads it would take a rate of £45.83 per pole, and the average plot would cost £197. My plot would cost £458.30 at that rate.

Local authorities routinely devolve management of their allotment service onto their tenant associations who then run the service voluntarily. I know some fairly expensive self-managed sites, Hungerford being the most expensive I know at £12 per pole, but typically self-managed sites are better run, and better resourced for rents around £3.50 per pole, and I know of some very successful self-managed sites charging around £25 for a ten pole plot. Newbury Town Council have refused to discuss self-management.

Cllr Johnson said in the summer at the West Mills tenants meeting that having reviewed the cost of other council's sites he had found the average cost to be in the region of £6 to £7 per pole, though it turns out the Council had sampled Thurrock and Enfield, which is an odd choice. They also claimed at the same meeting that thay have found self-managed council sites charging £100 per pole, though it turns out they were talking about Wyevale Garden Centre who let grow your own plots for that kind of money, though they are a commercial opperation, aren't council owned, are not self-managed, and aren't even allotments as you'd normally understand it. My own sample of 20 of Newbury's neighbouring boroughs suggests that the neighbourhood population average is in the range £3.00 to £4.00 per pole. Here's my sample. Newbury was the most expensive council I found at £6.94.



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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 06:52 PM
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Richard, how do you understand the words of the Agreement. 1 month or 13?


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Iommi
post Sep 29 2010, 07:25 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Sep 29 2010, 06:37 PM) *
Yes, that's right.

Sorry, I don't understand the query of "falls".

Do you mean...

what matters is the rate on the day the rent is due.

or

what matters is the rate on the day the rent falls.

or

I simply am not sure what you mean.
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Richard Garvie
post Sep 29 2010, 07:36 PM
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Hi Simon.

Thanks for the information, and it's a lot of information to take in!!! It does seem like a h eck of a rise over the past few years.

As for the wording of the agreement, from what you have posted I would say it means notification in February for the forthcoming year, payment in March for the forthcoming year, and occupation from the April to March. That's how it appears to me, and that's applying the common sense method. As has also been written on here, they could easily make out it means either!!!
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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 08:04 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Sep 29 2010, 08:25 PM) *
Do you mean...

what matters is the rate on the day the rent is due.

or

what matters is the rate on the day the rent falls.

or

I simply am not sure what you mean.

smile.gif My bad.

I meant falls as in becomes. So what matters is the rate on the day the rent is due.


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Iommi
post Sep 29 2010, 08:11 PM
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I thought it did, but it seemed a bit odd.

The easiest way to look at it, is to temporally ignore the rent due date. You are advised of the new rent in February and it comes in to play in April. The only thing in contention is have you been given 30 (odd) day notice of the new rate before it is due. One month seems rather harsh as I would imagine a lot of work goes into preparation, that could be a waste on one's behalf, if one decides to jack it in because of the rent increase.

It would seem more reasonable to give, say, 6 months notice of new rent.
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Richard Garvie
post Sep 29 2010, 08:24 PM
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Simon, could you email a copy of the full agreement over??? Do you have one??? I'll have it looked over for you. richard.garvie@googlemail.com
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Simon Kirby
post Sep 29 2010, 09:47 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Sep 29 2010, 09:11 PM) *
I thought it did, but it seemed a bit odd.

The easiest way to look at it, is to temporally ignore the rent due date. You are advised of the new rent in February and it comes in to play in April. The only thing in contention is have you been given 30 (odd) day notice of the new rate before it is due. One month seems rather harsh as I would imagine a lot of work goes into preparation, that could be a waste on one's behalf, if one decides to jack it in because of the rent increase.

It would seem more reasonable to give, say, 6 months notice of new rent.

I argue that an allotment tenant needs at least 12 months notice to be able to wrap things up and quit with a minimum of loss. Say the rent announced 1 February is too much and I need to quit: I ordered the season's seeds four months before, and the seed potatoes the month before, so if I want to quit I have to write them off. Then there's the leeks and parsnips sitting in the ground, and the onions, garlic and broad beans that I planted in the Autumn that won't crop until late spring, I'd have to write them all off too. And there's my rhubarb, asparagus, blackcurrants, daffodils and shrubbery which I don't have room for anywhere else. And there's my fruit cage and shed too. With enough notice I could avoid the unnecessary expenditure and make an effort to lift the permanant plants at the right time of year and potentially find a buyer for them and the shed and stuff. And of course I'd probably save myself all the autumn digging.

Point is this Agreement was approved by Trading Standards as a solution to my complaint, and as the meaning is obvious to me it's reasonable to assume that it was obvious to Trading Standards too, and so the Council's undertaking was on the basis of that understanding. The Agreement was also ratified by the dozen or so town councillors who sit on the Community Services Committee and it's inconceivable that each and every one of them who voted to ratify it was similarly mistaken over the wording, especially as it had been knocked back from a previous meeting for a specially convened working group of councillors to paw over.


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Iommi
post Sep 29 2010, 09:54 PM
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Often in these matters, verdicts depend on what is normal. Is there such thing as an 'industry' norm?
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