I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That’s how conditions are.
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.*
You may or may not have heard that one of the largest Property Guardian firms put itself (and all its related companies) into voluntary liquidation on 6 November 2019 (eg this one). But that is what Camelot did.
The reasons for this are unknown (effectively the Dutch parent company appears to have pulled in inter-company loans, making the child companies technically insolvent, so a deliberate internal decision. They are calling it a ‘re-structuring’. There is speculation that this may be related to Camelot pleading guilty to a failure to licence an HMO and multiple breaches of the HMO management regulations, with sentencing hearing on 10 January 2020, but I’m not sure that avoiding the reputation damage and fines would be enough to trigger this step.)
Now, it appears that the Guardians’ deposits have been transferred to a new company called Watchtower Security Solutions Ltd. Which, unsurprisingly, has the same directors as the Camelot companies.
Watchtower has been pressurising Camelot guardians to sign up to new licence agreements with them, for the properties that they are already in. Some of these, at least, are at an increased monthly licence fee. But here is the front page of these new licence agreements.
“This agreement is also excluded from the Protection from Eviction Act 1977”??
Oh come on, Watchtower, you know this is not the case (Our note from 7 YEARS AGO!). Camelot settled a number of cases precisely on their failure to comply with the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 notice requirements. (I may give details of a couple in the future, because any NDA in the settlement was with Camelot, not Watchtower, and Camelot are in liquidation and can have no interest or value in the NDA any more. We’ll see.) Camelot knew full well that the PfEA applied. Watchtower are the same people, so I don’t know why they are still trying to pull this nonsense.
Now, does A G Securities v Vaughan apply? There is an interesting question there. The whole point of A G Securities was that the licensees had been given licences of the whole property, but at different times, so could not be considered joint tenants. But if Watchtower are giving new ‘licences’ to guardians who are currently occupying a property, at the same time, that looks a lot like a joint tenancy of the whole… This might get interesting for Watchtower, who have clearly not bothered with advice from a competent residential landlord and tenant lawyer.
There is still a further question. From what I have seen Camelot’s ‘authorisation’ agreements with property owners would be likely to automatically end on Camelot’s insolvency. I’d be surprised if it was otherwise, as this would be a standard commercial clause. Did Watchtower get the agreement of every single property owner for Camelot’s authorisation to grant occupation licenses before or upon Camelot entering liquidation? I do not know, but unless such an assignment (or a new authorisation) was agreed with the property owner, Watchtower had and has no basis to be ‘granting’ new licenses to guardians, let alone requiring them to sign up to those licenses.
Of course, the guardians are the ones with no place or say in any of this, save that whoever actually has the right to bring possession proceedings (and it may not be Watchtower), at the least has to give them 28 days notice, then proceedings at court.
As ever, some Guardian companies conduct themselves as if landlord and tenant law doesn’t apply to them. This is not a good look, as well as being wrong.
(*I hate musicals on the whole, on the basis that I generally disapprove of life bursting into song at random moments, let alone with orchestral accompaniment. But there we are, it had to be done. Apologies to Alan Jay Lerner.)