“He is nothing but a squatter” says homeowner forced to give tenant cheap rent for life because of obscure law from 1925

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“He is nothing but a squatter” says homeowner forced to give tenant cheap rent for life because of obscure law from 1925

A homeowner forced to give a tenant cheap rent for life due to a little-known law from 1925 says he is “nothing but a squatter living in my house”.

David Harding, 58, has hit out saying they have “nowhere to turn” after an attempt to turf out a tenant backfired because of 92-year-old laws.

He says he is warning other people thinking of entering into a similar agreement, calling the situation “ludicrous”.

Mr Harding and his wife Sheila, 60, bought their next door neighbour’s three-bed seaside home nearly 20 years ago.

Their pal Colin Gregory, 68, was struggling with the mortgage payments they claim, and David rented the home back to the former antiques dealer for £800 a month.

But decades later when the couple wanted to sell up to fund their new life in Spain and he refused to leave.

The Hardings took their former neighbour and friend to county court to get possession of the £310,000 home in Peacehaven, Sussex.

But they were astonished when Mr Gregory’s lawyer cited a law from 1925.

Sheila Harding and her husband David
(Image: SWNS.com)
The home that Colin Gregory refuses to move out of, owned by David Harding
(Image: SWNS.com)
David Harding has called the situation “ludicrous”
(Image: SWNS.com)

And after taking a break to read the paperwork the district judge evoked the 92-year-old law and ordered Gregory had a lifetime interest in the home.

Moreover, he ordered Mr Gregory had to be given a 90-year lease – and the Hardings can’t ever increase the rent from £800 a month.

The pair were refused permission to appeal and the judge branded both parties “foolhardy in the extreme”.

Desperate Mr Harding is speaking out to warn others of letting properties to friends.

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Mr Harding said: “We tried to help out not only as a good neighbour and landlord but my wife and I considered Colin as a good friend.

“To me he is nothing but a squatter living in my house.

“We own it, we pay the mortgage on it, we bought it – but due to a nearly-100-year-old law he gets to live in it for cheap.

“We have nowhere to turn to and can’t believe it has turned out like this.

“We went into court told by our solicitors that there would be no problem and walked out with him winning the case and us owning him costs.

“It’s ludicrous. There is nothing more we can do.”

David rents the home back to the former antiques dealer for £800 a month
(Image: SWNS.com)

The grandfather-of-two added: “We want to warn other people who are thinking of entering into any kind of agreement like this.

“We did everything by the book and look where it ended up.

“The law the solicitor used nobody had every heard of but it has cost us dearly. We’re stuffed.”

The Hardings moved into a property in Broomfield Avenue, next door to Colin, in 1993 and the families got on well.

They were so close in fact that when Colin confessed he was struggling to pay his mortgage and was going to have to sell up and move out, David offered to help, he says.

David says they have nowhere to turn to now
(Image: SWNS.com)

He bought the home for £143,000 in 2001, after getting a second ‘buy to rent’ mortgage, and Mr Gregory didn’t had to move out, happily paying £800 a month.

An official tenancy agreement was signed by all parties.

“My wife and I thought it would be a good investment and it was one we were in a position to make at the time,” recalled David, who owned a roofing company.

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“I told him he could stay there for as long as feasibly possible and that as long as I could afford it, I would keep the rent at £800.”

The couple sold their original home, moved to Spain in 2002 and decided to sell the house Mr Gregory rented from them three years ago.

They needed to free up some cash to fund their new three-bed villa in Torremolinos and went round for a “cup of tea” to explain the situation to Mr Gregory.

David and his wife Sheila bought their next door neighbour’s three-bed home nearly 20 years ago
(Image: SWNS.com)

Mr Harding claims he offered to sell the home for £60,000 under the valuation of £310,000.

“I wanted to give him the first option to buy and he said he would go away and have a think about it,” said Mr Harding, who has two children.

The Hardings claim they have him a year to come up with the money before explaining they had to put it on the market.

They accepted an offer from a buyer who was willing to pay around £240,000 for the home – and keep Mr Gregory as a tenant.

But the buyer said he needed £1,200 a month in rent to help pay the mortgage – and Mr Harding said Mr Gregory objected to the proposed rise in rent, he claims.

The case went to Brighton County Court in March 2016.

David said: “We did everything by the book and look where it ended up”
(Image: SWNS.com)

Mr Gregory claimed in court they had an oral agreement he could “continue to live there as long as he wanted as a fixed rent of £800 a month”.

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The court heard him claim he sold the house to the Hardings 12 years earlier for a reduced price – only in return for being able to rent it for as long as he wanted.

The claim – not mentioned in the tenancy agreement – was strongly disputed by the Hardings.

But then Mr Gregory’s solicitor produced two laws – from 1925 and 1948 – which the judge adjourned the hearing to consider.

He cited a Bannister v Bannister 1948 – where a woman was given the right to live rent free for life in a cottage she sold to her brother for under market value.

The judge decided the cases were similar, and he was given £800 a month rent “for life” – which due to a 1925 law – the Property Act – equates to 90 years.

Not only did he dismiss the Harding’s case – but he ordered Mr Gregory should be given cheap rent in the house for 90 years.

He also ordered them to pay his costs of £11,000.

The Hardings are allowed to sell the home – on the condition it goes to someone who will keep Mr Gregory as a cut-price tenant.

Since the hearing the Hardings have desperately tried but have had three significantly under value offers in the last year.

And to add insult to injury, Mr Harding said solicitors have warned Mr Gregory could pass on the right to live there in his will.

“No solicitors can tell me for sure if he could do that,” said Mr Gregory, who now works in swimming pool maintenance.

“I’m 98 per cent sure he can’t but I can’t afford to hire someone to find out.

“It’s ludicrous. I can’t believe that this is how it has turned out. We are trapped.”

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