Common landlord-tenant issues: know your rights
The history of landlord-tenant relations in the UK is a rather troubled one, with changes in the economy accounting for some of the difficulty, and legal loopholes accounting for others. Add in the occasional dodgy landlord or dodgy tenant, and renting can seem fraught with peril. Therefore, if you are a tenant, the first step in a civil relationship with your landlord is knowing what your rights are.
Here are three main rights you should be aware of.
1. Safety of the dwelling. Your landlord is required by law to keep your home safe and up to scratch, so if there were any issues, make sure you raise them (preferably in writing). Specifically, the landlord is responsible for repairs to the structure of the property, proper heating and hot water availability, safety of gas and electric appliances, fire safety, and repair and upkeep of common areas in multi-occupancy dwellings.
2. Your deposit. If you've kept your end of the tenancy agreement, you should get all your deposit back when your lease is up. Your landlord must prove why he or she is keeping any of your deposit. At the start of the tenancy, the deposit should be put into a secure account with a third party. Within fourteen days of the landlord receiving your deposit, he or she must provide you with information on your Deposit Protection Scheme. However, landlords do not have to accept a deposit from a tenant, but can use an alternative such as having a guarantor or taking out an insurance policy. But if a landlord does accept a deposit, it must be put into one of the government backed Deposit Protection Schemes. Landlords and letting agents who don't protect tenancy deposits will have to pay the tenant back three times the deposit.
Two years after the legislation, fewer deposits are being unfairly withheld, and when they are withheld, the tenant rights laws have teeth. Figures on mydeposits.co.uk show that 91% of disputes settled with the independent adjudication service were found in favour of the tenant, with an average disputed amount of £733. And the number of disputes that made it to the adjudication service was quite small, accounting for only 0.35% of protected deposits.
3. Eviction. Finally, if your landlord asks you to leave, he must follow the proper procedures. Harassing you is against the law. Since 1997, most leases in England and Wales have been Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). Any tenancy begun since 28 February 1997 is by default an AST unless specific and proper steps were taken to make it an Assured Tenancy. This is an effort to balance the power of landlords and tenants. Furthermore, in April 2007, tenancy deposit protection laws were introduced to ensure that landlords can't keep deposits at the end of a tenancy without proving they have a good reason for doing so.
If you have had success in exercising your tenant rights (or not), we'd love to hear about it in the comments section.