Common landlord-tenant issues: know your rights

3 August 2009

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.

10 comments

  • C
    Our letting agent refuses to accept there's a problem with the windows in a room despite us sending photos showing temperatures 5-10 degrees lower than any other room. I hate them.
  • Emma
    Some friends who rent an appartment opened a letter addressed to "the occupier," only to find out that the property is being repossessed within 28 days. I think this is a very murky area regarding their rights as tenants, pretty stressful!
  • Joff
    Interesting article Vince, what about spinning it the other way around for landlords looking for protection against scummy tenants? Let me know when it's done, ta.
  • Junkyard
    We once had a crazy old biddy for a landlady who used to let herself into our house and rifle through our stuff, help herself to our food etc. She didn't even try to hide it - we'd come home and find her in there. "Hello dear, any chance of a cup of tea?" she'd say. We got the hell out of there quick-sharp of course. She tried to keep our deposit, but luckily the letting agent was having none of it. No doubt she's down in Hell by now, bothering the Devil for a cuppa.
  • Frugal
    As I understand it Deposit Schemes do not apply to Room Share Tenancies where each tenancy contract is separate and not totalling an entire property.
  • Adam
    Deposit schemes only apply to Assured Shorthold Tenancies. We successfully took our Managing agent/Landlord to court for not protecting the deposit in a scheme. We were awarded the original deposit, three times the deposit sum in compensation and costs. Actually getting the money is proving tough though and are enforcing it through a bailiff.
  • Mike e.
    Quite right Adam, they are only required to show they are willing to pay back the sum, which I think is about £10/month. Even thought htere is protection available and this that and the other, you'll probably never see the money again.
  • dvdj
    @Emma, that happen to me, was basically given 3week to move out and there was nothing our letting agent could do. Nightmare. Currently disputing a £160 cleaning claim with my previous address. Any disputes take weeks to resolve. We moved out on the 27th March and we've still not got our deposite back as we've disputed the claim. Really should chase that up actually...
  • Tips B.
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