Standing up for renters
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Protect your rights as private renters
At Advice4Renters, we’re often faced with clients – private renters who find themselves in difficult situations with regards to their rental property. The issues are varied and range from poor housing conditions to unlawful evictions. In most cases, our clients are not even aware of their rights as private renters. We see ourselves as advocates for private renters who have been treated unfairly by landlords and by the system. Our legal team is solid with years of experience and we’ll back you all the way to make sure your rights are protected.
It’s our job to protect the rights of private renters and we work closely with many of you to make sure unscrupulous landlords don’t take advantage of you, especially if you have challenging personal circumstances to deal with as well.
As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’ and it is important that you should know your basic rights so that should you feel your landlord is being unfair or unreasonable, you are able to:
- stand up for yourself and
- know that it’s possible to get legal help by calling us at 020 7624 4327 or talking to your local council tenancy officer.
We thought we’d share some answers to the most frequently asked questions we’ve experienced. This is by no means a comprehensive list of questions. If, after reading this, you still need answers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
What are my rights as a private renter?
1. What information should my tenancy agreement contain?
It is possible to have a written tenancy agreement, or for you to have an oral agreement. Both types of agreement are equally valid and enforceable. However, it is better for you to have a written agreement, as this will reduce the risks of disputes later. A written tenancy agreement also suggests a higher level of professionalism on the part of the landlord.
If you do not have a written agreement, you can require your landlord to give you a written statement, setting out some basic terms of your agreement. The landlord has four weeks to comply with such a request. The statement must give the following details:
- Date of start of tenancy
- Rent payable, whether monthly or weekly
- Due date for rent e.g. 1st of every month
- Length of the rental agreement
- Any provisions dealing with a rent review
A written tenancy agreement is your contract with your landlord. It is a legally binding document. It should contain all of the above information. It should also say whether you have paid a deposit and if so the amount. It should say what the deposit can be used for.
It should also set out your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and explain the circumstances in which the agreement can be brought to an end. It should also deal with what will happen at the end of the tenancy.
It is important that you read any agreement you are given before you sign it. Do not be afraid to ask for an explanation of anything you do not understand, or the removal of terms you know you will not be able to comply with (e.g. not to have pets if you know your cat or dog is an indispensable part of your family).
As well as any written tenancy agreement or statement of terms, the landlord must provide you with an updated gas safety certificate, an energy performance certificate and a booklet called How to Rent. Some landlords/agents will ask you to sign a receipt to say that you have been given these documents. It is important to check the receipt against the documents you have been given and either amend the receipt or refuse to sign it, if any of the documents listed there are missing.
2. Who holds on to my deposit?
Your deposit must be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of you paying the deposit. Your landlord must give you the details of where your deposit is protected. The landlord should also give you a copy of the booklet produced by the scheme used, which explains how deposit protection works.
3. What are my rights if the property is not in good condition?
The property must meet basic health and safety standards (although this could be relative).
If there is an issue that directly affects your physical and mental well-being (within reason), your landlord must endeavour to fix it. This is a legal requirement. This could include issues such as:
- Mould or damp
- Gas leak
- Unsafe, unsecured entrance
- Poor or inadequate lighting
- Pest infestation
- Drainage/Sewage issues
You have the right to take legal action if your landlord does not fix these issues. If you are facing difficulties with your landlord refusing to solve problems that have an impact on your health and safety, please give us a call. It’s our job to make sure your legal rights as a private renter are protected.
Please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0207 624 4327 or email us at email@example.com. Our phone lines are open Mon-Fri 9:30am-4:30pm.
4. There are problems with the property, but they are not affecting my health and safety. What are my rights?
Your right to have minor repairs done and less serious defects remedied is basically the same as for more serious defects (note however, the tenancy agreement can require you to do certain minor repairs – such as changing tap washers – yourself). The problem is that it might not be as easy to get help to force your landlord to do less impactful repairs. However, there may be practical steps you can take to deal with minor repairs – please contact us to discuss these.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that it’s the landlords duty to make sure the following areas are safe and in sound condition:
- Overall structure of the property
- Drain pipes, gutters and sinks
- Heating and hot water
- Electricity and wiring
In cases where white goods (washing machine, dishwasher, fridge freezer) are provided by the landlord the court would probably require the landlord to make sure they are in kept in working order. If you have a written agreement that does not say who is responsible, you should ask if a term can be included to make it clear that the landlord is responsible for repairs/replacement. If, however, you were responsible for damaging any appliance supplied with the property, then it will be your responsibility to get it fixed.
5. Can the landlord suddenly increase my rent?
Not during the fixed term, if you have a fixed term tenancy agreement. They can increase the rent at the end of the fixed term, if you choose to continue living there and are signing a new contract. You do not have to accept whatever increase the landlord suggests; you should try to negotiate if you are not happy with what the landlord suggests. You should not agree to a rent increase you will struggle to afford.
If your contract is not fixed i.e. rolling, the landlord can increase the rent but only once a year. In this case they must give you a month’s notice. The notice must include information about your rights to challenge the proposed increase.
Tenant fees: update – now applies to all tenancies from 1 June 2020
On 1 June 2019, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 came into force in England. This meant that landlords (and agents) could only charge fees to tenants and lodgers in certain limited circumstances. However, this change only applied to tenancies and licences that started on or after 1 June 2019. However, from 1 June 2020 the new law now applies to ALL tenancies/licences (including student lettings) regardless of when the tenancy/licence started.
Landlords are only allowed to charge you:
- Rent – including rent in advance at the start of the tenancy
- A tenancy deposit (up to a maximum of 5 weeks’ rent; 6 weeks if the annual rental is over £50,000);
- A holding deposit (up to a maximum of one week’s rent);
- Fees for a “relevant default” – something that you have done wrong, like losing your keys and asking the landlord for new keys, or being late with your rent payments; but only if these are included in your written tenancy agreement;
- Compensation for breach of the agreement;
- Specified fees in relation to a change to, transfer of, or giving up the tenancy;
- Council tax, utilities, communication services (phone/Wi-Fi) and TV licence.
Any fees, which do not fall into these categories, will be unlawful. If the landlord puts a clause in the agreement which tries to charge a fee which is not permitted, then this clause will be invalid.
Landlords also need to refund all tenancy deposits in excess of 5 weeks’ rent. The only time that the landlord will not need to refund the excess deposit is where the tenancy started before 1 June 2019 and has not yet been renewed.
Landlords who do not comply face sanctions. These include:
- Fines of up to £5000 for a first offence;
- Fines of up to £30,000 or prosecution for a subsequent offence;
- Tenants can apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a refund of any unlawful payments;
- Landlords will not be able to give tenants a valid notice under section 21 Housing Act 1988 (notice seeking possession) until the payment has been returned
Further guidance is available on the government website, which you can find here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/
Further guidance is available on the government website, which you can find here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government
Further guidance is available on the government website, which you can find here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/
6. Can my landlord evict me?
Yes, but your landlord will usually need a possession order from the court first. How easy it is to get one will depend on the type of tenancy you have. There are various stages to the eviction process. The first stage is that the landlord must give you written notice explaining the ground on which they intend to ask the court to order you to leave. To be valid the notice must be in the right form.
Once the notice period ends, they must apply to the court for an order telling you to leave. You must be given a copy of the landlord’s court papers and you will have the chance to respond. However, the time for a response is limited and you should seek advice immediately (it is better to seek advice as soon as you receive the warning notice referred to above).
Once an order has been made telling you to leave, your landlord has to arrange for the court bailiffs to carry out an eviction. It is only at this stage that you have to leave.
Some landlords try to get their tenants to leave through harassment or by taking away your basic amenities, or by using other underhand methods. Please remember that you are safeguarded against this under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and other legislation.
I am moving home… What do I need to consider?
If you do have to move home, we’re here to help with that too. In our experience, moving home can be extremely stressful, especially if your moving circumstances are not pleasant. We know that it can be a time of anxiety and worry for all members of the family. The Advice 4 Renters team has been helping tenants for over 30 years with their rental rights, advocating for justice and fair treatment for those in private rental properties. Over the years, we’ve acquired a wealth of experience and knowledge on how to make the lives of tenants easier.
We’ve seen that one of the ways to move to a new property with a minimum stress is to be thoroughly organised. Following a specific checklist is a useful way to keep on track of all that needs to be done before moving into your new rental property.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive step-by-step checklist to make your move as hassle-free as possible.
1. Make a list… Creating lists are a useful tool to have a clear understanding of all the areas that need to be put in motion.
2. Get your finances in order. Do you need to sort out your deposit? Do you need to pay any rent in advance? You will need some money for the actual move, so budget these in – moving van, packaging materials, deep clean of your current property, deep clean of the new property and a few other miscellaneous items depending on your circumstances.
3. Insurance… You will need to talk to your contents insurance provider and arrange contents insurance for your new home.
4. Inform your employer you are moving… They will need this information for processing your payslips and compensation.
5. Schools – If your children are staying at the same school, make sure you inform the school of your change of address.
6. Also, if you need childcare on the day of your move, ask a friend or relative in advance if they can look after your children for the day. A move is much easier if the children are looked after.
7. Pets – Ask a friend or relative to look after your pet(if you have one) on the day of your move.
8. Start clearing out your current property. This includes getting rid of unwanted stuff by disposing of them or selling or giving away items no longer of use to you. Make sure you check spaces like garages, sheds and lofts so that you don’t miss anything.
9. Start packing… You will need boxes and packing material for that. Often your local supermarkets will have boxes and bubble wrap that they are getting rid of so before you purchase any, make sure you check with them first.
10. Mail redirection… Royal Mail does a cost-effective redirection service and it can be done either at a post office or online. Make sure you get this in place from the date of your move so that your post comes to your new address.
11. Changing your address on utility bills and for any services that are delivered to you. If you are paying for your own utilities, you will need to call each utility company and give them your new address – bank, gas, electric, water, council tax, DVLA, HMRC, mobile phone, phone and broadband, TV license and/or TV subscriptions like Sky or Netflix for example, milk deliveries, Amazon deliveries and any others you may have. If your rent includes the basic utilities like gas, electricity and water, you obviously don’t need to call them.
12. Take meter readings at both the old and new properties.
13. Don’t forget to inform your GP of your move. If you are moving to a new area, you will need to register with a new GP.
14. Check the inventory of your current property– what items were provided to you by your current landlord and what is their condition? Make sure you replace or fix things that you or your family may have damaged.
15. If you need a removal van, book it well in advance. You don’t want to be left high and dry at the last minute without a roof over your head. If you are getting a friend or a relative to help you move, make sure they know exactly what date and time to be there.
16. Scout out your new neighbourhood if you are moving to a new area. Find out where the supermarkets, banks, post office and library are. And don’t forget to register with your new council as soon as possible.
17. Before you move into your new property make sure you get a list of the inventories – check in inventory. This is important so you are aware of what there was when you moved in and their condition. This will protect you from the landlord claiming that items purchased by you were already in the property.
18. If you notice defects in the new property at the time you move in, or shortly after, take pictures and tell the landlord/agent. Having a record of issues, you found when you moved in, could help you when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of the tenancy.
This is a lot to take in… we get it. But if you are organised well in advance, these logistics will be much easier to manage. Don’t leave for the last minute unless you have to move in a hurry. We suggest that you create an excel spreadsheet with specific timelines so that you are able to keep track of all the ‘to do’s.’