Tenants Rights

Many tenants believe that they have rights and that their landlords don't. Renting a home is a two-way street and tenants have responsibilities as well as rights. Each year, tenants end up in court often having a CCJ made against them, making it extremely difficult to obtain rented accommodation and credit afterwards. Here is a list of the most queried topics:

Holding Deposits - if you pay a holding deposit and decide not to take a property you will not be entitled to your money back.

Application Fees - these are charged by agents to carry out credit and reference checks on you and are generally non-refundable.

Tenancy Agreement - tenants should be issued with a tenancy agreement as this sets out landlord and tenant responsibilities, when the rent is due and much more. It is not a legal requirement but is advisable. All our tenants receive one. Remember a tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement., if you break it you could lose your deposit and end up in court.

Statement of Tenancy Terms - this is a legal requirement and outlines rents, rates etc.

Rent Book - is required by law although it can take the format of a statement that many agents issue.

Guarantors - many agents and landlords require a financial guarantor. This person should own their own home and have an income. They become responsible for any debt a tenant might accrue during their tenancy.

Housing Benefit - It is every tenant's right to claim housing benefit, however, this does not mean that a landlord or agent has to automatically accept any tenants on housing benefit. You generally have to be able to pay the deposit and first months rent in advance, and prove that you will be able to pay the rent each month (possibly by showing a current housing benefit claim). Many landlords and agents will require a guarantor though.

Rates - the law sets out who is responsible for paying the rates by the value of a property, however, a landlord can still charge you rates if it is in the tenancy agreement.

Security Deposit - held for damages and any non-compliance with the tenancy agreement including rent arrears. New deposits must be "protected" by law which means they must be registered with a government approved scheme. The landlord or agent can hold the deposit or it can be placed into a special custodial account.

Inventory - An inventory, often supported by photographs is usually taken to list everything in the property and it's condition. This is used in deciding whether or not any deductions are due from the deposit. Landlords can, and have, also prosecuted tenants for stealing things from their property, and the tenant then ends up with a criminal record for theft.

Repairs & Maintenance- the landlord has certain responsibilities in law such as providing tenants with hot water and a dry home, however a tenancy agreement will spell out exactly who is responsible for what. Generally, most landlords will carry out all repairs on defects within the property, except where a tenant damages something or it is something that belongs to a tenant. Usually, tenants are responsible for cleaning, gardening and sometimes decorating and minor repairs.

Landlords/agents will prioritize repairs and tenants must understand that there are many factors outside the agent/landlord's control. For example, if your boiler breaks down in the middle of winter then that will be more of a priority over say a loose door handle, but, if an engineer can't get to you because of bad weather for example, you would have to wait. Equally a report on a Saturday night may have to wait to Monday to be dealt with. You are not entitled to instantaneous repairs and must give reasonable time to have them carried out. If you have a complaint that is not dealt with within a reasonable period of time, put it in writing.

Dampness - if it is penetrating dampness (e.g. from a roof or wall or rising damp) then the landlord is responsible. If it is condensation however, this is nearly always the fault of the tenant. It is caused by poor air circulation and ventilation. Putting wet clothes on radiators, showering, cooking and ironing all contribute to condensation unless there is adequate ventilation. That can be as simple as opening a window! Placing furniture too close to a wall can also cause condensation. As a tenant you would be held responsible for cleaning or re-decorating areas affected by condensation.

Late Rent - if a tenant does not pay rent on time they are breaking the tenancy agreement. Consequences can range from charges and interest to eviction and legal action. Always communicate any problems to your landlord or agent.

Deductions From Rent - most tenancies disallow deductions or compensation when, for example, something breaks such as your heating. At this time of extra cost to your landlord, you should make sure that you pay your full rent on time. If you feel the landlord or agent could have made a repair more quickly, you should write to them and ask for a discount, but never just deduct one.

Ending a Tenancy - Many tenants think that they don't have to pay their last month's rent if the landlord or agent holds a deposit but this is wrong. You would be liable for interest and charges and your landlord/agent may give you a bad reference or add your name to the tenant risk data-base.

Eviction - If you fail to pay your rent or break your agreement in any other way, the landlord has the right to evict you.

Legal Proceedings - this is often the last resort, but many tenants get taken to court every year, and usually end up with an order against them that other agents, landlords and credit companies can search against. Such orders can then be enforced by the Enforcement of Judgments Office (better known as bailiffs).

Tenant Data-Base - all tenants who leave arrears or cause damages or act anti-socially are now being registered on a new data-base that agents and landlords can check.

This information is given to assist in preventing landlord-tenant disputes. It does not constitute legal advice.

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