The rights of Tenants Q&A

With the prospect of becoming a homeowner remaining out of reach for many in England and Wales, more people are choosing to rent rather than purchase a property. But what rights do renters have when it comes to repairs on a property? And what can they do if their landlord decides to increase the cost of rent?

James Melvin-Bath, Litigation Solicitor, has provided some guidance below on these issues:

  1. Who is responsible for repairs on a rental property? Do these need to be carried out within a certain time period?

Private residential landlords are responsible for ensuring that any property they let out is kept in an appropriate standard. This means that they are responsible for any issues that tenants may have with the condition of their property, heating etc. If the Tenants have caused any damage themselves, or it was caused by their error (such as an overflowing blocked toilet), most Tenancy Agreements will allow the Landlord to recover the cost of repair from the Tenant, but they will still need to repair it in the first instance. This is why it is vitally important that Landlords ensure they have professionally drafted Tenancy Agreements.

If repairs are required they need to be carried out in a reasonable amount of time, unless they are hazardous to the Tenant such as; lack of heating, a leak, mould or running water in which case they must be done as soon as possible.

  1. Are there any rules when it comes to landlords increasing the cost of rent?

Tenants and Landlord must ensure they have checked their Tenancy Agreement in regards to increases of rent. Unless the Tenancy Agreement says otherwise, the rent cannot be increased within the fixed term. If the Landlord then wishes to increase the rent they will need to give notice to the Tenant. If the Tenant does not agree with the increase they can apply to the court for a rent determination.

However, most Tenancy Agreements provide for rental increases, either to open market rent or RPI (Retail Price Index) annually or over another fixed period.

  1. Can a landlord choose not to rent to potential tenants because of age, children or pets?

Landlords have to be very careful about declining a letting based on Children, Age or any other characteristic of a Tenant. This is as Landlords can face severe penalties for any form of discrimination.

The situation is currently slightly different with Pets. Whilst the Government has produced recent guidance stating that Landlords should make it easier for Tenants to rent with pets they have not changed the law, so Landlords can refuse to allow pets. However, we recommend that all Landlords consider pets on a case by case basis and if they do agree to pets they have a Tenancy Agreement that reflects this, as well as extra clauses such as the removal of all hair professionally when the Tenant moves.

  1. What can a tenant do if they feel their deposit has been deducted unfairly?

Most deposits for private residential rentals must be held within a Government Regulated scheme, such as TDS or My Deposits. If a Tenant believes a deposit has not been protected they can seek the return of the deposit and a fine of up to three times the value of the Deposit.

If a deposit has been protected then any deductions would be subject to a determination by the protection scheme that applies.

If a Tenant’s deposit is not protected and has been unfairly deducted a tenant should seek immediate legal advice. Adversely, if a Landlord holds a deposit that is not protected they also must seek urgent advice to minimalise their ongoing risk.

  1. What top tips would you give to someone looking to rent a property?

The most important thing is that you understand the Tenancy Agreement that is being entered into and it adequately protects both parties correctly. Do not assume it is a standard form document and make sure you review the whole document, including any special provisions.

If you are a Landlord make sure you comply with all the regulations before you provide the Tenant with keys including, EPC, Gas Safety Certificates, How to Rent Booklet, Deposit among other issues. If you give possession with certain issues not resolved you will struggle to recover possession.

If you are a Tenant, make sure you have agreed any special conditions, make sure you are happy with any check in inventory and that you have provided all details for the protection of your deposit.

In any event, you should always seek legal advice if you have any concerns about renting or letting out a property.


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