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What Are My Rights as a Tenant?

Committing to your first rental property can be a big step, between moving in, filling the appropriate paperwork and paying out for numerous fees it can be easy to forget what rights renters have.  But, knowing what your legal rights are as a tenant can not only protect your interests over the course of your rental journey, but ensure every tenancy, landlord relationship and new opportunity goes smoothly.

After signing the tenancy agreement and getting your belongings through the door, as a renter you will be entitled to a series of rights. Tenants will have the right to live in a rental property that provides a safe environment, have the ability to challenge excessive charges, the right to quiet enjoyment of the property, dispute unfair rent and know who their landlord is alongside having their tenancy deposit returned and protected throughout the fixed term.

Can I Stop Paying My Rent if Repairs Aren’t Done?

Upon the signing of the tenancy agreement landlords undertake a responsibility to provide a safe and habitable environment for their tenants to occupy. Whilst tenants are expected to conduct themselves in “a tenant like manner” for the duration of the fixed period, conducting general maintenance and minor repairs throughout the property, the landlord is responsible for addressing the more significant issues such as leaking pipes, broken heating, faulty wiring, ect.  However, it is worth mentioning that the tenants bear the responsibility of informing the landlord of any repairs that need to be conducted, allowing them appropriate time to carry out the necessary work. Just as a landlord cannot be held accountable for any repairs they are not aware of, they are similarly absolved of this responsibility if the tenant repeatedly refuses them access to the property when trying to conduct such work.

If your landlord is reluctant to carry out any repairs that you have notified them of it may be tempting to withhold rent as a solution; however, this comes with great risk and often only aggravates the situation. Whilst attending to any repaired that are needed throughout the rental property is the duty of the landlord, meeting the agreed upon rental payments is the responsibility of the tenant, and in most cases to purposefully stop paying rent would be a breach of the tenancy agreement. With this in mind, if a tenant disregards their obligation to make these regular rental payments, the owner of the rental property will have sufficient grounds on which to pursue the eviction process and reclaim possession of the property. Because of this it is heavily advised that in the circumstance that a tenant does begin to withhold rent from their landlord, they place these funds into a new account where if any action is taken against them, they are able to immediate settle any outstanding rent arrears and halt the eviction process.

However, this doesn’t mean that as a tenant you are unable to address the situation. If after numerous reports of repairs your landlord is failed to contact you, it is possible to use your usual rental payments to fund the remedial work. It goes without saying but before this is done numerous attempts to contact the landlords should be made, compelling them to carry out the repairs, or you will do so at their expense. Tenants should then provide the owner of the rental property with at least three quotes from contractors that could conduct the appropriate work. If the landlord still neglects their duties the tenant can proceed to have the work completed, sending proof of payment to the landlord in a final effort to be reimbursed for the remedial work. If after this the landlord doesn’t contact the tenants, or pay for the conducted work, the tenants should provide them with a notice of any deductions that will be made from their regular rental commitment as a result of the occupants funding the remedial work.

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My Landlord Wants to Increase My Rent

To the delight of tenants everywhere, it is welcome news that landlords are not able to simply increase the amount of rent the occupants of their rental property are required to pay over the fixed term. Whilst the method landlord must employ will vary depending on the type of tenancy they hold with the tenant, this will most commonly be an assured shorthold tenancy.

If this is the case your landlord will not be able to increase the amount of rent you are obliged to pay during the fixed term of the tenancy. With this being said, the landlord is able to negotiate a new rental fee with the occupants of the property and if a rate is mutually agreed a new tenancy agreement must be signed by all concerned parties before the rent increase can be enforced.

Further to this, if a landlord wishes to increase the rent during the fixed term of a tenancy they may be able to do is if they have included a rent review clause within the original terms of the tenancy agreement. The rent review clause must detail the date on which the rent will be increased and by how much, although this will typically need to fall in line with market prices. The amount of notice a landlord is required to provide to their tenants prior to the rent increase is dependent on how long the tenancy period is; with tenancies of one year requiring six months’ notice, and once period of the tenancy for anything less.

With this in mind it is always possible to negotiate with your landlord. When trying to reach a fair rental price with your landlord a great insight can be gained from reviewing how much similar rental opportunities are within the area. Whilst it is possible to challenge a rent increase through a tribunal appeal, it is essential that tenants adhere to the agreement and pay the increased amount during the dispute. If the full amount of the new rent is not provided to the landlord, this will result in the tenant accumulating rent arrears, giving the owner of the rental property cause to pursue eviction.

Do Tenants Have to Pay for Professional Cleaning?

Introduced in June 2016, the Tenant Fees act prohibits landlords from requesting that the occupants of their rental property pay unenforceable and unlawful charges in an effort to prevent excessive financial barriers to renting. Therefore, any tenancy agreement that commenced after this date cannot contain a clause that demands the tenant pay for a professional cleaning service at the close of the fixed term. Whilst this may have been common place prior to the enforcement of the Tenant Fees Act, these terms can no longer be enforced by the landlord and any amounts taken from the tenants unlawfully must be repaid, potentially alongside compensation if legal action is pursued.

Tenancy Deposit Protection

As can be expected once the tenancy draws to a close the occupants of the rental property will be setting their sights on getting back their tenancy deposit. After the implementation of the Tenant fees Act, the amount requested by your landlord for the tenancy deposit, sometimes called a security deposit, should be no more than the equivalent cost of five weeks rent. However, if the amount that the landlord charges the tenant each year in rent in over £50,000 they are able to request that their tenant pays them up to six weeks rent for the tenancy deposit.

Regardless of the amount taken for the tenancy deposit, the landlord is legally required to enter the funds into a government approved tenancy deposit protection scheme. If there is any dispute over the amount that is being returned to the tenant at the end of the fixed term, the deposit protection scheme’s dispute resolution serve will be at hand to deliver a verdict and distribute the funds appropriately. If the landlord is found to have not entered the deposit into a protection scheme they could face significant legal action, with the deposit being repaid to the tenant.

It is important for those new to renting to remember that they may not receive the full amount given to the landlord for the tenancy deposit back. This is because the landlord is able to make deductions for any damage that the tenant has cause to the rental property, or recover any unpaid rent. With this being said the landlord is not able to make deduction for “fair wear and tear”; the expected degradation of a property and its furnishings that comes with high use over time.  

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Can I Refuse Entry to My Landlord?

It is essential that landlords keep in mind that whilst the property is their very own buy to let investment, once the tenancy agreement has been signed, possession of the property is legally transferred to the tenants. With this transfer of possession come certain rights, granting the occupants “quiet enjoyment” of their new rental property. This entitlement to “quiet enjoyment” essentially allows the tenants to go through the tenancy period with unimpeded use of their rental property, caused by regular disturbance from the landlord, letting agent or their representatives. This right is in place for the full duration of the tenancy’s fixed term, meaning landlords must be mindful that their actions do not infringe of their occupants rights. Whilst the term may initially seem rather vague, the right set in place through a court hearing, with Lord Denning stating that any action that “substantially interferes with the tenant’s freedom of action in exercising his rights as a tenant,” would be considered breach of their right to “quiet enjoyment.” The owner of the rental property is not able to invalidate this right through any bespoke terms that they enter into the tenancy agreement as they would not be legally upheld.

This right permits the occupants of the rental property to dictate who is able to access its grounds and when. With this in mind, if the landlord wished to enter the rental property, most commonly in order to carry out repairs or conduct a mid-term inspection, they must first get the approval of the tenants. Before entering a rental property the landlord must have the permission of the occupants at least 24 hours before they intend to do so. Whilst a resident is able to deny their landlord entry to the rental property, this is typically so a more mutually convenient time can be found for both parties and is not a blanket refusal.

However, if a landlord is completely unable to gain access to a rental property due to the tenant’s reluctance to grant their permission, this will only work to make a less favourable outcome for the occupants of the property. If after repeated attempts to make contact with the residents the landlord is still no closer to gaining access they will be absolved of their duty to attend to the upkeep of the rental. This means that if any damage is found during the final inspection of the tenancy at the closed of the fixed term, the associated costs of repairs will likely be deducted from any amounts taken for the tenancy deposit.

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