We all hear tales of terrible landlords in UK flatshares. Perhaps these unscrupulous characters lurk on the peripheries of your social circle as scrooge-like fables, or maybe they are decidedly too close to home (pun intended).
But whether you hear about them from a friend of a friend, or you have first-hand experience, having a dodgy landlord can quickly become a large, regrettable part of your life. So protect yourself! And read on to make sure you know just what they can, can’t and have to do for you, their dear tenant.
For what is essentially a 100g scrap of metal, keys can be a focus of serious conflict. So here are the rules.
Your landlord is allowed to have keys in order to access your flat (see more below). However, they are also required to give each tenant a key. To fail to do so is seen as making your lives so awkward that it could count as harassment.
Finally, most contracts contain a clause that restricts your ability to cut new keys to your flat. This is standard, since if a landlord gets new tenants every year, and each tenant cuts a key or two, then before long, half of the town will have access to the flat and the landlord has no idea how many keys to collect at the end of the tenancy.
Unwanted visitors are another common area of dispute – so when can and can’t your landlord enter your property?
Landlords require access to be able to fulfil their duties of ensuring your safety and the maintenance of the property. However, they usually have to give you at least 24-hours’ notice, before entering.
But as always things aren’t clear cut. If landlords keep requiring access, that too could be a case of harassment! Conversely, if the repair work is of an emergency or urgent nature, landlords are allowed immediate access to stop the damage to their property.
Being told the rent is going to be hiked up is something every tenant fears. Luckily, renters do have some protection from hike-happy landlords.
For a fixed-term contract, the landlord can’t just decide to start charging you more in the middle of the term unless there is a clause in the contract stating that this can happen.
However, once the term is over, they can put the rent up, and unless you resign and agree to the increase, they can legally evict you and get someone else in who is willing to pay.
However, if the increase seems way too big to be fair, you may have grounds to challenge the increase. Rent Tribunals can settle these disputes by seeing if the proposed increase is significantly above average rent increases occurring in the area.
Most people know that keeping the property safe and in good repair are the landlord’s duties. They can’t sign these away. Even if the contract says that you, the tenant, is responsible for maintaining the boiler, this is a worthless clause, due to legislation making this the landlord’s concern.
The exterior, structure, plumbing and electrical infrastructure, as well as the furniture of furnished lets are the landlord’s responsibility to maintain. If they persistently refuse repairs in an attempt to drive a tenant out, this is harassment, too. You may notice that harassment is a tenant’s trump card…
If the failure to repair is not an attempt to drive you out, but merely a case of the landlord kind of sucking, you can appeal to the local authorities. Councils can actually serve notices to landlords, effectively requiring them to fix the problem. Reassuringly, the complainant’s name can be kept secret and the council can even set dates for the work’s completion.
Often, landlords will try and palm off their repair duties to letting agencies, making you deal with them instead. But legally, it is the landlord’s duty to keep the property safe and in good repair.
Tenants often face large, frequent and seemingly arbitrary fees from letting agents and landlords. An Ocean Finance survey found that around 1 in 8 tenants face a fee to resign at their current property, with the average fee being a whopping £117.
As we wrote elsewhere, some costs of moving landlords are not obliged to cover, such as referencing, and can charge up front to perform. However, other fees such as “check out fees” are non-essential parts of a contract, which you are only obliged to pay if you agreed to in the contract.
Now you know your rights, it’s time to start the search. Find your next home at EasyRoommate.com today.