The relationship between a landlord and their tenant is often a professional and harmonious one. The landlord provides the property, the tenant pays their rent on time and they both keep to their various obligations. However, from time to time things can go a little off track and disputes can undoubtedly arise.
A tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement between a landlord and their tenant. This will be signed by both parties before a tenancy commences – so should always be referred to in the event of a disagreement regarding the conditions of the let.
We’ve put together a few questions and answers concerning some common disputes. If you have a specific question surrounding a rental issue – please drop us a comment and we’ll try our best to answer it for you.
Q. Can a landlord withhold a deposit?
A. An estimated 75% of all private sector tenancies require the tenant to pay a deposit. Landlords (or agents) now have a legal obligation protect their tenants’ deposits under a tenancy deposit scheme (DPS) within 14 days of receiving the deposit.
This means that your deposit is kept safely by this independent scheme for the duration of your tenancy. The Deposit Protection Scheme will then release the deposit to the appropriate party providing that all the conditions of the tenancy have been met. If you’ve behaved appropriately as a tenant – there’s no reason why your deposit won’t be returned to you.
The DPS was set up to help avoid landlords unfairly withholding deposits. The DPS offers a free Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service to deal with disputes related to tenancy deposits. If a problem arises, both the landlord and tenant must agree to use the ADR service to resolve it and then stick to the adjudicator’s decision.
Q. Is the landlord responsible for insuring the property?
A. The landlord should ensure the property is covered under landlord insurance. This will help protect the actual building and their liability. The landlord may also choose to insure certain items they have supplied in the rental property – such as furniture and furnishings.
However, the landlord is not responsible for the tenant’s personal items. A tenant must buy their own contents insurance policy for that.
Q. Can I withhold rent if the heating or hot water packs up?
A. It is a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the property has the essential services required for day-to-day living. This includes heating, hot water, gas, electricity etc. Under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, a landlord is obliged to attend to the problem within a reasonable amount of time after being alerted to it. This is why a tenant must clearly notify their landlord of this problem immediately. It’s good to keep a record of this communication.
If the landlord does not attend to the issue in reasonable time, they are not fulfilling their professional obligation. It’s not advisable to withhold rent as this may fuel a further dispute. Instead, it’s probably best to contact the local authority housing standards team or the environmental health team. They can inspect the property and contact the landlord about the repair. Alternatively, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau may be able to help you to resolve the problem.
Q. Can a tenant make changes to a property – such as putting up shelves or cabinets?
A. As a general rule, tenants are not allowed to make alterations to the property as this could be seen as damage. For example, fixing things to walls will result in holes in the plaster. However, this doesn’t mean that your particular landlord won’t allow it – it’s always best to be upfront and ask.
A landlord may allow changes, provided that the property is returned to its original state at the end of the tenancy (filling in wall holes etc.). Always get an agreement like this in writing.
Q. Can a landlord keep turning up unannounced?
A. Landlords have a statutory right of entry to the rental property for inspection and repairs. If essential maintenance is needed, the landlord can gain entry as and when required. It is also the landlord’s right to carry out regular checks on the condition of their property – within reason. This will normally be outlined in the tenancy agreement.
Having said that, the landlord has a responsibility not to disrupt a tenant’s right to live in peace at the property without interference. The landlord should typically give at least 24 hours notice of their intention to enter the property. They also have a responsibility to pick a reasonable time of day or evening – providing it’s not an emergency.
Share any tricky experiences you’ve had as a landlord or tenant in the comments section below or drop us your personal rental queries…