Top Questions Landlords Should Know About Their Tenant’s Rights
It’s vital that both the tenant and the landlord understands the right of the tenant upfront and importantly before agreements or contracts are signed – to mitigate any disagreements that could arise.
Having a clear understanding of these rights can avoid headaches down the line and also help foster a good relationship between tenant and landlord, which will always benefit both parties in the long-term.
While the general rights and responsibilities will typically be laid out in the tenancy agreement, there are mandatory rules that need to be followed and guidelines that should be adhered to.
These rights include:
- The right to live in a property that’s safe and in a good condition
- The right to have your deposit returned at the end of the tenancy, provided that you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement. Post-2007, all assured shorthold tenancy agreements should also have the deposit protected by the landlord for the tenancy duration
- The right to challenge any charges the tenant believes are ‘excessively high’
- The right to know the identity of your landlord
- The right to live in the property undisturbed
- The right to see the property’s energy performance certificate (EPC) which should be rated a minimum of E.
- The right to be protected from unfair rent and unfair eviction
- The right to have a written agreement within a fixed-term tenancy of more than three years
- As of 1 June 2019, the right to not pay certain fees when setting up a new tenancy, under the Tenant Fees Act (commonly referred to as the Tenant Fee Ban)
Understanding these rules is vital to ensure you’re providing a fair and, most importantly, legal service. Below we also look at some of the common questions that landlords ask around tenant rights.
What does landlord insurance cover?
Landlord insurance is protection against any risks that could be associated with a rental property. It will usually include building and contents insurance, although it could also cover property owners’ liability, loss of rent and tenant insurance.
The most typical forms of insurance are Landlord Building’s Insurance; which can cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding a property, Landlord Contents Insurance; which covers furniture and other household items or Tenant Default Insurance; which can cover rent if tenants fail to pay.
How much notice does a landlord have to give?
The amount of notice a landlord has to give depends on whether the tenant is still in their fixed-term or not but typically will be around two months, commonly known as a section 21 notice.
A landlord can only take back property during an Assured Shorthold Tenancy if:
- They’ve protected the tenants deposit in a deposit protection scheme
- They’ve given the tenant at least 2 months’ written notice and the date they must leave by
- The date the tenant must leave should be at least 6 months after the original tenancy
- The tenancy is ‘periodic’ or a fixed-term tenancy and the fixed-term has elapsed
During the fixed term:
If a tenant is still in the fixed term, the landlord can ask them to leave if they have a reason or ‘grounds’ for wanting possession. Grounds can include:
- The tenant is behind with their rent payments (‘in arrears’)
- The property has been used for illegal purposes
- The landlord wants to move back into the property
The notice period can vary from 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on the grounds they’re using.
How much can a landlord increase rent?
Rents shouldn’t normally be increased unless agreed and the tenancy agreement specifically allows it. If the tenant is in a fixed-term tenancy, a rent review clause stops applying after the fixed term ends and the tenancy becomes periodic – this is when the tenancy automatically continues month-by-month or week-by-week until notice is given.
Landlords of periodic tenants can raise rents as long as formal notice is given, although these rises can be appealed.
[Updated] Covid-19 Tenant and Landlord Rights
The government has announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.
Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3 month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction.
- Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
- No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis
- Landlords will also be protected as 3 month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages
What can a landlord deduct from a tenants deposit in the UK?
In theory, a landlord can deduct the full amount from the initial deposit.
It’s important to remember, however, that the deposit is the tenant’s money and deductions should only be made if they’re reasonable such as unpaid rent or damage to the property.
However, the deposit shouldn’t be retained if the terms of a tenancy agreement haven’t been breached. For example, if the tenant kept a pet in the property but it didn’t cost the landlord extra money, this shouldn’t be taken out of the deposit.
This is why deductions can be challenged by the tenant if they think they are unreasonable.
Cleaning is a common reason for deductions from the deposit. The property should only be cleaned to the state it was when the tenant moved in and a professional company shouldn’t always be required.
Damage is another common reason for deductions. The tenant should only be charged on a like-for-like basis, so if damage is caused to an old sofa, the deduction should cover repairs, not a brand-new sofa.
It’s not reasonable for a landlord to use a deposit to redecorate before new tenants move in, although getting written permission before re-decorating should be a priority to avoid any issues.
In terms of unpaid rent, this is considered a reasonable use of deducting from the deposit. Tenants are typically advised to keep a ‘paper trail’ of payments to avoid any miscommunication throughout the tenancy.
How much notice do you need to give a tenant when selling your property?
Tenants cannot simply be evicted because the landlord wants to sell the property. Required notice for selling a property heavily depends on the agreement the tenant has – if the tenant is currently in their fixed-term, the agreement carries over with the new purchase, meaning eviction rules must be adhered to as normal.
How quickly can you evict a tenant that doesn’t pay rent?
There are many reasons that a tenant may not pay rent, whether it’s a change in circumstances or simple refusal to pay.
If 21 days have passed and rent still hasn’t been paid, landlords can send a letter to the tenant advising that the property will be reclaimed. If the next month’s payment is also missed, the tenant is considered two months in arrears and possession of the property can be claimed according to the Housing Act 1988.
It’s important to note that this situation and what comes after is a structured process that the landlord should follow carefully.
Can I visit a property as a landlord without notice?
According to the Housing Act 1988, a letting agent or landlord has to notify the tenant in writing at least 24 hours before entering the home. Standard tenancy agreements will state that the landlord should ask, in writing, to visit at reasonable times of the day – giving you time to tidy your home and arrange a witness to be present during the visit if necessary
The landlord or representatives of the landlord should be allowed reasonable access to carry out inspections or repairs but should first get your permission.
On what grounds can a landlord evict a tenant?
A private landlord can issue a section 21 notice if they’re looking to end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This is sometimes called a ‘no-fault’ notice and typically the landlord doesn’t need to give a reason to issue it, although they are required to give two months notice.
Section 21 is commonly used because the landlord wants to move back in, the tenant is in rent arrears or they’re unhappy with the treatment of the property.
However, a Section 21 can be stopped or delayed if the notice isn’t valid or the rules haven’t been followed.
If the tenant has a secure tenancy, assured tenancy or regulated tenancy, the landlord can give you notice on grounds which usually includes rent arrears, nuisance or antisocial behaviour or a breach of the tenancy agreement.
Some grounds are mandatory, which means the court must order the tenant to leave if the landlord can prove it’s applicable. Others are discretionary, which means even if the grounds can be proven, it’s up to the court to decide.
As we mentioned at the top of this article, understanding these rules is just one step to becoming a better landlord. By understanding the tenant’s rights, the landlord can deliver a better service and typically avoid challenges further down the line.