New to renting property? Here's some top legal tips you should know
Renting a property should be a fair and reasonable experience and as a tenant, it will help to know where you stand in the process. There are a number of laws in place that are there to protect you but of course, it helps to be “in the know” of these laws so that you can question your agent or landlord and be proactive in your tenancy. This article is primarily tips aimed for tenants in residential property however, it may apply to other types of tenancies.
Read your tenancy agreement
Yes, this sounds simple but it’s surprising the number of people that don’t actually do this. It’s an important read as the landlord/agent uses this document as an official way to set out their expectations and stipulations during the tenancy. Here are some key areas to check:
- Check the start and end date
- Take a look at your obligations in detail and make sure that you agree
- Check the rental amount, also the deposit amount and how it will be protected. It has been a legal requirement since April 2007 to have your deposit registered in a government authorised scheme. This ensures your deposit is protected and if there is ever a dispute over your deposit, then the scheme will take a balanced viewed over the dispute.
- Make sure the contract allows for general wear and tear
Request for agreed repairs in writing
If the landlord has agreed to make repairs following your request, ensure everything is made in writing from outset including the confirmation from the landlord. Requesting things, in general, should be made in writing (via email for example) throughout the whole of your tenancy as it leaves a clear audit trail should you ever need it.
Get everything you need from your landlord or agent
Here is a list of documents you should receive :
- An Energy Performance Certificate. This simply shows the efficiency rating for your property and as of April 2018, all rented properties should have an EPC rating of E or above.
- If applicable, a valid Gas Safety Certificate. An important document confirming that the gas appliances in your property are safe to use and working as expected.
- The landlord’s contact details (usually within the tenancy agreement)
- The Government’s official “How to Rent” guide
- Within 30 days of transferring the deposit to your landlord/agent, you should receive the prescribed information regarding where the deposit is held, etc.
Your landlord must make sure that your property is safe
Including ensuring the gas appliances in your property are safe, landlords also have other standards to meet:
- If your landlord is providing furnishings, then they must be fireproof
- Any additional gas or electrical appliances should be checked regularly to ensure they are safe
- Smoke alarms should be fitted on every storey and tested regularly to ensure they are functional
- If there is a solid fuel appliance in the property, then a carbon monoxide alarm should be fitted according to the manufacturer’s instruction
Your landlord’s legal responsibility is also to provide a reliable source of heat, water, sanitary facilities and electricity at all times. Should these have a breakdown, where the tenant is not the source of the damage, then it is entirely the landlord’s responsibility to deal with the faulty equipment and to restore functionality as soon as reasonably possible. It is important to remember that any damaged caused by you knowingly or by incorrectly using the equipment, then the repair is your liability.
You have a right to dispute claims made against your deposit
If your landlord is making a dispute that you feel is unfair, then you are allowed to query any deductions from your deposit through the registered deposit protection scheme who will provide a balanced view over the claim.
Your landlord should not enter your rented home without permission first
It is common practice for your landlord or agent wanting to come in from time to time for repairs as well as to inspect the property. If your landlord or agent wants access to the property, they should give you notice and arrange a time to visit generally 24 hours prior unless an emergency, according to Government guidelines. If your landlord or agent comes in without asking then you have a right to ask them to stop. If they continue to enter without permission, then this could be considered as harassment.
Know that you can get free help and advice on your situation through various independent professional sources
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need help and advice relating to your tenancy then there are a number of recognised sources for accurate advice on your situation, here are just a few:
- The Citizens Advice Bureau
- Local Solicitors – whilst solicitors will understandably charge for their time, some do offer a free initial consultation and fixed-rate sessions
- Law Centres
- Your insurance – some insurance policies come with free legal help. It might be worth contacting your provider to see if it is included
- Ombudsman – This isn’t necessarily a place where you can get advice, however, if you have a complaint about your managing agent then are able to bring a complaint to the Property Redress Service that the agent is registered to (a requirement by law).