A few weeks ago, we discussed the problems that landlords can face with troublesome tenants. There are two sides to every coin, however, and for every landlord dealing with a problem tenant, there is a tenant faced with an unreasonable landlord.
It is a problem that is escalating year on year. More than a third of homes in the UK are rented, and the poor performance of traditional investments means that the number of private landlords buying second homes as a way to get the best possible yield out of their savings is skyrocketing.
For all that, the private rental market is still largely unregulated. This means the onus is on both the landlord and the tenant to make sure they protect their own interests from the outset.
There is legal protection for tenants, but to use it, they need to be able to demonstrate that the landlord is acting outside the agreed terms. Getting these terms set in stone when the Tenancy Agreement is drawn up is absolutely essential. Nine out of ten problems are not caused by a landlord being inherently evil or underhand. It is far more common that they will stem from misunderstandings as to each party’s rights and responsibilities. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Who is responsible for what? It is a simple question, but misunderstandings on this point are by far the most common. A typical rule of thumb is that anything that came with the property is the landlord’s responsibility. So they are responsible for sanitation, electricity, heating and so on – and if they let the property part furnished with kitchen appliances, then they are responsible for those, too. Rules of thumb are fine, but make sure these lines of responsibility are spelt out.
A common cause of dispute is the landlord turning up unannounced. It is never acceptable for a landlord to simply pitch up and let himself in, even if it is to undertake some maintenance or repairs. The Agreement needs to explicitly state how much notice the landlord must give before appearing on your doorstep.
If the landlord suddenly hikes the rent by 20 percent, you can feel as if your whole world has caved in. Worse still, it might seem you are powerless to do anything about it. The truth depends on the type of contract you have. If it is a fixed term contract, the landlord is not allowed to increase the rent within that agreed term. Clearly, it makes sense to fix the term for as long as possible when you draw up the agreement.
When the tenancy comes to an end, the prickly topic of returning your deposit can often lead to trouble. A landlord is not allowed to keep money from the deposit unless you agree, or the sum is awarded by a court or an independently appointed adjudicator. The Tenancy Deposit Scheme is a government initiative aimed at protecting tenant deposits. Ensure this is used to protect yours – but remember, you need to get this in place when you hand over the money, don’t leave it till you are trying to get it back.
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