Basic advice on the most common problems faced by renters
When you give your deposit to your landlord, they must place it within a deposit protection scheme within 30 days and give you written notification of which scheme they have placed it in. To prevent a dispute with your landlord, make an agreed inventory list when you move in. This should include a list of all items including furniture and appliances. Make sure that this is signed by both parties. Take photos and notes of damage and repair when you move in.
If your landlord fails to protect your deposit or pay back the deposit you can take them to a local county court and may get compensation.
Letting agents are one of the least regulated services. This means that they can create charges for administration, joining fees, inventory lists, and drawing up contracts without these charges being seen as unfair to the consumer. These types of additional fees are illegal in Scotland.
The positive aspect of this is that letting agents do not have a legal basis on which to support the charges they make, and renters are within their right to refuse or challenge them. Some letting agents charge for drawing up contracts, but very little labour is involved in preparing shorthold tenancy agreements because they are based on easily available templates.
Under an Assured Short hold Tenancy (the most common type of private tenancy) your landlord has a legal obligation to look after these issues in a property:
1 ) structure
Take photos of any disrepair (when you move in and afterwards) and date these photos. If your landlord refuses to carry out repairs you should contact them via letter or email (but be aware that landlords can evict tenants quite easily, so it’s probably best to keep the letter friendly initially) keeping a dated copy of the letter for yourself.
If this doesn’t work, contact Lambeth Council’s private sector housing team who can put pressure on your landlord to carry out repairs. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7926 0406.
While your landlord can give you ‘notice’ to leave, it is against the law for the landlord to evict you without a court order.
A court order can take up to six months to implement after the point at which you have been given notice. You can legally remain in your home until such time and it is illegal for the landlord to harass you.
Rent can only be increased with proper notice. Rent cannot be increased by letter or by verbal communication. It can be increased if there is a clause in your contract about fixed rent increases, or if you sign a new contract at a higher rent. If you think the rent is too high, you can apply to the Rent Assessment Committee (RAC), who will decide whether the proposed rent is in line with the market rate based on the levels recorded by the Valuation Office Agency (see http://www.voa.gov.uk). If you are contesting a rent increase do not, in the meantime, pay the additional rent.
Hackney Renters group Digs adds: “Unfortunately, we have not had rent control in the UK since 1988, so rents are determined by the market, not by quality or by average salaries. You should be aware though that because the RAC only decides whether the rent is in line with the market and market rents are so high, the RAC may give you a higher rent than you already have!”
You can download our advice leaflet (which contains the information above) here.
Our sister group, Digs in Hackney, have more helpful advice on their website on:
Other renters issues such as rent rises, contracts and eviction
Shelter also provides lots of information for private tenants.