During the tenancy, landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities:
Landlords have the right to:
Charge a market rent (on lettings since January 1989)
Fix terms of the agreement, which must be fair and reasonable to both tenant and landlord (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999)
Carry out repairs within reasonable time limits
Inspect the property at reasonable intervals by appointment
Be given proper notice if the tenant wants to leave
Tenants have the right to:
Know the terms of the tenancy
Know your name and address
‘Quiet enjoyment’ of the property
Receive proper notice if the landlord want to inspect the property;
Receive proper notice if the landlord wants the tenant to leave, followed by a court order as appropriate
Expect a decent standard of repair
Landlord’s responsibilities regarding repairs?
Under section 11 of the Landlord Tenant Act 1985, landlords are responsible for:
The structure and outside of the property
Baths, sinks, toilets and pipes supplying gas and water
The central-heating boiler, water heater and radiators
Landlords must agree what other repairs they will do, and must carry out the repairs within a reasonable period. They also need to tell the tenant about the arrangements for emergency repairs.
What should the tenant do if the landlord does not undertake their repairs obligation?
The tenant should first contact the landlord in writing to record the problem, and to ask them to repair it. Where the landlord is in clear breach of a contractual obligation and in repairs are inexpensive, a tenant can do the work and charge the cost to the landlord by withholding future rent. It is essential that the correct procedure must be followed. The landlord must be given written notice of the defects, a reasonable time to undertake the repair and be warned of the intention to use future rents to set off the costs. It is strongly advised to seek advice before using this method. Withholding of your rent is a breach of contract, and if taken to court they would have to show that the rent is available (for example, being kept in a separate account).
The tenant may also contact the Private Sector Housing Unit. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, an officer may inspect the property and serve notices to put right the situation. If landlords do not follow these notices, the council may do the work and charge the landlord for it. For more information, see section, ‘Enforcement notices’.
How do landlords get access to the property?
It is the tenant’s right not to be disturbed or harassed while living in the property. Landlords are not entitled to enter the tenant’s living area without permission as they have the right to use the property as their home.
Where necessary, landlords can get access to inspect the condition of the property. A convenient time should be agreed with the tenant, or landlords may write to the tenant giving at least 24 hours’ notice.
Landlords cannot let themselves into the property without first giving this prior notice. If the tenant refuses to let the landlord in, the landlord cannot force entry unless there is a fire or flood.
If the tenant changes the lock, landlords are not entitled to a key unless it says so in the contract. If you do change the landlords locks it is advisable to preserve the fixtures and fittings. However, the tenant should not unreasonably withhold access, and if he or she does, the landlord can apply to the county court for an injunction.
If the house is in multiple occupation, landlords are entitled to use a key to enter the shared areas of the property.
What should the landlord do if the tenant stops paying the rent?
One of the terms of the contract is that the Tenant must pay the rent. If the Tenant stops paying rent, they are breaking the contract. The Landlord should first write to the Tenant asking them to contact the Landlord to discuss why the rent is not being paid. If they are having financial problems, they could apply for Housing Benefit. If the Tenant is on Housing Benefit and this has stopped, Hounslow Revenue Services should be told that the Landlord is not receiving rent.
If the Tenant has a rent problem, you should refer them to the Housing Advice Service who will try to sort out any problems.
If there is disrepair at the property, the Tenant may be withholding rent until repairs are made. Tenants should be able to show that they are keeping back the rent, and that it will available once repairs are completed.
If these options don’t work, you may consider serving the correct notice and asking the court for possession (see section ‘Ending a tenancy’). This should always be a last resort and it may be more worthwhile to be flexible if the tenant is having temporary difficulties.
If the tenant creates a nuisance?
If the tenant creates a lot of noise, has regular loud parties or upsets the neighbours, they are breaching their tenancy agreement. Landlords should first consider writing to them. If the problem continues, landlords have the option of serving notice and obtaining possession via the county court.
Housing Advice Unit
Private Sector Housing Unit
London Borough of Hounslow
Telephone: 020 8583 3842.