Illegal and retaliatory eviction and harassment
Illegal eviction and harassment
Renting a property is a big step, both for a tenant and for a landlord – especially the first time! Some landlords use an agent to find tenants or to manage their property – these are called letting or managing agents. Both are regulated, and have to meet certain standards and codes. Other landlords let their properties directly, and some are more experienced and qualified than others.
Tenants may be moving to be near a job, or a school for their children, or close to family. A well run tenancy can work for both landlord and tenant, giving each security and peace of mind – for the landlord so that their investment is securely protected and earning money to pay for itself, for the tenant so that they have a safe and affordable place to live with some stability for their family circumstances.
Tenants should be able to expect ‘peaceful enjoyment’ of their home, and freedom from harassment or improper eviction. There are certain lawful ways to end a tenancy, and a landlord cannot usually take back possession of their property without giving appropriate notice and with the correct paperwork – and in some cases a Court order, even if the grounds for eviction are anti-social behaviour or non payment of rent. After a certain time and at a point in the tenancy, a landlord can commence a ‘no fault’ eviction, sometimes called a section 21 eviction. Some secure or regulated tenancies have additional protection from eviction. *Some people may think they are a tenant but may be a licensee, and have fewer rights, such as lodgers living with the landlord or a member of their family.
Tenants are advised to check out these important issues at the beginning of a tenancy or even before signing up to it – you are about to enter into a contract to pay a considerable sum of money for accommodation and will want assurances that your deposit and any other payments are secure. Your landlord must protect any rent deposit you pay in a secure government backed scheme.
Any letting or managing agent acting for your landlord or for you as a third-party must be a member of an approved redress (complaint) scheme.
You should be entitled to a written tenancy agreement, and a means of proving what rent or other fees or bills you have paid, and who is liable for what. You should insist on a pre-occupancy inspection and inventory – consider taking photographs or a video – to agree the condition of the property and its contents in case of any dispute during the tenancy or at the end.
You should be clear who pays which bills such as Council Tax and utilities, and read the utility meters (gas, electric, water etc.), as well as clarifying parking restrictions, behaviour of visitors, permission for pets or smoking, maintenance of gardens etc. You should agree responsibility for repairs and décor, and how to contact each other and get necessary permissions.
Your landlord must normally provide you with a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), along with a Government leaflet called ‘How to rent’. Each property should have a smoke detector on each occupied floor, and a carbon monoxide alarm in each room where there is a solid fuel appliance. These should be tested at the start of any tenancy.
At the start of an AST – Assured Shorthold Tenancy – the landlord is unable to issue you with a ‘section 21’ (no fault) notice to quit – NTQ, for at least 4 months. This does not apply to other types of NTQ such as for non payment of rent or anti-social behaviour.
Your landlord should not allow or cause essential services like utilities to be cut-off or interrupted except in an emergency for maintenance, for example. E.g. by not paying the bills, or terminating a utility contract without arranging the successor.
Tenants MUST pay their rent and other bills which come due, on time and in full. Tip* - try to pay in a way you can prove it – if paying a landlord directly by cheque, cash or bank credit transfer, insist on a receipt.
Tenants MUST report damage and any necessary repairs to the landlord or their appointed agent, promptly.
Tenants and their family and visitors must behave and only use the property in a reasonable manner and for the purpose rented for – so for example not as a business without permission, as insurances and any mortgage or secured loan may be invalidated. Neither must they cause or allow nuisance or distress to other neighbours.
Tenants should cooperate with the landlord and their agents with any reasonable requests for access to the property to undertake repairs and similar works – at convenient times, respecting tenant’s expectations to enjoy the use of their property and protect their privacy, dignity and possessions. Landlords should NOT enter the property without the tenant’s knowledge and permission except in an emergency, especially if the tenant or their representative isn’t present. This may expose the landlord to claims of harassment, theft or otherwise.
This is a very complex and specialist area of law, and reference to the organisation Shelter may be useful. See also the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and the Government leaflet ‘My Landlord Wants Me Out.'
Last updated Friday, 20th May 2016