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9 ways landlords break the law - and it's costing renters hundreds extra

Mirror logo Mirror 6 days ago Emma Munbodh

a close up of a street sign attached to a can © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Landlords and estate agents could soon be banned from billing tenants for basic administration, references and credit checks, which are collectively costing renters £240 million a year.

The proposed Tenant Fees Bill will cap deposits at six weeks' rent, while a £50 maximum charge will be introduced for name changes to tenancy agreements.

It's part of a wider pledge to reform the renting market, and clamp down on law-breaking landlords, as figures show tenants are spending more than a billion pounds a year - £217 each - on repairs that aren't their responsibility.

The new rules are not set to become law for at least another year, but that doesn't mean you should wait patiently for your rights to kick in.

More than 1.7 million tenants fell victim to exploitative landlords last year, according to Shelter figures - and it's costing us hundreds of pounds. 

If you're unsure of your rights - or are a landlord in the UK - here are 9 things you may not know are against the law.

1. Charging you to fit smoke alarms

It's your landlord's responsibility to make sure your home is fire-safe.

This means making sure each floor in the property has a working fire alarm, as well as carbon monoxide detectors in all rooms that have coal fires or wood-burning stoves.

At the start of a new tenancy, the landlord must ensure all alarms are fitted and in working condition.

However, once the tenant moves in, it becomes their responsibility to keep an eye on them.

If your fire alarm stops working, check if it needs new batteries, or contact your landlord to arrange a replacement device.

If your landlord refuses to accept responsibility, the council may give them a 28 day deadline. If they ignore, it, they could face a £5,000 fine.

2. Not giving you an efficiency rating

All rented properties must come with an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate that's available to the tenant when they move in.

This is an efficiency score that rates the property on factors such as insulation, heating and hot water systems, ventilation and fuels used.

In short, the higher the score, the cheaper the bills will be, and the lower the rating, the more expensive it'll be be to heat/manage. Each certificate is valid for up to 10 years.

Your landlord must give you a copy of this document when you move in, it will also break down things that can be done to improve efficiency/reduce bills in the property.

3. Trying to charge you for damp and mould

Credits: Moment RF © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Moment RF It's your landlord's responsibility to make sure your home is fit for purpose - and this includes dealing with problems with the roof, windows, walls, gutters and drains.

Likewise, they can't actually charge you for leaks, damp/mould, water supply issues, mice or pests, faulty electrics or dodgy gas appliances either - as you have the right to live in reasonable conditions.

If your landlord refuses to deal with conditions that put your health and safety at risk, you can complain to your local council's environmental health team.

The environmental health team can use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System to assess your home for hazards.

In some cases the council may take action against the landlord. They may also choose to do the repairs themselves and then later bill them.

4. Putting your rent up during your tenancy

It's not unusual for landlords to push up prices, but they can only do so under certain conditions.

If you're an assured shorthold tenant on a fixed term contract (usually six or 12 months), your landlord cannot increase the rent during the term, unless it's a) stated in the contract small print or b) agreed by you.

They can put the price up after your fixed term has ended - but they'll have to give you a month's notice first.

Periodic tenancies (rolling agreements) run on a monthly or a weekly basis and can be much more flexible. They give the landlord the right to put up prices as and when - and evict you if you disagree.

5. Spending your deposit without permission

a man sitting at a table: Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty If you're on an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, your deposit must - by law - be protected.

This applies regardless of whether you've gone through an agent or the landlord directly. The money should be stored in one of the following schemes:

  1. Deposit Protection Service (DPS)

  2. Dispute service (TDS)

  3. mydeposits

If your landlord decides to hold on to the deposit instead, they must pay an insurance scheme to protect it.

Either way they must be able to prove the deposit is protected for the entirety of the tenancy.

6. Turning up announced

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Almost 1 million renters had their home entered by a landlord or agent without permission or notice last year, Shelter figures show.

However, the Housing Act 1988 states they must give you at least 24 hours' notice before turning up for repairs, checks or anything else.

If they continuously go against these rules, they could be subject to a harassment order, a fine, or even a court order.

Importantly, these visits must be made at 'reasonable'’ times of day - allowing you sufficient time to prepare for it.

7. Booking viewings in too early

a close up of a piece of paper: Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty If you're moving out, you may find your landlord wants to arrange viewings for new, prospective tenants.

This is perfectly normal, however, they can only do so in the final 28 days of your tenancy agreement.

The same rules apply if you've been served an eviction notice or have told your landlord you're moving out (which is usually around one month anyway).

8. Trying to evict you without adequate notice

a person eating a donut: Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty If your landlord wants you out of the property, they'll have to comply with guidelines to ensure you're not left homeless.

They must give you at least two months' notice under section 21 of the Housing act 1988. This is known as a Section 21 notice.

However if you're on a fixed term tenancy, you can't actually be evicted unless you a) haven't paid the rent, b) have demonstrated antisocial behaviour or c) there's clause in your contract that allows them to take back the property mid-way through the term.

9. Forgetting to run maintenance checks

a close up of a white wall: Credits: iStockphoto © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: iStockphoto Under the Gas Safety Regulations 1998, landlords have a responsibility to make sure gas appliances, fittings and flues provided for tenants are safe to use - including those located in communal areas.

They must be able to show good practice of this, through the demonstration of regular, annual maintenance checks and repairs by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

If you've just had a new appliance installed, a safety check must be carried out within 12 months of the installation. A copy of this must be handed to each existing tenant within 28 days and a copy issued to any new tenants before they move in.

If the landlord fails to comply with these rules, they could be fined and later taken to court.

Likewise, if they try to charge you for it, let them know it's not your responsibility.


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