WHAT IS THE NEW DEPOSIT SCHEME?
The tenancy deposit scheme was recently introduced to resolve landlord and tenant disputes in a more effective way. The dispute usually arises when a tenant leaves a property, but the landlord wishes to withhold part of the deposit, perhaps to pay for a repair.
Now the scheme has been introduced, the landlord must inform the tenant in to which Government approved scheme their deposit has been placed. The deposit is then placed with a third party which offers a resolution service should there be a dispute.
ARE THERE RULES WHEN EVICTING A TENANT?
There is a strict legal framework that must be followed should a landlord wish to evict a tenant. Only Court appointed bailiffs may carry out a legal eviction but before that option is available the landlord must have served the correct notice on the tenants, and obtained a Possession Order through the Court.
Failure to comply with the legal process may result in an unlimited fine or up to 2 years in prison. The landlord can be liable for substantial compensation if the correct procedure is not followed.
WHAT IS A FIXED TERM OR PERIODIC TENANCY?
A fixed term tenancy is created for a specific length of time. This is usually 6 months but can be for any time period. As an example, a tenancy agreement may run from 1st January to 30th June. If the tenants remain in the property after the 30th June, the tenancy agreement automatically becomes periodic.
The periodic tenancy rolls on a specific period, usually month by month basis.
SHOULD I GET AN INVENTORY?
Completing an inventory before a tenants moves into a property is vital. It provides great protection for the landlord should a dispute arise. It is advised for both the landlord and tenant to sign the inventory so the tenant cannot argue that the property was in a different state. It is the inventory that will form the benchmark should a dispute arise.
SHOULD I USE RENT MONEY TO PAY FOR REPAIRS?
The general rule is that a tenant should never stop paying rent to force a landlord to complete repairs. The landlord can commence Court proceedings to recover the outstanding rent if this happens. The best procedure is to highlight the repairs to the landlord in writing, and should the landlord not respond, seek legal advice to see how to move forward.
WHEN CAN MY LANDLORD ENTER THE PROPERTY?
Your landlord can only enter the property if they have provided the tenants with reasonable notice. This is usually 24 hours’ notice and the tenant has to agree to the landlord entering the property. There is the exception of an emergency, where the landlord does not have to provide any notice.
If a landlord enters a property without giving notice, it could be deemed as harassment by the Court.
DO I HAVE TO HAVE A WRITTEN TENANCY AGREEMENT?
It is advised to have a written tenancy agreement as this can then avoid disputes should they arise in the future. It is in the interests of both landlord and tenant to have a written tenancy agreement. If there is no written tenancy agreement, the tenant can request a minimum written statement detailing thing such as the start date of the tenancy and the rent.
MY LANDLORD HAS KEPT A KEY, CAN HE USE IT?
The short answer is no. As detailed above, the landlord can only enter the property by serving notice and obtaining the tenants’ permission. Landlords will usually keep a key in case the tenant misplaces their or the property has been abandoned by the tenant.
MY LANDLORD HAS TOLD ME I HAVE TO FIX REPAIRS
By law, landlords have an obligation to repair and maintain the property whilst it is being rented and ensure it is fit for the tenants to live in. Generally, the landlord will be responsible for repairing the exterior and structure of the property including pipes, heating etc.
Tenants usually have liability for minor repairs, decorations, furnishing and maintaining the garden. However, if there is a dispute, the tenancy agreement should be consulted as it should provide clarity on the situation.
MY TENANTS HAVE LEFT THE PROPERTY
As a landlord, you should be 100% certain that the tenants have left the property. The best course of action would be to serve a notice at the property advising that if contact is not made in 4 weeks from the date of the notice, then the tenancy will be deemed terminated and possession of the property will be taken.
Another good tip to establish whether the tenants are still in the property is checking the contents of the fridge, or build-up of post. If the month passes and it is apparent that the tenants are living elsewhere without any written contact, then realistically you can proceed forward with changing the locks.